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Protesters and Pols Urge Governor Hochul to Stop Holtec’s Dumping Plan

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August 15, 2023


On Friday, August 18th, Governor Hochul announced that she had signed the “Save the Hudson” bill that bans dumping radioactive wastewater into the Hudson, as Holtec planned to begin doing in October. “The Hudson River is one of New York’s landmark natural treasures, and it’s critical we stand together to protect it for generations to come,” said HOichul in an accompanying statement. “

My administration remains committed to protecting the economic vitality of the region and working closely with local communities who have advocated so passionately for this cause.”  The same politicians (all fellow Democrats) who had urged her to sign the bill were effusive in praising her decision.  However, Mike Lawler, Republican Congressman representing the 17th District, while endorsing her decision, added, “I look forward to the Governor working with federal, state, and local officials, as well as organized labor, local environmental activists and Holtec, to determine an environmentally safe and fiscally sound solution to eliminating the wastewater on-site.”


By Barrett Seaman—

Work for The Hud Indy

In advance of what was expected to be an appearance by Governor Kathy Hochul at a forum on plans to spend $4.2 billion from the state’s recently passed Environmental Bond Act, a clutch of activists and local politicians gathered in front of the Westchester County Center calling on the governor to sign the so-called “Save the Hudson” bill.

The bill, which passed the State Assembly in June by a vote of 101-44 and unanimously by the State Senate, would enjoin Holtec, the company managing the decommissioning of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, from dumping radioactive wastewater into the river. The bill has since languished on the governor’s desk, however. If Hochul chooses to veto the bill, sometime in October, Holtec is scheduled to begin dumping into the Hudson up to a million gallons of water that may or may not exceed federally permissible levels of radioactivity.

The bill states that “it shall be unlawful to discharge any radiological substance into the Hudson River in connection with the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant,” and grants the state’s attorney general power of enforcement.

A few dozen vocal activists joined nearly a dozen local politicians, state, county and town officials, in calling for Hochul to “do the right thing” by signing the bill. As it turned out, the governor was in Utica promoting an economic development project.

Among the officials attending the rally were the bill’s cosponsors, Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg of Ossining and State Senator Pete Harckham of South Salem. “We have spent billions of dollars and decades cleaning up the Hudson,” said Harckham. “We say no more to pollution—zero pollution is acceptable.”

Shelley Mayer, a State Senator from Rye declared, “We’re not going to have another Love Canal here,” referring to the environmental disaster caused by dumping toxic chemicals from a Hooker Chemical Company plant into a canal outside of Buffalo for decades in the mid-twentieth century.

Emily Skydel, head of Food & Water Watch Hudson Valley and the organizer of the event, claimed that a petition urging the governor to sign the bill was signed by more than 400,000 individuals with support from 35 municipalities and 138 groups.

When the bill was first passed in June, Holtec’s director of government affairs and communications, Patrick O’Brien, said that science shows that discharge into the river is “the safest option for dealing with the processed and treated water,” adding that the company’s plan was supported by the Decommissioning Oversight Board’s independent third-party expert, as well as years of environmental monitoring and reporting. The exact level of toxicity, the company claims, cannot be know until after the wastewater has been released into the river.

That, said Assemblywoman Levenberg, “gives us even less confidence in what the regulators are telling us.” Holtec, added fellow Assemblywoman MaryJane Shimsky, whose district’s entire western border is the Hudson, “should test first before dumping—not afterwards as planned.”

Asked why they thought Governor Hochul had not signed their bill, several local legislators simply shrugged. When asked by The Hudson Independent why the governor has not signed the bill, her press office replied that “Governor Hochul is reviewing the legislation.”

“Listening Tour”

Shortly after the rally in the adjacent County Center, officials from the state presented an outline of how Albany planned to divvy up the $4.2 billion that will derive from recent passage of the “Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act” that voters approved last November. The program was less the “listening tour,” as the forum was advertised, but rather an educational presentation outlining the categories targeted for funding. They include:

$1.5 billion for climate change mitigation;

$1.1 billion for restoration and flood risk reduction;

$650 million for water quality improvement and resilient infrastructure;

$650 million for open space land conservation and recreation; and

$300 million for other projects not specifically allocated in the act.

While attendees, of which there were several hundred, did not have a chance to voice their own opinions as to how the money within these broad categories should be spent, they were encouraged to take a survey, available on the governor’s web site: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-kicks-clean-water-clean-air-and-green-jobs-environmental-bond-act-listening.

There will also be two more presentations: one in the Bronx on August 22, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at La Central YMCA gymnasium, and one on August 24, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.at Suffolk County Community College, Suffolk Credit Union Arena.

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