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State increases power capacity, inches toward a Cuomo goal

By: Scott Waldman |

Last week, New York State approved a $500 million project to build power lines, with the important aim of easing a power-grid bottleneck that inhibits upstate power plants from meeting New York’s energy needs.

In the process, the project gets the state once step closer to realizing an oft-repeated goal of Gov. Andrew Cuomo: the shuttering of the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

“The plan itself is aimed at trying to close Indian Point,” said Matt Nelligan, a spokesman for Sen. George Maziarz, the chairman of the State Senate committee on energy and telecommunications.

Cuomo isn’t himself in a position to put Indian Point out of business. What he can do, as governor, is help make the state less reliant on the power it produces. The lines are a step in that direction.

On Wednesday, Cuomo reiterated his desire to see the closure of Indian Point, though he denied that the power line increase was part of an effort to close the plant.

“If there was a conspiracy, I would probably know,” he said.

The capabilities of power plants upstate are generally underutilized because there are not enough lines to transmit the power downstate.

The new lines approved last week by the Public Service Commission would ease some of that congestion and reduce the reliance on Indian Point and other existing power-generating facilities. The lines will be located in Staten Island, in Ramapo and upstate, and could be operational by 2016. The new lines would save $260 million over 15 years, according to the PSC.

Indian Point is situated just 30 miles north of Manhattan. It generates 2,040 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than two million homes.

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, head of the state Assembly’s energy committee, said it’s essential to first make sure enough power resources are in place before any consideration of mothballing the plant. The Westchester Democrat said the approval of the new infrastructure by the Public Service Commission is one step on a long road toward finding an alternative to Indian Point.

The plant’s licenses will both expire by 2015, though owner Entergy Corp. has applied for a 20-year extension. There are currently no plans to close the plant and the final decision ultimately rests with Washington. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has repeatedly insisted the plant is safe. The plants can operate as long as their licenses are caught up in the renewal process, which can take years.

Echoing some of Cuomo’s past statements, Paulin said the Indian Point nuclear power plant was a “mistake” that should never have been situated so close to a dense population. The Westchester Democrat said there is no evacuation plan in place that could allow people to escape should some emergency happen at the plant, whether it be the result of a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or malfunction.

Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said Indian Point fared fine when Superstorm Sandy rolled through the region a year ago. He said the state’s decision to add the new lines was necessary for the improved transfer of power and has nothing to do with the potential shutdown of Indian Point.

“It generates an enormous amount of power for New York City and Westchester with the added benefit of virtually no emissions,” he said.