Environment and Energy

With Union Support, Greenpeace Co-Founder Fights for Indian Point

By Bendix Anderson

Labor Unions have found an unusual ally in their fight to save jobs at Indian Point Energy Center, the nuclear power plant that provides roughly a third of the electricity for New York State.

Dr. Patrick Moore is fighting to help keep Indian Point open, though he spent years as a radical environmentalist and earlier denounced nuclear power as dangerous. Many environmentalists disagree with Moore and they are calling — along with politicians such as likely-future-governor Andrew Cuomo — for Indian Point to close.

At stake are the jobs of Indian Point’s thousand employees, including union workers such as carpenters, teamsters, and steamfitters, along with the $750 million Indian Point contributes to the local economy every year, and, of course, the electricity.

The fight for Indian Point illustrates the unique balance Moore has struck between the needs of the environment and the needs of people. Moore believes those needs cannot be viewed separately. “My view of the environment is that it contains the people,” said Patrick. “Poverty is bad for the environment.”

Detractors claim that Indian Point kills billions of fish, leaks radiation into the groundwater, and could be a target for terrorists hoping to turn the plant into a gigantic “dirty bomb.”

Moore counters that the main environmental effect of the plant has been to release non-toxic, non-radioactive water that is three to four degrees warmer than the Hudson River. The billions of fish supposedly killed by Indian Point, he says, represent fish eggs in the water the plant draws from the Hudson to cool its pipes, and there no hard evidence that the fish eggs aren’t still alive when the water is returned, slightly warmer and without exposure to radiation, to the river. Moore has also written that both the threat from terrorists and the danger from a recent water leak from Indian Point’s spent fuel pool have been exaggerated.

Most importantly, it’s not clear what would replace Indian Point. The likely choice would probably be four huge new gas-fired plants – though it’s not clear where these plants could be built. These gas-fired plants, if built along the Hudson River, would probably require a water cooling system that, like Indian Point, would suck in billions fish eggs and release warm water into the river, as does the existing Bowline Point Gas Power Plant now operating a few miles downstream of Indian Point.

Moore has a long history of environmental activism. In 1971, he was one of ten activists who sailed on the fishing boat the “Phyllis Cormack,” later renamed Greenpeace, to a U.S. nuclear test site. That voyage started Greenpeace as an organization, and over the next 15 years Moore served in leadership roles including president of Greenpeace Canada and director of Greenpeace International. “I was in confrontation politics. I was radicalized about stopping war and pollution,” says Moore, who holds a PhD in ecology from the University of British Columbia.

He left Greenpeace in 1986 and eventually became what he calls “an ecological consultant for industry.”

“I was basically considered a traitor,” he says.

His company, Greenspirit, is now under contract to the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (AREA), a group supporting Indian Point that receives its funding from labor unions, the Chamber of Commerce, and Entergy, the energy company that owns Indian Point.

However, Moore doesn’t sound likes a shill for Entergy, a company whose business plan relies heavily on exploiting fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal. In contrast, Moore warns against dependence on fossil fuels – coal in particular. “We are against any coal plant,” he says of Greenspirit. “Clean coal is unethical. I don’t think it’s clean.”

June 11, 2010

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