National security mascot Rudy Giuliani is back in the headlines this week for his latest project with private consulting firm Giuliani Partners. America’s mayor is considering taking a spokesman job with the Entergy Corporation, which operates two reactors at the Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan, New York, just 35 miles outside New York City. Giuliani Partners has done some P.R. work for Entergy in the past — during safety controversies in early 2003 and again in 2006 — but this is an entirely different situation. Though it generates 25 to 30 percent of the city’s energy and pumps $126 million a year in labor wages into the local economy, the Indian Point plant is now facing extinction.
In late June, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo sent “one of his top advisers” to meet with Entergy officials and inform them that he is planning to close the Indian Point site. The original 40-year operating permits for the reactors are set to expire in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Though Entergy is applying for a permit renewal from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Cuomo can effectively terminate that application. All he has to do is withhold a certain water permit that is necessary for Entergy to win the renewal. According to the New York Times, Cuomo’s plan — supposedly based on fear of a meltdown or terrorism — is shortsighted. It “would take years and require a long-term energy strategy” to wean New York off Indian Point’s private-sector 2,000 megawatts of energy, which currently light up schools and businesses across New York City and Westchester County.
Mayor Bloomberg strongly opposes Indian Point’s closure and predicts profound economic consequences. According to a leaked preliminary draft of a report by New York City’s Department of Environmental Conservation, Indian Point’s closure would result in the city’s energy costs rising up to 10 percent, with 1,100 layoffs at Indian Point and citywide reliability problems beginning within a year of the second reactor’s expiration.
So why is Cuomo so determined to close the site now? After all, he’s always maintained that he’s “not against nuclear power.”
Cuomo, of course, took $100,000 in campaign contributions in 2010 from his top individual donor Dan Tishman — chairman of the Board of the National Resources Defense Council, which ranks as one of the most active anti-nuclear special interest groups.
He also took $50,000 from the New York law firm Kaplan Fox and Kilsheimer — one of his top ten organizational donors. That firm’s veteran counsel Charles J. Moxley sits on the board of the anti-nuclear Lawyers’ Committee for Nuclear Policy and also wrote an anti-nuclear book.
Leveraged-buyout guru Fred Iseman, meanwhile, got to Cuomo early, handing him $55,900 on July 7, 2009. Iseman serves on the Advisory Board of Ted Turner and Sam Nunn’s Nuclear Threat Initiative.
And let’s not forget about all of Cuomo’s real estate developer donors, like Stephen Garofalo ($62,800 in individual contributions) of the Millbrook Ventures commercial real estate firm in Dover Plains, New York. Since 2000, his company has been developing a 670-acre five-star destination spa with its own private residential community in Amenia, New York — just a stone’s throw from Indian Point, with all its tourist-deflecting danger.
Now here’s where it gets good.
Cuomo accepted $55,588 in campaign contributions from the law firm Nixon Peabody. As recently as October 12, 2010 (a month before Cuomo’s election) Nixon Peabody represented an energy company called Competitive Power Ventures (CPV). At the time, CPV was petitioning the State of New York Public Service Commission for allowance to build a 650-megawatt natural gas-powered plant called the CPV Valley Energy Center in Wawayanda, New York — 50 miles from Manhattan and directly competitive with Indian Point.
The previous month, Nixon Peabody lawyer Ruth E. Leistensnider — a partner in the firm’s Albany energy practice and the sole lawyer representing CPV — had been named to the New York Solar Energy Industries Association board of directors just as that board, coincidentally, announced its support for Cuomo’s solar energy platform.
If Giuliani is getting paid to protect Indian Point, then he has no reason to be defensive. He needs to start questioning Cuomo’s motives and looking into the governor’s relationship with Nixon Peabody and CPV. The results could be explosive.