Judge Approves New York’s Zero-Emission Nuke Credits

MANHATTAN (CN) — Blasting the White House’s ongoing assault on climate science, a New York-based federal judge gave her stamp of approval to the Empire State’s system of curbing greenhouse gases through zero-emission credits for nuclear power plants.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni’s ruling on Tuesday falls just short of a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s establishment of his Clean Energy Standard program last August.

“Some say that human-caused global warming is a ‘hoax,’ while others accept the overwhelming scientific conclusion that human activities, and particularly carbon dioxide discharges into the atmosphere, are causing the planet to warm,” Caproni wrote.

Naming the names behind the “some,” the judge confirmed her subtle dig at President Donald Trump’s administration in a footnote, which linked to multiple news stories about his climate-change denialism.

The New York Times, Politifact and Politico articles cited in the ruling detail Trump’s conspiracy theory that the Chinese popularized global warming to make U.S. industry less competitive, and the president’s stacking of his administration with climate skeptics like Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

“Although no individual state can reverse the trend all by itself, New York and many other states have decided that they will do their part to reduce the emissions that contribute to global warming,” she added.

Like California, New York announced a plan last year to award credits to electricity generators that do not produce carbon emissions, but the Empire State continues to rely on nuclear power being phased out on the West Coast.

New York’s inclusion of its six nuclear power plants as a part of its clean-energy arsenal alarmed some environmentalists, although groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council applauded the state’s commitment to achieve 50 percent of its energy through renewable sources by 2030.

Other groups like the Sierra Club and New York League of Conservation Voters ultimately praised the program.

But Cuomo’s plan also drew two court challenges, including a federal lawsuit led by a group calling itself the Coalition for Competitive Electricity.

Joining up with energy companies like Dynegy, Eastern Generation, and NRG Energy, their complaint claimed that Cuomo’s program was preempted by the Federal Power Act and violates the Commerce Clause.

Caproni said that she was “not convinced” by their argument that the program illegally gives a boost to failing nuclear plants.

“A whole host of measures that states might employ to encourage clean energy development — such as tax incentives or direct subsidies — involve propping up the operation of a generator that might otherwise be unprofitable,” she wrote.

Coalition For Competitive Electricity’s attorney David Barrett, from the New York office of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, referred inquiries to a spokesman for SKDKnickerbocker, a Washington-based public relations firm specializing in working for Democratic politicians such as former President Barack Obama, ex-New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and, ironically, Cuomo.

The firm provided a statement by a group going by the name New Yorkers for Fair Energy.

Describing itself as a coalition of undisclosed energy providers and environmentalists, the group insisted upon not attributing a name to an unsigned statement on behalf of the plaintiffs.

“We are disappointed by Judge Caproni’s decision, which we will appeal,” the group said, casting Cuomo’s program as a “$7.6 billion bailout” for nuclear plants.

“We note that similar programs to subsidize favored electrical generators were struck down in Maryland and New Jersey, including by a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2016,” the group added.

A spokesman for New York Public Service Commission’s chair Audrey Zibelman, the lead defendant in the lawsuit, forwarded a statement from the governor applauding the ruling.

“We are in a global fight to combat climate change, and today’s ruling ensures our progress will not be blocked or rolled back by fossil fuel interests and others seeking to maintain the status quo,” Cuomo said.

“The court forcefully ruled that the Clean Energy Standard and its Zero Emissions Credit program are valid tools to use to combat climate change,” he added. “At a time when the federal government has abdicated its leadership on climate change, New York will continue to do all that we can to ensure that current and future generations have a clean and safe environment in which to live and prosper.”

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