Latest FitzPatrick plant rescue plan: eminent domain

Jun 13, 2016

New York lawmakers say if the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant and its 615 jobs are to be saved, they just need to keep it open long enough to benefit from nuclear plant subsidies that are currently under consideration, but its owner Entergy has repeatedly said it is not interested in that state support. So, some state lawmakers are now proposing drastic steps to rescue FitzPatrick that could involve a state takeover of the plant.

New York state Sen. Patty Ritchie has authored a bill that would direct the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to purchase the plant from Entergy. NYPA formerly owned FitzPatrick until it sold the plant to Entergy in 2000.

Fitzpatrick spokesperson Tammy Holden said Entergy is open to viable alternatives that would keep the plant open. But if Entergy decided not to sell, Ritchie's bill would direct NYPA to take the plant by eminent domain.

"We have to make some fairly significant or bold moves in order to do the right thing and keep the plant running, if nothing more than to keep it running until someone else is willing to step up to the plate," Ritchie said.

The idea is to buy time. Lucrative nuclear subsides could become available next spring if the state Public Service Commission approves them in July. That could entice another operator to buy Fitzpatrick, but Entergy has plans to close the plant in January.

"We're getting to a critical time right now, so I'm looking at every option out there until we can find an alternative," Ritchie said.

Terry Turnipseed, a Syracuse University law professor who teaches about eminent domain, said in an email that the New York State legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYPA all have the power to take the plant by eminent domain right now.

"There is no question that the state can use eminent domain to take the plant if they wish," Turnipseed said in an email. "They would have to pay just compensation."

Ritchie's staff points to the 1990's, when the Long Island Power Authority bought the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant from the Long Island Lighting Co.

NYPA officials would not comment for this story, but when asked about acquiring FitzPatrick on Twitter recently, its president Gil Quiniones said it was quote very unlikely because they "no longer have the expertise in house to own, operate or maintain nuclear plants."