Official: Talks with Cuomo failed, Entergy will close in 2017
SCRIBA, N.Y. -- Talks between New York and the company that owns the FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant in Oswego have ended, with no plan to keep the plant open beyond 2017.
Scriba Town Supervisor Ken Burdick confirms Entergy's plans to close in 2017 and that talks with state officials have failed.
Burdick says he was called by Entergy around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to notify him, after employees at the plant were notified.
Entergy has confirmed with CNYCentral that it has filed papers with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to permanently cease operations at the plant at the end of the current fuel cycle.
The exact date has not yet been determined and will depend on operational and regulatory considerations, according to Entergy.
Back on November 2 Entergy announced its plan to close the FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant in Oswego County because it was losing money at the plant.
Employees were notified in person at the plant at the beginning of the day Nov. 2 by the President of Entergy Wholesale Commodities Bill Mohl.
The plant is expected to close in late 2016, or early 2017 -- A decision Governor Andrew Cuomo said he planned to stop.
The closing of the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant will devastate the lives of the more than 600 employees and their families. Good corporate citizenship must appreciate that there are many factors that count as the "bottom line." The State of New York will pursue every legal and regulatory avenue in an attempt to stop Entergy's actions and its callous disregard for their skilled and loyal workforce.
The company said it's decision to close the plant is based on continued deteriorating economics of the facility.
The key drivers cited by the company include significantly reduced plant revenues due to low natural gas prices, a poor market design that fails to properly compensate nuclear generators like FitzPatrick for their benefits, as well as high operational costs.
FitzPatrick employs more than 600 workers, and has been a part of the Oswego County community since it began generating electricity in 1975.
The union that represents those workers, IBEW Local 97, said in a statement the announcement "is devastating for our members along with the entire Oswego region."
The statement goes on to say, "Entergy engaged in a high stakes gamble with NYS using Oswego and our members as a poker chip, and they didn't get the outcome they desired."
The union says it is hoping alternative ownership options can be pursued, both to benefit its members and preserve the state's goal to decrease reliance on power sources that harm the environment.
The community first received word the plant might close in September
New York State Assemblyman Will Barclay began lobbying to keep the plant open at that time after he was told by the CEO of Entergy the plant may not be refueled.
"With the economy, it seems like every time we take a step forward, if we have a big closure like this, we take five steps back. With those 615 employees, we're not just losing that $75 million they have at the pay roll at the plant, but it's all the of the spin off. The small businesses that rely on workers and the -- It will be very challenging," Barclay said back in September.
The announcement sent shockwaves through the area, hundreds of residents rallied saying closing the plant would be bad for the already hard-hit Central New York and Oswego communities.
Brett Smith, an operations instructor at the plant, was hit with fear that he might not be able to support his wife and two little girls.
"I have a great group of people that I work with closely, the people that I work with and the people that we train and operating with, we're a very tight knit group," he told CNYCentral last month.
In the mean time, more about the company's economic situation was revealed.
A recent release to company shareholders indicated the plant is losing a lot of money.
Matt Huber, a professor at Syracuse University who follows the energy industry said the plant seems to be falling victim to the cyclical up-and-down motions of the energy industry.
He said hydraulic fracking had flooded the market with natural gas, and utility companies like National Grid, were buying it at lower prices. By contrast, while nuclear energy may be environmentally friendly, it isn't easier on the pocket book.
"Nuclear's a high cost energy source as it is. Its really capital intensive," says Huber. "It costs an enormous amount, so they are already hurting from an economic standpoint. So this natural gas thing is just going to make it worse."
When CNYCentral asked a spokesperson for Entergy, Tammy Holden, is money or tax breaks were needed in order to keep Fitzpatrick open in Oswego County, the answer was vague.
"We're focused on constructive discussions with New York State," Holden said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo provided little clarification on the statement, only going so far as to say he had conversations with Entergy about keeping Fitzpatrick open.
He told CNYCentral he hoped Entergy would close the Indian Point Power Plant close to New York City and keep Fitzpatrick open, but did not reveal any specifics about the conversations between Entergy and his administration.
The talks between government leaders and Entergy officials kept the community on edge.
From taxes to schools to unemployment, many struggled to grasp what the closure would mean for the already economically devastated community.
A majority of the employees live within the Mexico School District. A quarter of the school's budget comes from those families. Fitzpatrick alone contributes $12 million to the district's budget in just property taxes.
Many parents said if the plant does close, they will be stuck paying the difference. They feared the impact of a closure would trickle down and impact jobs at the school level.
"Taxes are already high enough. It would definitely put a huge hurt on what's available for our kids," George Bennett, a parent, said.
But the schools would not be the only organization dependent on money from Fitzpatrick to be devastated.
Public officials are now concerned what the closure will mean for the already high unemployment rate in the county.
As of August, 6.5 percent of the population in Oswego County was unemployed -- The highest in all of Central New York, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Assemblyman Will Barclay (R,C,I - Pulaski) had this to say about the closure: " I am deeply disappointed by the news that Entergy has decided not to refuel the Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant. As a community, we have done all we can to support the plant and its employees. Apparently, our efforts were all for not. My concern is for the plant employees and their families. This has been a difficult two months for the 615 employees. I am also concerned how this closure will impact the community. We urge the Governor and Entergy to please go back to the table to save these jobs. We must do more to secure what we have."
The plant said it will close sometime in 2016, possibly early 2017. They previously said they would try to relocate as many employees as they could to other plants around the country.
But we now know, about half of the 615 employees will likely be let go when the plant closes, according to an Entergy official.
For 31 days, employees anxiously waited to hear what their future at the plant would hold and now that they know, they are left with more questions than answers.