Climate Group: Coronavirus Pandemic Wrong Time to Close New York’s Largest Source of Clean Energy

New York, April 22, 2020 – A group of more than 5,000 environmentalists, businesspeople, climate activists and healthcare professionals signed and delivered a petition and letter on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging him to postpone closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, New York City’s largest source of clean, emission-free electricity.

Noting that since nuclear power plants do not produce air pollution that could worsen the effects of COVID-19, the signatories said that keeping Indian Point online could also save lives during and after the pandemic.

Collaborating under the aegis of the Climate Coalition, a group whose mission is reducing emissions and standing up for all types of clean energy technology, the signatories asked the governor to suspend the shutdown of Indian Point 2, scheduled for April 30. They urged him instead to create a commission to review the environmental impacts of the closure, which would increase emissions, hurt residents’ health, destabilize the grid, and set back New York’s climate agenda.

“Keeping the 2-gigawatt Indian Point facility operational would avoid the need to generate more electricity from burning fossil fuels, increasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,” the signatories said. “Postponing the shutdown of Indian Point is the right thing to do for many reasons.”

The group noted that much of the generation to replace Indian Point would come from natural gas, which would increase emissions. This would undermine New York’s commitment to reduce emissions by 85-100 percent by midcentury. Removing an extremely dependable generating source such as Indian Point could jeopardize grid reliability when most residents are staying at home under “shelter-in-place” orders.

The letter explains that views of nuclear power’s benefits to a decarbonized grid have shifted dramatically in the time since Cuomo agreed to shutter Indian Point. Failure of efforts to decarbonize without protecting existing nuclear, such as in Germany, has widened appreciation among experts to nuclear’s critical role, borne out by academic studies reviewing the data. While scientists have embraced this knowledge, its spread within the lay community has lagged and letter writers urge Cuomo use his position as Governor to help “bring the laggards along.”

The letter to Cuomo quotes Peggy Noonan, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, who contracted COVID-19 and wrote: “Everything works—and will continue to work—as long as we have electricity. It’s what keeps the lights on, the oxygen flowing, the information going. Everything is the grid, the grid, the grid.”

Petitioners suggest that, at a time when millions of New Yorkers’ lives are dependent upon air conditioners and ventilators, Cuomo would be adding unnecessary grid vulnerability at a time when state resources are already stretched thin. The pandemic provides Cuomo with an opening to reassess.

“As scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, environmentalists, businesspeople, mothers, and fathers, we urge you to set an example for the whole world by preserving a critical source of carbon-free, pollutant-free, safe and reliable power when New York and the world need it,” according to the letter.

The letter signatories include noted climate scientist, James Hansen, of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, who first testified to the Senate about the warming impacts of carbon emission on the climate. He sees the pandemic as providing leaders, such as Cuomo, a moment to assess actions needed for climate.

“The premature closure of the nuclear plant is bad climate policy. The closure, which was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2017, will increase reliance on natural gas-fired generators and in doing so increase the state’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Robert Bryce, author of the recently published book, A Question of Power.

Bryce recently penned two articles published in local papers criticizing the closure of Indian Point, A Pandemic is the wrong time to shut down NYC’s top source of electricity, and the New York has 1,300 Reasons Not to Close Indian Point, which the letter’s organizers credit with helping to inspire them to take action.



The Letter to Cuomo is available online here.

The petition to Cuomo is available at here.

Supporters are encouraged to use the hashtags #SaveIndianPoint and #EarthDay2020