As Indian Point Energy Center edges toward its 2021 planned closing date, a state labor official said the three-year time frame before the Buchanan nuclear plant starts winding down operations creates some unusual opportunities.
Mario J. Musolino, executive deputy commissioner of the state Department of Labor, said the state is typically given only a short notification of a plant or business closing. Most often that comes through a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice.
“The fact that there is a multiyear time horizon gives us an opportunity to take advantage of that time and do some intelligent planning,” Musolino said at a Nov. 3 forum concerning Indian Point at the Desmond-Fish Library in Garrison.
Nine months have passed since state officials confirmed that plant owner and operator Entergy Corp. would shut down both Indian Point reactors by 2021 as part of a legal settlement with the state and environmental group Riverkeeper.
At the forum, hosted by The Journal News and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, local and state officials spoke in optimistic terms about transitioning the plant’s large workforce into local jobs. But the challenges ahead for the surrounding communities were clear.
“There definitely will be ripple effects,” said Ross Gould, energy sector program manager for Workforce Development Institute, a Long Island nonprofit. “Anytime you see the closure of a large facility, whether it be an IBM or a Kodak, a large employer in the area, there are ripple effects.”
There are about 950 workers at the plant, about 550 of whom are unionized. That total includes 350 utility workers and about 200 in security personnel, according to numbers from Musolino.
On top of having the extra time to prepare, Musolino said the specialized nature of much of the Indian Point workforce gives its employees an advantage in seeking new employment.
“This isn’t the same thing as when we see a large retailer closing or a mall closing, where folks are really competing with each other in a labor market that might be fairly limited,” he said.
The state has begun preliminary talks with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the New York Power Authority and local utilities about job opportunities for displaced workers, Musolino said. “We know a lot of workers will be easily transferable into jobs that are going to exist over the next couple years.”
As many as 40 percent of employees are also retirement eligible, Musolino said. But, he cautioned, “being retirement eligible doesn’t mean that’s the choice you want to make.”
Entergy has said employees will be offered relocation opportunities at its other facilities in the country and is maintaining employment levels during Indian Point’s final operating years.
“It’s an interesting challenge because, of course, while we’re talking about transition of a workforce, the plant stays open,” Musolino said. “And we have to figure out how to make sure the plant stays open with the appropriate workforce and appropriate security.”
Musolino is a member of the state’s Indian Point closure task force, which last met in September. The task force has begun work on a reuse study for the plant’s site that is due April 30, 2018. To lead that study, NYSERDA has hired D.L. English Consulting Inc., a Massachusetts-based firm focused on the energy industry.
Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi gave an update at the forum on a local task force developed to prepare for the plant’s closure.
“We all knew that the plants would close eventually,” Puglisi said at the forum. “We were just a little surprised that they were closing this soon.”
Cortlandt will lose $900,000 per year in revenue without Indian Point, according to the town, about 2 percent of its budget. Even harder hit will be Buchanan, where Indian Point is located. The village is set to lose $3.5 million per year, a little less than half its annual budget. The Hendrick Hudson School District, meanwhile, could lose $23 million per year, about one-third of its annual budget.
Cortlandt plans to hire an economic development consultant to identify development opportunities on town-owned and underutilized private land that could help make up for the lost revenue from Indian Point.
Earlier this year, the town board approved a plan to put aside $100,000 per year into a reserve account to prepare as well.
Puglisi said the village will look to negotiate a new PILOT agreement with Entergy, “to extend payments to our area including during the decommissioning years. We have just started to have that dialogue.”
The panel on workforce development is the latest in a series of community discussions addressing the plant’s closing. On Oct. 30, the natural gas advocacy group Empire Energy Forum hosted a panel discussion at Iona College on replacing the 2,000 megawatts that Indian Point generates.
The panel featured a presentation from Rosemary Scanlon, a former chief economist for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Scanlon consulted with the New York Building Congress to publish a report on the 10-year outlook for New York City’s electricity supply, particularly focused on the loss of Indian Point.
The report’s recommendations include new transmission capacity to reach renewable sources upstate and new pipeline capacity for natural gas into New York City and Westchester County.