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Astorino goes solo on Indian Point lawsuit

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino will go it alone on a lawsuit to halt the shutdown of Indian Point nuclear power plant after opposition from the county’s Democratic lawmakers. Photo courtesy Flickr.com

County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, will personally sue New York state after an initial lawsuit seeking to halt the eventual shutdown of Westchester’s Indian Point power plant was shot down by lawmakers this week.

According to a release from the Astorino administration, a tandem of lawsuits—which name Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, Indian Point operators Entergy, and the environmental group Hudson Riverkeeper—will seek to force the power plant’s shutdown to undergo an environmental review process, claiming that the decision is subject to the State Environmental Quality Review Act, SEQR.

“When the Democrats on the Board of Legislators decided to abandon their responsibility of protecting our local communities, I decided to act on my own,” Astorino said in a statement. “If ever there was a case for the State Environmental Quality Review Act to be enforced, this is it.”

According to Board of Legislators spokesman Matt Richter, Philip Halpern, a New York City-based attorney retained by Astorino, has offered to represent the county executive in his suit, pro bono.

With Astorino’s announcement of a new lawsuit, Democratic Majority Leader Catherine Borgia, of Peekskill, accused the county executive of stepping outside the bounds of the Board of Legislators’ charter.

“Any unilateral attempt to use outside counsel on behalf of the taxpayers is in violation of our county’s charter,” Borgia said. “The surrounding communities are better served by bringing all sides together to work on real economic and environmental mitigation solutions.”

Both Astorino and local officials in the village of Buchanan, however, have protested the decommissioning of Indian Point, claiming that the loss of the plant would have drastic impacts on the local economy.

Currently, Buchanan receives $3 million in tax breaks as per a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, and Joseph Hochreiter, superintendent of the Hendrick Hudson school district, has said that the closure of the plant would negate a third of the district’s tax base, and has therefore halted intentions to move forward on a $14 million capital improvement project.

According to a deal struck earlier this year, the plant’s operations will be phased out over a four-year period and its shutdown and subsequent impact on the regional economy and environment will be the subject of a governor’s task force consisting of both state and local lawmakers as well as various officials from Cuomo’s administration.

An agreement between Cuomo and Entergy will punctuate years of negotiations and litigation between parties to shut the plant down, which in addition to being perched atop two fault lines, has been cited with 40 safety and operational “events”—hiccups in its internal operations—since 2012 alone.

According to a release from the governor’s office this week, the Indian Point task force’s first meeting will be held on May 31 at 7 p.m. in Cortlandt Town Hall, located in the town of Cortlandt.

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