Cuomo’s Deal To Shut Down A Nuclear Plant Soiled By Bribery Charges

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a deal to shut down the Indian Point nuclear plant Monday, despite concerns the main beneficiaries of the decision have been charged in a federal corruption investigation.

Indian Point’s planned closure is widely expected to benefit Competitive Power Ventures (CPV), an energy company at the center of an alleged bribery scheme.

The U.S. Attorney’s office charged a former CPV executive and two former Cuomo aides with bribery and other counts in September 2016.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara wrote that former CPV executive Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr., former top Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco and lobbyist Todd Howe “engaged in a multi-year bribery scheme whereby Kelly caused the energy company to make secret payments to Percoco through Percoco’s wife in exchange for Percoco’s official assistance to the energy company.”

CPV is building a $900 million natural gas-fired power plant in Wawayanda, New York. The Cuomo administration sees CPV’s gas plant as “a key part of its plan to find replacement power for the Indian Point nuclear center” should it be shut down, according to Politico.

Percoco was paid “tens of thousands of dollars” by CPV over the years, acting as a consultant. Percoco’s work for CPV was specifically related “to the company’s plans to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley … a matter that required layers of approvals from the state,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Todd Howe, a lobbyist and one-time Cuomo aide, also worked as a CPV consultant. He set up bank accounts and a shell company to funnel money to Percoco, according to prosecutors. Howe pleaded guilty to several charges brought against him.

Kelly was apparently cozying up to Percoco to get the state to enter into a $100 million, 15-year deal to buy power from CPV’s planned gas plant. By 2015, it was clear the deal had fallen through, so Kelly stopped making payments to Percoco.

Bhara wrote “the importance of the [natural gas plant] to the State depended at least in part, on whether [Indian Point] was going to be shut down.” CPV donated $75,000 to Cuomo in 2009.

That hasn’t stopped pro-nuclear activists from criticizing the decision. Activists say this will not only hurt the local economy and increase carbon dioxide emissions, the decision would help a company at the center of a corruption probe.

“The indictment suggests that Competitive Power Ventures and the Cuomo administration both recognized that if Indian Point were taken off-line, it would be replaced by natural gas, not imported hydro and wind,” reads a recent blog post by Environmental Progress, a pro-nuclear environmental group.

Indian Point was not included in Cuomo’s $7.6 billion plan to bail out three aging upstate New York nuclear power plants.

Many environmentalists opposed the plan, but were most opposed to Indian Point, and some joined the state government’s suit to keep the plant from extending its operating license.

Entergy, the company running Indian Point, agreed with the Cuomo administration to close the plant by 2021. State officials estimate the plant’s closure will add up to $3 to customers’ energy bills.

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