SYRACUSE, N.Y. – At least 15 interest groups have challenged New York’s new “clean energy standard,” which mandates subsidies for nuclear plants and renewable energy, by petitioning the state Public Service Commission to reconsider the policy.
The formal petitions for rehearing come from a wide range of critics, from power plant owners to low-income consumer advocates, reflecting the sweeping impact of the new regulations.
Challenges had been widely expected, given the high stakes for energy producers and customers. Petitions for rehearing are typically the first step in seeking to change a commission decision. Lawsuits could follow.
There is no deadline for the commission to respond to the petitions, said Jon Sorensen, speaking for the PSC.
“Parties will likely be given 45 business days to comment on the arguments presented in the petitions before the commission decides whether to reject those petitions or modify the order,” he wrote in an email.
The PSC is under pressure to move ahead with its new policy swiftly, especially the part that affects Upstate nuclear plants. The FitzPatrick plant in Oswego County is slated to close in January if the planned sale of the plant to Exelon Corp. is blocked. The sale of FitzPatrick depends on approval of subsidy contracts authorized by the clean energy standard.
Under a side agreement between New York officials and current plant owner Entergy Corp., the sale of FitzPatrick must be approved and subsidy contracts for the facility signed, all by Nov. 18, or the sale can be called off and state power authority would owe a $35 million termination fee to Entergy.
Several of the petitioners seeking to revisit the clean energy standard claim the PSC acted with illegal haste by adopting the nuclear subsidy scheme, details of which were proposed just two weeks before the commission vote.
Those critics say the proposal to adopt a 12-year subsidy program for Upstate nuclear plants, which is expected to cost nearly $1 billion during just the first two years, should have been subjected to a 45-day comment period under the State Administrative Procedures Act. The PSC said in its original order that the comment period was adequate.
Other petitions say the PSC erred by excluding certain types of renewable energy, such as existing wind farms or new hydroelectric dams, from getting subsidies under the clean energy standard.
The Independent Power Producers of New York, among others, argued that some New York power generators excluded from the clean energy standard might sell their output in Massachusetts, which just enacted financial incentives for renewable power.