New York Gov. Cuomo taps union leader for PSC seat

Dive Brief:

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has nominated Phil Wilcox, a representative for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, to fill a vacant seat on the state's Public Service Commission, according to Politico New York.
  • Wilcox is also a member of the Upstate Jobs Coalition, which backed nuclear subsidies to keep the state's plants operating, according to the news outlet.
  • Exelon, which owns the state's nuclear plants, environmental advocates and the PSC are all defending the plan at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, where the  Zero Energy Credit (ZEC) plan has faced challenges.

Dive Insight:

The Public Service Commission currently has just two members, but Wilcox's addition would add a strong business perspective. And he appears to be a longtime ally of Cuomothe governor nominated Wilcox to serve as a commissioner on the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority five years ago.

The state and PSC are pressing for financial support to keep three upstate nuclear plants running, and the plans are currently being challenged in federal court

The ZEC proposal is also being challenged at FERC, with generators claiming the plan represents an 'existential threat' to wholesale markets.

Three plants—the Fitzpatrick, Ginna and Nine Mile nuclear facilities—are expected to produce 27.6 million MWh of carbon-free generation annually, helping the state in its goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% from 1990 levels by 2030. But cheap gas has forced utilities to consider premature closure of these facilities, leading the state to intervene to try and save the upstate plants, in part to meet carbon goals. 

The generators federal lawsuit claims the U.S. Supreme Court blocked arrangements that essentially set a floor price for state-incentivized generation. The complaint is based on the Hughes v. Talen Energy Marketing decision, which focused on a Maryland program designed to support a new gas plant.

In the Maryland case, contracts stipulated a rate and directed the plant's developer to bid the capacity into the PJM market, which generators say is what happened with the ZEC program. New York's Public Service Commission however has defended its ZEC plan, saying the plan was "carefully designed" to not intrude on FERC's jurisdiction.

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Filed Under: Generation Regulation & Policy