- Associated Press - Friday, February 24, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A conservative free market group has joined liberal environmental advocates criticizing New York’s plan to charge ratepayers up to $7.6 billion to keep three aging upstate nuclear plants operating.

Citizens Against Corporate Bailouts director Gregg Keller says state lawmakers should reject the deal, which he says amounts to “corporate cronyism.”

“This is clearly a bailout of the nuclear power industry,” he told The Associated Press earlier this week. “The market is going to be the best arbiter … this is not a partisan issue. This is about free markets.”

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that Keller’s group is just doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry and posing as a group of concerned citizens.

“No one is fooled by this poor attempt to pass off a Beltway Astroturf ?front for a legitimate grassroots group,” said Richard Azzopardi. “These D.C. shills are clearly carrying Big Oil’s water and don’t care about saving New York jobs, stopping utility bills from skyrocketing or, you know, telling the truth.”

Keller said the organization is supported by free market “enthusiasts” and also opposes nuclear subsidies in Illinois. The organization’s website says it is a coalition of New Yorkers. An organization spokesman did not immediately respond Friday to questions about the group’s financial supporters. Keller has a St. Louis-based consulting firm.

Cuomo argues the nuclear deal is a responsible way to ensure stable electrical rates while the state transitions to renewable sources of energy, like wind and solar, and weans itself off fossil fuels. The subsidies, which will be paid over 12 years, are tied to New York’s plan to generate half of its power from renewable sources by 2030.

Cuomo’s energy goal is backed by many environmental groups, including some specifically oppose to the subsidies for nuclear energy. Those include Food & Water Watch, the New York Climate Action Group and the Alliance for a Green Economy, whose members argue the subsidies amount to an expensive handout for a hazardous industry.

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