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Astorino Indian Point lawsuit lacks support

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s plan to sue the state over an imminent shutdown of Indian Point is facing stark opposition from county lawmakers, who are less eager to challenge a deal struck by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, earlier this year.

After Astorino, a Republican, announced that he would seek to send Cuomo’s plan to dismantle a longstanding nuclear power plant at Indian Point into a full-on environmental impact statement, county Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, a Yorktown Democrat, called the move “dead on arrival.”

“This lawsuit is a Hail Mary that is being thrown with a deflated football and has no chance of scoring any touchdown,” Kaplowitz told the Review.

As it stands, Kaplowitz said, there is no majority support amongst county lawmakers on either side of the aisle who would be responsible for approving the suit to go forward by a full vote of the 17-member legislature.

Hesitation amongst many lawmakers, he said, has centered on whether a lawsuit would achieve its intended outcome. Even if the lawsuit were to successfully send Indian Point into a more stringent review process, there would be no guarantee that the plant would remain open as a result.

However, Dan Branda, a spokesman from Astorino’s office, challenged Kaplowitz’s characterization that Republican lawmakers wouldn’t back the lawsuit, telling the Review that all it would need is “one Democratic vote” to proceed.

While some county lawmakers have pumped the brakes, area lawmakers closer to the plant—many of which rely on its tax revenue and jobs to help stimulate the local economy—have thrown their support behind the county executive’s lawsuit.

Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker of the village of Buchanan, which encompasses Indian Point, warned earlier this month that the move could have adverse impacts on her constituents.

“The impact on our village is going to be staggering,” said Knickerbocker, a Republican, in a statement. “There was no review process whatsoever. Everyone else, from homeowners to developers, has to follow [the State Environmental Quality Review Act]. Apparently, putting a shed in your backyard requires more environmental review than closing Indian Point.”

Currently, Buchanan receives $3 million in tax breaks as per a payment in lieu of taxes agreement.

Additionally, Joseph Hochreiter, superintendent of the Hendrick Hudson school district, said that the closure of the plant would negate a third of the district’s tax base and has halted intentions to move forward on a $14 million capital improvement project for the district.

The plan to close Indian Point, which would take place over the course of the next four years, was announced earlier this year by Cuomo and came as the product of years of negotiations and even litigation with the plant owner, Entergy.

Numerous safety violations and concerns over the fact the plant is situated atop two fault lines have prompted efforts from Cuomo to eventually phase out the plant’s operations.

According to the governor’s office, the plant has logged 40 various safety and operational events—hiccups and breakdowns of varying degrees—since 2012 alone.

Included in the most recent state budget is a task force, which consists of both state and local lawmakers as well as various officials from Cuomo’s administration, that will oversee the plant’s transitional process and quantify its social and economic impact in the region.

Cuomo has slated a number of green energy initiatives—a major hallmark in his tenure as governor—as potential replacements for the approximately 1,000 jobs that currently exist at the plant.

From here, Astorino’s lawsuit will go before committee, where Kaplowitz said he expects the suit to sputter out before it reaches a vote by the county Legislature.

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