July 12, 2017
Community Leaders confront post Indian Point Challenges:
(Supervisor Puglisi at interview)
Things have calmed a bit in the communities around Indian Point — at least compared to six months ago. It was on Jan. 9 that the state announced an unexpected deal that would lead to the closure of the nuclear facility by 2021. The initial reaction, understandably, was that the local economy would be devastated.
To this point, though, according to local officials, "For Sale" signs are no more common than before; homes that do go on the market sell quickly and for a good price; and the early panic has subsided.
Much of the credit should go to three officials who met with the Editorial Board recently: Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi, Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker, and Hendrick Hudson Schools Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter. These community leaders, assisted by others, have worked tirelessly since that January day to draw attention to the very real challenges their communities will face when Indian Point powers down, and for years after. The efforts, Puglisi stressed, have been "nonpartisan," as they should be.
They formed a community "unity" task force that has questioned Entergy officials, civic leaders from Vermont who weathered the loss of a nuclear plant, and others. Future plans include meeting with federal officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy.
They also demanded, and got, a state task force on Indian Point's future, which met for the first time on May 31. Thomas Congdon, executive deputy of the state Public Service Commission, is leading the task force, and is expected to hire a consultant to study the future of the Indian Point site before their next meeting on Sept. 28.
"I think they get it," Hochreiter said of state officials. "I don't think everybody (initially) realized the financial impact and impact on people's lives."
BIG PICTURE: Nuclear plant shutdowns a crisis for small towns across the USA
DECOMMISSIONING: Forum highlights nuclear waste worries after Indian Point
THE OWNER: Entergy's post-Indian Point plans
Here's the impact: Officials say the school district, village, town, Verplanck fire district and Hendrick Hudson Library could lose $32 million a year in annual revenues when Indian Point shuts down. So local leaders are zeroed in on seeking state and federal assistance for: "tax stabilization," at least in the early years; economic development, including possible tax-producing redevelopment for part of the Indian Point property; and job-training for plant workers, with an eye on keeping workers from leaving the region.
There will be pain. None of the leaders even hesitate to say that huge changes will come. But they are taking all the right steps — aggressively and together — to pivot to new opportunities and buffer the community from the impact. In Buchanan, residents are being asked, in a door-to-door survey, how the village might be reinvented.
Officials have many questions. Might they have access to a $15 million fund Entergy will set up for "environmental restoration," since any redevelopment will affect the riverfront? Can 60 undeveloped acres on the northern side of the 240-acre Indian Point property, owned by Entergy, be developed before the plant is decommissioned? Can they work with other "post-nuclear" communities to get federal funds because of the ongoing burden of hosting nuclear waste?
They have also won some early victories. The state just added $15 million to a now $45 million fund to support communities that lose power plants, and passed a law allowing the Hendrick Hudson School District to save money in a special fund to offset future tax increases.
Give a hand to Puglisi, Knickerbocker, Hochreiter and their colleagues for shaking off their January shock quickly, and refocusing on all that must be done before 2021. Now we need Albany and Washington to step up and help them in every way possible.