The Indian Point nuclear power plant has been an economic engine in the lower Hudson Valley for the better part of four decades.
With a $140 million payroll and a workforce of 1,000 – double that during maintenance shutdowns that take place every two years – the plant has been a reliable economic partner for towns around the Buchanan plant.
On Friday, state officials joined with local representatives and veteran of the nuclear power debate to discuss what all this will mean for Indian Point’s workforce and nearby towns in the decades to come. The forum, held at the Desmond Fish Library in Garrison, was sponsored by The Journal News/lohud.com and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
Delis, coffee shops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels make a good chunk of their annual income from the folks who arrive for work every day at Indian Point. And neighboring towns – Buchanan, Cortlandt – rely on Indian Point for millions of dollars in property tax revenue in order to provide essential government services.
Once Indian Point shuts down as planned in 2021, those towns, together with the Hendrick Hudson School District, stand to lose some $32 million in annual tax revenue.
Here are highlights from the panelists’ presentations Friday:
Linda Puglisi, supervisor for Town of Cortlandt
Puglisi told of finding out in January that Indian Point had plans to close.
“As you can imagine we were surprised because we did not have any knowledge of it. The town, Entergy (Indian Point’s owner) and other members of the community had just signed a PILOT, a payment in lieu of taxes. And this is done to stabilize tax revenue for decades….After we recovered from the sudden news that our largest taxpayer — and the major employer in our community — was closing after many decades in operation we went into action.”
Mario Musolino, executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor
Musolino says early indications are that nearly 40 percent of Indian Point’s workforce will be retirement eligible by 2021.
“It’s really going to be a question of what options are being put on the table for individual workers. It’s such a broad array of job titles. Some are very highly specialized and will be prized anywhere in the country….”
“It’s a fairly significant number of folks who are going to be retirement eligible,” he added. “Being retirement eligible doesn’t mean that’s the choice you want to make.”
“We don’t want them to move to New Orleans – the headquarters of Entergy. Although we’d like to visit there, we want all residents and workers to stay in our community,” she added.
“These are highly skilled folks. This isn’t the same thing as when see a large retailer close or a mall with a lot of retail where folks are really competing with each other in a labor market that is really limited.”
Ross Gould, energy section program manager for WDI
“Anytime you see a closure of a large facility whether it be an IBM, a large employer, there are ripple effects,” said Gould, whose non-profit organization analyzes the impact energy policy has on a work force.
“You focus on local economic development. If you start planning and you get together with the businesses in the region, the chambers of commerce, when you have these conversations about what are the resources we have in this community then you make those plans…and come out better.”
“These are very challenging economic questions facing us right now,” Gould added.
John Sipos, attorney for the New York State Public Service Commission
Sipos emphasized the importance of monitoring plans to remove spent nuclear fuel from the site while investigating new uses for Indian Point’s 240 acres.
“The details are important and the pathway for the release of the Indian Point site for re-use depends on a thorough comprehensive radiological decommissioning and monitoring and engagement by the community,” Sipos said.
Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist for an anti-nuclear group
Kamps said the owners of nuclear power plants are looking forward to the day when the federal government will live up to its obligations and find a permanent repository for nuclear waste.
“This is all about transfer of that title and liability as quickly as possible,” said Kamps, who is with Beyond Nuclear, a Maryland-based group. “These utilities know full well how dangerous the radioactive fuel is. The quicker they can get it off their ledgers and onto the taxpayers the better for them.”
Jerry Nappi, Entergy spokesman
Nappi did not attend Friday’s conference but wanted to weigh in on the discussion.
“We appreciate the recent interest in the future of the workforce at the Indian Point Energy Center,” Nappi said. “For the next four years, Entergy and its nearly 1,000 employees at the facility are focused on safe and reliable operations…As we stated in January during our shutdown announcement, Entergy is committed to treating its employees fairly and helping all those interested in other opportunities to relocate within the company. Additionally, although Unit 2 is closing in April 2020, the company committed to keeping the site at full employment through April 2021 when Unit 3 shuts down.”