There are two dissimilar forces at work in the Indian Point controversy. Like any regulated utility, Entergy’s corporate stance is to spend as little as possible for environmental compliance without getting tagged with violations from state government. As a publically traded company, the benchmark is an index of the percentage of share value which is eaten up by all forms of regulatory compliance.
Stock analysts will compare what Entergy spends to Exelon or Progress or Southern, etc. In other words, the pressure on environmental costs is a competitive factor relative to stock price. None of these publically traded utilities want to spend one dollar more than the next guy on fish screens or any other kind of environmental mitigation measures that are unrelated to NRC requirements for plant safety.
BTW: Entergy’s stock ((NYSE:ETR) was trading only a fraction off its 52-week high on April 1st. Readers should take a look to see if the publicity over the weekend has any effect when the market opens Monday.
Second, Riverkeeper is playing a power game. It doesn’t care about Entergy’s share price, but it does care about aligning itself with Andrew Cuomo and having a say in New York state environmental policies should he be elected governor.
In short, Entergy’s financial measures are irrelevant to Riverkeeper because the greens aren’t playing in that sandbox. There is no payoff for Entergy to be a “good corporate citizen” because the forces arrayed against it don’t care about it. Their objective is to close the plant by imposing regulatory burdens that will force Entergy to walk away. Knocking off a nuclear power plant is a form of cutting notches on a six gun for an environmental group. If successful, it would force political leaders throughout the NY lower Hudson region to pay attention whenever Riverkeeper had something to say.
Under the circumstances, Energy has to convince NY DEQ that improved fish screens are a “best technology” as a means of blunting Riverkeeper’s push for cooling towers. There may be other forms of leverage, but appealing to the public over rates and costs, and fossil carbon emissions relative to greenhouse gases, may not trump the usual hysteria about things nuclear.
If Entergy was serious about engaging the public in New York and Vermont, they would have opened a corporate office in the northeast and taken proactive measures to turn the public dialog around. They didn't but that doesn't make them clueless. They are operating out of the business model they understand and which works in much of the rest of their service areas. As they see it environmentalists are pests. Not taken them seriously is what has gotten the firm into real hot water this time in New York, no pun intended here.
If you were an Entergy executive, what would you do?
PS: I have no relationship with the firm and don’t own any of its stock.