Judge dismisses New York nuclear subsidy case

26 July 2017

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the State of New York's zero emission credit (ZEC) program. Earlier this month, a similar lawsuit against Illinois' ZEC program was also dismissed.

Last August, the New York Public Service Commission formally approved a Clean Energy Standard recognising the zero-carbon contribution of nuclear power plants and ensuring the continued operation of four that had been at risk of premature closure. New York is home to four nuclear power plants: the single unit FitzPatrick and Ginna plants and the twin-unit Indian Point and Nine Mile Point plants. These six ractors produce about 60% of the state's emissions-free electricity.

Independent generators launched a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York against the state. They claimed the ZEC program intrudes on federal jurisdiction over power markets and violates the Constitution by disadvantaging out-of-state power plants.

However, yesterday the court's judge, Valerie Caproni, dismissed the case, ruling that the support provided under the ZEC program does not intrude on the Federal Energy Commission's jurisdiction over wholesale power markets and does not violate the dormant Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The judge said the program does not tether the receipt of a subsidy to participation in the wholesale market, but to the production of zero-emissions energy.

Exelon - which operates four reactors in the state - said the court's decision was "good news for New York's climate efforts and citizens across the state because it preserves the most cost-effective source of carbon abatement available to consumers". It noted New York's Clean Energy Standard employs the same legal policy mechanisms that states have been using for years to support investment in other sources of clean energy, such as wind and solar.

"We are confident that the court's ruling will be respected by state and federal regulators and other policymakers who support the continued operation of the nation's nuclear plants and the clean, resilient and affordable energy they provide," Exelon said. "As policymakers work toward reforms that will ensure that electricity markets properly value carbon, these programs serve as an important bridge to a fully market-based solution."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: "I applaud today's ruling that supports our constitutional right to protect New Yorkers with our nation-leading initiative to ensure a healthy environment for all. We are in a global fight to combat climate change, and today's ruling ensures our progress will not be blocked or rolled back by fossil fuel interests and others seeking to maintain the status quo."

Cuomo added, "At a time when the federal government has abdicated its leadership on climate change, New York will continue to do all that we can to ensure that current and future generations have a clean and safe environment in which to live and prosper."

On 13 July, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed a lawsuit challenging the ZEC program contained in Illinois' Future Energy Jobs Act, which was signed into law in December. Similar to the New York program, the Illinois ZEC program aims to preserve Illinois' nuclear facilities.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News