ALBANY - A newly formed coalition opposing a state-approved bailout of three upstate nuclear power plants drew a stern rebuke Wednesday from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration.
The New York Public Interest Research Group and Washington D.C.-based Food and Water Watch joined forces Wednesday to launch Stop The Cuomo Tax, a coalition of dozens of groups fighting a plan to infuse several billion dollars into the three plants, including the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in Wayne County.
The groups estimate the subsidy, which was part of the state's Clean Energy Standard, will cost residential ratepayers $2.3 billion over the 12-year plan, which begins next year.
Blair Horner, NYPIRG's legislative director, said ratepayers shouldn't be asked to pick up the tab for the aging plants, particularly as the state and nation shift toward renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
"This is like subsidizing the horse-and-buggy industry while Henry Ford is rolling cars off the assembly line," Horner said at a news conference Wednesday near the state Capitol.
The coalition's launch -- which came with the promise of a major grassroots push to pressure Cuomo on the issue -- drew sharp criticism from Richard Kauffman, Cuomo's chairman of energy and finance.
In a letter to Horner, Kauffman accused the groups of orchestrating a "cheap stunt that not only misleads, but offers no workable alternatives." He took issue with the groups' cost estimate, saying it incorrectly assumes energy prices will stay at their current low state.
The Clean Energy Standard, which was approved by the state Public Service Commission, requires utility companies and other power providers to purchase credits from the state Energy Research Development Authority, with the cost added to ratepayer bills.
The money from the credits is then passed on to the owners of the upstate nuclear plants.
Cuomo's administration says the plan will help keep the nuclear plants -- two of which were in danger of closure -- stay online, preserving their zero-emission power as the state aims to cut its emissions and transition to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
The administration claims the benefits of the plan outweigh the costs, largely by keeping fossil fuel-powered plants from picking up the slack if the nuclear plants were to close.
"New York must use all of its existing carbon free power sources, including our upstate nuclear fleet, to continue our progress on climate change," wrote Kauffman, who is often referred to as Cuomo's "energy czar". "This is the cheapest and cleanest way to achieve our clean energy and climate goals."
One company appears in line to receive the nuclear subsidy: Exelon Corp., which owns two of the upstate nuclear plants (including Ginna) and is in the process of purchasing the third.