Buchanan, NY - Eighteen months ago, the Hudson Valley was rocked by the news that Entergy would be closing the Indian Point power plant by 2021. Almost overnight, residents living near Indian Point began worrying about their mortgages, their jobs, and whether their local schools would stay open. Standing on the grounds of the Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary School in Buchanan on April 11th, Senator Terrence Murphy led a bipartisan coalition of state, county, and local officials in announcing that $24 million in state funds had been allocated to protect local taxpayers from future financial hardship caused by the plant's closure in the recently enacted state budget.
"This is a good day for the people in the 40th Senate District who live near Indian Point. When the shutdown of the plant was announced, we were looking at the loss of 1,200 jobs, millions of dollars of lost revenue for the Hendrick Hudson School District and nearly 50% of the budget for the Village of Buchanan," said Senator Murphy. "Enough of the studies and talk it was time to act and we delivered. This fund could not have been established without bipartisan support and this allocation shows what we can accomplish if we work together and put our communities above politics."
Lawmakers approved the budget last month which added $24 million in aid to the New York State Electric Generation Facility Cessation Mitigation Program. Governor Cuomo's Indian Point Closure Task Force announced the additional funds would increased the overall fund to $56 million. Under the current timeline, Indian Point's closure in 2021 would be the next power plant in New York scheduled to close triggering eligibility by the impacted communities for the funds in 2022.
"I am glad to see that the New York State Budget did not forget the needs of the community that stands to suffer the most from the closure of Indian Point Energy Center," stated Assemblywoman Sandy Galef. "We as a state must be ahead of the problem, not solving disasters that could be prevented, and I am encouraged to see the start of financial resources being allocated for Hendrick Hudson School District, Hendrick Hudson Library, Buchanan and Cortlandt as they prepare for significant change. I look forward to continuing my fight in Albany in collaboration with Senator Murphy and the Governor to ensure further funding and protections for the residents and taxpayers as the payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Entergy tapers to an end."
In the first year of eligibility, qualified entities would receive 80% of the tax loss, which would diminish by 10% per year for the following six years. According to reports, towns in other parts of New York facing similar situations have already benefited from the fund.
Westchester County Legislator John Testa said, "I grew up in this area in Peekskill. I am not just representing this area, but I am also working on behalf of friends and families I have known for many years who will be directly impacted by the potential closing of Indian Point. We knew when the closing was announced that we needed to build up a fund right away. This stabilization fund is a good start toward helping our schools and our communities survive."
"This is a victory," stated Linda Puglisi, Cortland Town Supervisor. "It is an exciting and positive step. I want to thank Senator Murphy and Assemblywoman Galef for establishing this cessation fund for us to access in the future. We are here at the Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary School for a reason. It is one of the many schools that will be affected by the shutdown of Indian Point. We are going to do everything we can to make sure that does not happen."
Theresa Knickerbocker, the Mayor of Buchanan said, "I have been asked if there is one word that describes what is going on in Buchanan - I would say 'challenging.' I want to thank Senator Murphy and Assemblywoman Galef for their strong leadership and advocacy in getting the 24 million dollars for this cessation fund. As I have said before, the Village of Buchanan is the host community for Entergy, and when the plant closes, we are looking at losing half of our revenue. This cessation money is very important to us, and we are working on many other options that will help us mitigate the loss of funds. It is a great start, but there is a lot more that is needed for this community. It is encouraging to see that when people from different parties work together in a bi-partisan manner that good things can happen."
Leading up to the final days of the budget, Westchester County Executive George Latimer lent to his support for the needed funds. In a memo of support sent to state lawmakers, Latimer offered his unwavering support to push the measure through as negotiations intensified.
Joseph Hochreiter, Superintendent, Hendrick Hudson School District commented, "Make no mistake, what happened by establishing this fund should not be taken lightly. Twenty-four million dollars is a significant allocation to help a community. It is the first time we have been smiling since we have heard the words Indian Point or Entergy in a sentence. This is what government should be like when it works, when people suspend their affiliations and work to defend the interests of the community. So, on behalf of 2,500 kids and thousands of residents, I would like to say I know that our anxiety is lessened and that folks can sleep at night knowing their concerns have been heard."
To make up the difference in lost revenue, the Hendrick Hudson School District's initial calculation showed they would have to increase taxes by nearly 13% per year for four years. Now by increasing the cessation fund officials believe it would back fill the lost revenue and protect the future education of the children of the district.
Murphy concluded, "There is still more work to be done. We have twelve hundred workers we need to protect. I believe they should be working through the decommission process which can take a number of years rather than relocating to places like Louisiana. New York has already lost too many people over the last decade. The fact is we are now exporting jobs and importing energy from other states like New Jersey and it is unacceptable."
Joan McDonald, Director of Operations represented Westchester County Executive George Latimer at the press conference. Also on hand to show their support were Deb Milone, Executive Director for the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce, Tom Carey, President of the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body AFL-CIO, Louis Picani, President, Teamsters Local 456, and members of Local 21, among others.