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Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino announces the formal filing of 2 lawsuits against the State of New York and Riverkeeper over the closing of Indian Point. Ricky Flores/lohud

ALBANY - Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino plans to do an end-run around county lawmakers and will file two separate lawsuits in an attempt to fight the decision to close the Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan.

The move comes after Astorino failed to enlist the county Legislature's support for a challenge to Indian Point-owner Entergy's plans to shut down its two reactors by 2021, a deal brokered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the environmental group Riverkeeper.

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Astorino announced Tuesday that he plans to go it alone and will file the lawsuits on behalf of himself, individually and in his role as county executive. They will name the state of New York, Riverkeeper and Entergy as defendants.

During a Tuesday press conference in White Plains, Astorino took a swipe at county lawmakers for failing to get behind the legal challenge.

"When the Democrats on the Board of Legislators decided to abandon their responsibility of protecting our local communities, I decided to act on my own," Astorino said. "The stakes are too high not to ensure every possible step is taken to make sure our county and local communities are not left powerless against the power of the state and wealthy special interest groups."

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Astorino, a Republican who is seeking re-election this fall and may run for governor a second time in 2018, accused Cuomo of focusing on his own political future rather than the residents of the region during a morning radio appearance.

"One man cannot be allowed to do what he has been doing. The governor is not above the law. So this would require the agencies, that should have done this in the first place, to do their job," Astorino said during a morning appearance on WGDJ-AM (1300) in Albany. Astorino lost to Cuomo in 2014.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi knocked Astorino, saying the agreement in January was reached with the company to avoid an abrupt shutdown. Cuomo has long contended that the plant is unsafe in the heavily populated New York City area.

“Astorino is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law and a hypocrite all at the same time," Azzopardi said. He said Astorino is "falsely accusing the state of circumventing a process, and then doing an end run around his own legislature to file a frivolous lawsuit that puts at risk the long-term safety of residents.”

Going ahead with a lawsuit will put Astorino at odds with the Democratic-controlled Board of Legislators.

Democrat Michael Kaplowitz, the board's chairman, said last month a lawsuit would be "dead on arrival" with the board. On Monday night the board decided not to move ahead with the lawsuit on its own. Kaplowitz could not immediately be reached for comment on Astorino's charges.

Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) accused Astorino of pursuing a questionable legal claim while ignoring the real needs of the communities surrounding Indian Point.

“The county executive’s political ambitions are clearly more important to him than the taxpayers of Westchester," Borgia said. "He has once again made known his intent to use taxpayer funded resources — without Board of Legislators approval — for a frivolous lawsuit he knows we can’t win. Any unilateral attempt to use outside counsel on behalf of the taxpayers is in violation of our County’s charter. The surrounding communities are better served by bringing all sides together to work on real economic and environmental mitigation solutions; and that is what Democrats are focused on.”

Astorino accused the board of aiding the Democratic governor.

"They’re more loyal to their party than they are to the people who they are sworn in to protect. This should be a slam dunk," Astorino said during the radio appearance.

Astorino said that Indian Point's closure would have a far-reaching economic and environmental impact on the region.

"We have to do something to make sure that the people are protected, the ratepayers are protected and the economy is protected," he said.

Astorino has enlisted attorney Philip Halpern, the managing partner of the New York City firm Collier, Halpern, Newberg & Nolletti, to file two separate legal challenges on his behalf. The first, to be filed in state Supreme Court in White Plains, will focus on what Astorino claims is the state's failure to conduct a full public review of the economic and energy-related consequences of shutting down the Buchanan plant.

The second challenge will center on the state's decision to issue a water quality permit for Indian Point. Both will ask a judge to invalidate the January agreement that led Entergy to announce its decision to shut down the plant.

Astorino says the state put the public at risk by failing to take into account whether Indian Point's 2,000 megawatts of electricity can be replaced. And, he said, it is uncertain whether the decades-long decommissioning of the reactors will require a taxpayer bailout.

There will be no cost to the county for the two lawsuits unless the county Legislature agrees to pick up Halpern's legal tab, Astorino said.

Astorino said he decided to move ahead without county lawmakers' support because of the impact the closure could have on ratepayers and taxpayers.

"There was no warning," he said. "There was no input from any stakeholders and there was no consideration given to the surrounding communities, the employees or ratepayers. The secret and cavalier way that the closure was put together has put nearly 9 million people at risk. The day the deal was announced there were hundreds of questions and no answers."

On Tuesday, Cuomo announced that the first meeting of the Indian Point Closure Task Force — a group made up state and local officials — will be held at Cortlandt Town Hall. The task force will come up with recommendations for alleviating the plant closure's impact on taxes and will attempt to identify new economic opportunities for Indian Point workers.

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