High court denies exemption from environmental review
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
New York’s highest court on Nov. 21 ruled that the state can require that the Indian Point nuclear reactors pass an environmental review. Entergy, which operates the reactor, had argued the power plant was exempt.
Riverkeeper, the Hudson River environmental organization, argued that the decision “effectively stops the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from relicensing Indian Point,” which would mean the plant would have to shut down. That has long been the goal of Riverkeeper and other groups who say the plant should not operate in such a densely populated area, or near the Hudson River.
Officials from Entergy said the company remained confident its plant would be relicensed. The licenses have expired but the Indian Point Energy Center continues to operate during the relicensing process.
In its lawsuit, Entergy argued that the reactors do not need state environmental certification as required by the federal Coastal Management Program because they were built before the program began and are therefore “grandfathered” in.
The state argued that no such exemption exists, and the New York Court of Appeals agreed. In a unanimous decision, its seven justices overturned a lower-court decision that favored Entergy.
The federal law creating the Coastal Management Program stipulates that any company such as Entergy that needs a federal license because its operations could affect “land or water use or natural resource in the coastal zone” must first obtain environmental certification from the state.
While the Indian Point reactors underwent a federal environmental impact assessment before their original licensing, the high court ruled that the relicensing is “a new project, with different impacts and concerns” than 40 years ago.
Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper and a Cold Spring resident, noted that in 2015 New York State declared Indian Point “inconsistent” with more than a dozen of its policies designed to protect the Hudson River. “Without that coastal zone approval, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cannot relicense Indian Point,” Gallay said. “It is a complete stopper. It’s time to close Indian Point.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the ruling vindicated the state. He described Indian Point plant as an “antiquated” facility that “does not belong on the Hudson” and said it “poses a threat not only to the coastal resources and uses of the river,” but to New York City and “millions of New Yorkers living and working in the surrounding community.”