Hugh Reynolds Big no-nukes win

Indian Point. (photo by Tony Fischer)

Congressmen Maurice Hinchey and John Hall are retired. Troubadour Pete Seeger is dead. But it appears the 70s no-nukes movement they championed will finally get its most fervent wish, the closing of Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County. It may take five, seven, maybe even 10 years, but close it they will. The deal’s been cut.

The no-nukes movement probably started minutes after the Enola Gay made that sharp turn for home above Hiroshima. In these parts its history can be traced to the 1970s Nine Mile Point Two nuclear power plant on Lake Ontario. Central Hudson had a big piece of that action. Hinchey, then a young assemblyman, made his political bones fronting rallies against the plant. Seeger and Hall lent their voices.

The big bugaboos at Indian Point have been how to evacuate over a million people (including southern Ulster) in the event the plant does a Chernobyl in the middle of the night (Gov. Andrew Cuomo says evacuation is impossible) and how to replace 30 percent of the power in New York City and Westchester the plant currently provides.

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With the plant on a short leash now, go-boom seems less likely. Is there a plausible plan to replace all that juice?

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a Kingston Democrat, offers one. Cahill served as chairman of the Assembly Energy Committee for four years, ending in 2013. As such, he always said replacing Indian Point’s power was eminently doable. This week he spelled it out in more detail.

Indian Point produces about 2,000 megawatts of power. A new power plant in the metropolitan area would generate 750 megawatts. Two plants in the Hudson Valley, one in Wawayanda and the other planned for Dover Plains, would produce an equal amount. Modernizing Central Hudson transmission lines, where Cahill said power leakage approaches 20 percent from generator to destination, would just about close the gap.

Add in some elusive alternative energy sources and energy-saving devices and Indian Point will be but a distant memory.

 

It will get done somehow

It works on paper and maybe at rallies. But some loose ends are troubling.

For instance, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, recently reelected to a second year as leader, didn’t seem to have a clue about where all that replacement power was coming from when he was interviewed this week. (He might buttonhole Cahill in the Assembly washroom.) But Heastie made clear that the Assembly would be a key player regardless of what the governor says or does. This Albany operation will get messy, cost more and take longer than necessary. But it will go forward.

Don’t believe politicians? Try the people who own the plant. Speaking in the same TV segment where a confused but determined Heastie held forth, an Entergy executive explained with charts and graphs why his company was at long last considering shutting down the plant. He had the best of corporate reasons: it’s not making money any more. In three to five years, the exec said, the plant would go into “negative revenue,” corporate-speak for busted.

Next up: nuclear waste.

 

Free lunch

Like the guy watching his mother-in-law driving off a cliff in his new Cadillac, I have mixed feelings about this recycled idea of providing free college for kids with family incomes of less than $125,000. On one hand, it’s hard to argue against a college education, even if there are few jobs hereabouts for new graduates. On the other, I wish they’d come up with this idea 20 years ago when we were scrimping and saving to help the kids through school. Are rebates in the works?

This by no means is a new idea.

Advanced by Bernie Sanders in the last campaign and taken up by Hillary Clinton, free college of late has been resurrected by Andrew Cuomo. Democrats in the Assembly remind us that Assemblyman Jim Skoufis of Rockland County, all of 26 at the time, formally advanced free-tuition legislation three years ago. There is however a huge difference between the Assembly’s youngest (freshman) member promoting one-house legislation and an aggressive governor including it in his annual program.

We’re still a long way from checks in the mail, primarily because nobody seems quite sure what this program will cost. Cuomo has put out a number of around $160 million, chump change if the state weren’t facing a reported $700 million budget gap.

Cuomo estimates some 210,000 students would take part in the program when fully phased in, about $800 a student. Right away I’m thinking $800 is barely a down payment at a community college like SUNY Ulster where annual tuition tops $4000. But then, this is a work in progress.

I don’t know if Orange County Legislator Mike Anagnostakis (let’s just call him Mike) is an expert on this subject, but it appears he’s done some basic research.

Mike, in a recent opinion piece in the Times Herald-Record, notes that student enrollment increased by almost 25 percent when Tennessee implemented a similar program. A like experience in New York would raise enrollment to almost 900,000 students. Mike and Skoufis estimate an eventual cost in the billions, but nobody really knows.

The $125,000 family income threshold bothers some people and not just those living on half or less than that. Ulster’s median household income is around $60,000, according to the state labor department.

In any event, we’re headed in that direction. Community colleges routinely offer high-school students the opportunity to take college-level courses at sharply reduced fees or free while they’re still in high school. And while I’d personally like to see more plumbers, carpenters, electricians and painters in the workforce, the fact is that young people who are going to compete in a global economy will need the tools.

I do have one other caveat. I’m not convinced our schools are doing such a swell job in educating kids, which bottom line is Job One. If we’re going to pour many, many billions into this program, perhaps a comprehensive approach is in order. Throw in a modest rebate for parents dining on cat food these days, and I’d be all in.

 

Sign of the Z

Not to date myself, but as kids we used to watch a superhero TV show called Zorro. Superman-like, with a touch of Robin Hood, the masked man was a 19th-century California grandee by day, the rapier-wielding Zorro by night. He left the sign of the Z, sometimes on his opponents.

John Faso left Zephyr (“Z” to friends) Teachout in the dust in the congressional elections, but after a brief honeymoon she’s back on the circuit, doing and saying most of the things that energized her base but didn’t work in the general election. Settled down at an undisclosed site in Clinton Corners with her new husband, Teachout says she’s not running for anything while in the meantime running all over the district.

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Teachout has never lied to me that I know of, but if it walks like a duck, well, quack. For sure, some of Teachout’s more ardent supporters, like the irrepressible Gioia Shebar of Gardiner, my favorite feminist and letter writer, are itching for a rematch. They know that incumbents are usually most vulnerable in their second elections before they can get established.

The rationale goes that if Trump goes down the way most Teachout supporters hope he does, he could, like a sinking Titanic, carry Faso to oblivion. Teachout will have at least one advantage, being the only Democratic candidate in the last two elections who’s lived in the district for at least a year.

In the meantime, Teachout will leave the sign of the Z all over the place, feeding discontent, stoking anger and hope, rallying the troops. For her sake, let’s hope it doesn’t stand for Zap or Zilch.

 

Oops

Unlike some publications, we do not have a standing section to address our mistakes. I fix mine with apologies where I make ’em, herein.

I misspelled Kingstonian Sofia Gruener’s name in my Christmas column. As Sofia politely informed me, in writing, it’s not Sophia.

In another goof, I transposed Orange County presidential election returns. Donald Trump carried 19 of 23 towns in Democratic-leaning but rock-red Republican Orange; he didn’t lose them.

And finally, one of my colleagues called out this line from poet T.S. Eliot: “Some editors can’t write, but neither can most writers.” Wish I’d written that one.