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Astorino drops Indian Point lawsuits

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Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino will no longer pursue two lawsuits that challenge the closing of Indian Point Energy Center.

The county executive’s office filed paperwork on Thursday to discontinue both lawsuits. The Republican Astorino lost last week to George Latimer, a Democrat who had been critical of the lawsuits.

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Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan. Photo by Bob Rozycki

“The very important issues that put Westchester County residents at risk, particularly the failure of New York state to conduct a full environment review prior to the decision to close Indian Point, remain,” said Jerry McKinstry, a spokesman for Astorino. “While the county executive still fully believes in the suit’s merits, he felt it was inappropriate for him to continue with it given the change of administrations.”

Indian Point owner and operator Entergy Corp., along with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Ossining environmental group Riverkeeper, announced in January that the groups had reached a legal settlement to shut down Indian Point’s Unit 2 reactor by April 2020 and the Unit 3 reactor by April 2021.

Astorino was immediately critical of the deal, calling it Cuomo’s “January surprise.” In May, he announced the two lawsuits. The first was a hybrid Article 78 proceeding that asked the court to annul the agreement to close the plant. The second sought to annul two permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation that allow Entergy to operate in the state through 2021. The DEC granted the permits to Entergy as part of the settlement to close the facility.

Astorino said at a press conference in May that it was a “mockery” that the deal was made without an environmental review.

“There’s no debate that the public had a right to know about the impact of closing Indian Point before the deal was reached,” Astorino said.

The lawsuits did not receive the support of the county’s Board of Legislators, so Astorino filed each on his own as county executive. He hired Philip M. Halpern, a partner at Collier, Halpern, Newberg & Nolletti LLP in White Plains, to represent him, with an agreement that Halpern only be paid if the county board approved the bills. Once the county board saw the success of the lawsuit, Astorino argued in May, legislators would get behind it.

Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi called the lawsuits a “frivolous and politically motivated stunt that put the long-term safety of Westchester residents at risk,” to the New York Daily News on Thursday. “The fact that he chose to end this charade now tells you everything you need to know.”

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