New York lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a measure that would ban the dumping of radiological waste from the Indian Point Energy Center nuclear plant as it goes through the decommissioning process.
The Democratic-led Assembly approved the measure with a handful of Republican votes as lawmakers and environmental advocates point to the economic damage that can be done by discharging the waste into the river. Opponents, including a labor union that represents workers at the Westchester County site as well as the owner of Indian Point, contend the measure is unnecessary and could cost jobs.
The measure will next go to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk for her consideration; she has not weighed in publicly on the bill and declined to do so earlier in the day.
Assemblymember Dana Levenberg, the Democratic backer of the bill in the Assembly, pointed to the need to protect the economic value of a river that has been used for industrial purposes.
"We have an incredible natural resource, which is the Hudson River in our backyard and it impacts all of the region," she said.
But efforts to restore the river and strengthen its ecology in recent years have pushed advocates to take a stronger approach on regulating what goes in the Hudson.
"Why should we be putting more waste into our beautiful Hudson River?" Levenberg said. "For so many years, we've been working to clean up the Hudson -- looking to turn it into a place where they can boat, they can swim, they can recreate, they can fish."
But there is criticism of the measure. Bill Banfield of the Council of Carpenters warns if the proposal becomes law, union jobs would be lost as a result of disrupting the decommissioning process.
"You're looking at displacing hundreds of workers. Not only them, but their families as well," Banfield said.
Republican Assemblyman Matt Slater, meanwhile, questioned whether the measure was even necessary given safeguards put in place by federal regulators. Slater voted in favor, pointing to the ecological concerns.
"There are still a lot of questions I know I have and a lot of my colleagues have about the need to impose this type of legislation," Slater said. "But now it goees to the governor's desk and we'll see what she'll do."
Supporters believe the concerns over jobs losses are overblown and the decommissioning can still be accomplished without discharging into the river.
Holtec, meanwhile, has also raised concerns with the legislation.
“As a part of both the operation of nuclear power plants and during the decommissioning of reactors plants discharge treated liquid effluent according to state and federal permits, and well below safe release limits set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," the company said. "Indian Point is no different, with valid state and federal permits in place the facility has discharged treated water to the Hudson since 1962. The data on these releases are publicly available on the NRC’s website for Indian Point and all reactors."
The measure is just one of several environmental proposals being considered as the Assembly meets in Albany briefly this week. Lawmakers are considering a plan to expedite off-shore wind projects, which have stirred concerns on Long Island. Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group is also making a final push for a bill to have polluters pay for the impacts of climate change.
"It's a very simple analysis for the Assembly," Horner said. "Do they want to stick their constituents for the tens of billions of dollars for climate related expenses? Or do they want the oil companies to pay for it?"