FitzPatrick nuclear power plant announces closing, causes job loss

Energy Corp, a local energy company called a meeting with employees on the morning of Nov. 2 to announce the shutdown of FitzPatrick nuclear power plant, located in the town of Scriba, near Oswego.

This announcement comes after Entergy officials informed FitzPatrick in early October about the possibility of the closing. The plant is expected to close in late 2016 or early 2017.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he plans to stop this decision.

“New York will pursue every legal and regulatory avenue in an attempt to stop Entergy’s actions and its callous disregard for their skilled and loyal workforce,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Before the decision was made, FitzPatrick and its employees were told there was a possibility of the company not refueling the plant, which would lead to the plants closing when its current fuel supply ran out.

Closing FitzPatrick will leave the plant’s 615 employees without jobs. This move will also effect the numerous union trades that perform many support functions at the plant during scheduled outages. These trades include painters, electricians and carpenters.

The payroll for FitzPatrick was approximately $75 million, much of which helped the local economy. The nearly $17 million that FitzPatrick paid in annual property taxes went toward many local school budgets.

New York State ties school funding tightly to local property taxes. That creates a close tie between FitzPatrick and the Mexico Central School District in Oswego County. Taxes from the nuclear plant fund more than 23 percent of the school system of 2,123 students.

The nuclear plant pays about $17.3 million in county, town and school property taxes, of which $12.5 million goes to the school district. FitzPatrick’s share of the $25.6 million school tax levy is 49 percent. The total district budget is $54 million.

Superintendent of schools at Mexico Academy and Central School District Sean Bruno wrote to Cuomo last week, imploring the governor to prevent the shutdown.
Bruno said shutting the nuclear plant could lead to “double-digit percentage reductions in employees, programs and services” in the schools.
“This closure will have a devastating impact,” Bruno said.

Union leaders said they were frustrated that Entergy never divulged what it would take to keep FitzPatrick open, despite the company’s plea for employees to lobby state officials for help.

“They have yet to provide any details regarding what initiatives they pursued to keep the facility in operation,” said Ted Skerpon, president of Local 97 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Oswego resident Melinda Casson has been impacted by the closing announcement.

“Although my husband works for Exelon, this will impact us,” Casson said. “Our taxes will go up. The unemployment rate will go up, and it’s already high. We’ve been talking about leaving the state when Jay (my husband) retires, but this nail in the local coffin may push us out sooner.”

Another Oswego resident, Johnny Manwaring, reflected what Casson had said about taxes and the unemployment rate as well as cutbacks local businesses will have to make.

“In a state where it is impossible to find high skill level positions that pay accordingly this will just add to the amount of people fleeing,” Manwaring said.

Fitzpatrick has been in operation since 1975, for some it is all they know, which makes Entergy’s decision much more difficult.