Bi-Partisan Response to Radioactive Waste Threat

On April 5, Rockland County Executive Ed Day released a strongly worded statement protesting a planned August release of a million gallons of radioactive wastewater from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, directly into the Hudson River 15 miles upriver from our village of Palisades. According to Mr. Day’s press release, all five Hudson Valley County Executives are planning a joint press conference at the end of April, stating their collective opposition to the dumping by the Holtec corporation. The wastewater in question contains radioactive tritium and a long list of other toxic components, and has been used to cool spent nuclear fuel rods in storage pools. Fuel–rod removal is a separate issue.

Neither the wastewater release nor its timetable were publicly announced until local residents got wind of the plan. In February, long–time State Senator Pete Harckham and State Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg, both Democrats, introduced legislation in Albany to outlaw the release and to levy high fines on Holtec if violations occur. When newly elected State Senators Bill Weber and Rob Rolison, both Republicans, heard about the release from constituents, they promptly signed on as co–sponsors. However, as of mid–April the legislation is still in committee and has not reached the floor in Albany for a vote.

Holtec Decommissioning International is a for–profit federal contractor, and the financial rewards for this dangerous and highly technical job are substantial. Money has been laid aside for Indian Point clean–up in a $2.4 billion decommissioning trust fund (DTF) paid for by NY ratepayers in their electricity bills. The fund is subject to oversight by the NY Decommissioning Oversight Board, by the NY Public Service Commission, and by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (a federal agency). Considerations of speedy completion must be weighed against safety and long–term consequences for local residents, who will be here long after Holtec has moved on to its next project. In 2021, the NY attorney general’s office sued both Holtec and the NRC; the contractor and its federal oversight agency were compelled to agree to maintain a minimum of $760 million in the DTF fund, and to promise to return portions of any unused money to the taxpayers instead of keeping it to boost Holtec’s profits.

In a separate matter, bipartisan legislation to establish an Orangetown Community Preservation Fund for buying up historic properties and park land in Orangetown is once again making its way through the state senate and assembly in Albany. Modeled on successful programs in Warwick and New Paltz, the trust will be funded by a 0.75 percent levy on residential home sales in the town. The value of $400,000 and under on improved property would be exempt. Assemblyman John McGowan and State Senator Bill Weber are now co–sponsoring the legislation, which was originally proposed more than three years ago by former state legislators Elijah Reichlin–Melnick and Mike Lawler (now our congressman).