Riverkeeper will not receive any of the infusion money despite previous assertions by the group’s leader it was entitled to millions.
The communities around the shuttered Indian Point nuclear power plant and a Hudson River environmental group will divvy up most of the $15 million set aside in the 2017 deal to close the plant, state officials said Wednesday.
The town of Cortlandt and the village of Buchanan will receive $7 million for four municipal sewer projects, including an upgrade of the Buchanan Wastewater Treatment Plant and a sewer district connection in Montrose, which could leverage $10 million in state funds, officials say.
Another $6.5 million will go to the Hudson River Foundation for biological monitoring of fish populations in the river, continuing a program that had been funded by the plant’s previous owner, Entergy.
The Indian Point 2 containment building is pictured at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, April 20, 2021. Mark Vergari/The Journal News
And the Hendrick Hudson School District will receive $500,000 for air-monitoring at Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary School while the plant is dismantled over the next 15 years.
The school district, along with Cortlandt and Buchanan, estimate the shutdown will lead to a loss of $32 million in annual property taxes they relied on to balance their budgets for the nearly 60 years Indian Point generated electricity for Westchester County and New York City.
“We are advocating hard for the communities around Indian Point and the former plant’s neighbors will reap the rewards with a host of programs that will improve their quality of life and the environment,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “This funding is part of a comprehensive approach to ensure that Indian Point’s closure does not translate to a lack of investment in the region.”
The $15 million will come out of a community and environmental fund created by Entergy as part of the legal settlement reached with the state and the environmental group Riverkeeper that followed decades of legal challenges.
State officials, in consultation with Entergy, had the final say in how the money would be distributed.
No money for Riverkeeper
Riverkeeper will not receive any money from the deal despite assertions last year by its former president, Paul Gallay, that the group was entitled to half the payout.
Riverkeeper had met with officials from Buchanan and Cortlandt to try to come up with an agreement on how the money should be distributed.
“We said we would love to come to some sort of satisfactory understanding as to how that money should be divided,” Gallay said in May 2020. “We made no bones about it. We would be happy for that money to be divided 50-50 … We’ve always been well aware of the pressures of the Indian Point closure on the local communities so we’ve always been open to discussion as to how this environmental and community fund is spent.”
Gallay’s position upset Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker as well as Hendrick Hudson school superintendent Joseph Hochreiter, who suggested Gallay was ignoring the financial pain the village and schools would experience when the plant shut down in April 2021.
Paul Gallay, president of the environmental group Riverkeeper, called Indian Point “our biggest existential threat in the region.” Tania Savayan/The Journal News
Gallay stepped down from the president’s post in June and was replaced by Tracy Brown, the first woman to lead the group in its 50 years advocating for the Hudson.
Riverkeeper boat captain John Lipscomb said Gallay’s comments failed to make clear that Riverkeeper’s intent had always been to have a portion of the $15 million go toward the continued study of the fish population, critical to gauging the health of the river.
“That’s his mistake,” Lipscomb said Wednesday. “I can hear him saying ‘We want 50%’ because that’s how he talked. What he wasn’t doing was finishing the sentence. We want 50% for this study. We were never going to receive a dime. Never.”
Lipscomb said he’s delighted the money will go toward studying a fish habitat harmed by Indian Point, which used the river’s cooling waters to generate electricity.
He said he doesn’t blame the Indian Point communities for asking for financial help, but said the river needs to be protected, too.
John Lipscomb pilots Riverkeeper’s patrol boat, R. Ian Fletcher, along the Hudson River on Monday, August 23, 2021. John Meore/The Journal News
“The communities, while they have now been dealt a harsh hand, losing their tax base, let’s not forget that for decades and decades they had a tax base,” Lipscomb said. “They got money from Indian Point. The river never got anything but death. The river got the short end of the stick.”
Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi called Lipscomb’s claim that Indian Point harmed the river’s fish population “outrageously false.”
“The owners of Indian Point funded $50 million worth of studies over several decades that demonstrated the plant had zero impact on adult fish populations and the river today is full of life and much cleaner compared to when Indian Point first came online in the 1970s,” Nappi said.
Plant shutdown leaves fuel
Indian Point shut down in April. Holtec International, a New Jersey decommissioning firm, has purchased the plant and its surrounding 240 acres with a promise to dismantle its three reactors and clean up the site in 15 years.
Dozens of cement-and-steel canisters of spent nuclear fuel will remain at the site until the federal government builds an underground repository to house the nation’s nuclear waste.
This year’s state budget includes transitional funding for the Indian Point communities and Westchester County to help offset tax losses from the plant shutdown. The state estimates more than $100 million will be awarded over the next seven years.
Buchanan received its first payment of nearly $774,000 this month.
Also receiving money Wednesday was Historic Hudson Valley, which got $750,000 to improve museum property. The group intends to use the money to leverage a $3 million federal grant state officials say could otherwise be lost for the Van Cortlandt Manor Gateway Project.
And Teamsters Local 456 will get $250,000 to buy a commercial driving training simulator to assist members in learning new job skills.
By Thomas C. Zambito