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Katko Perry

U.S. Rep. John Katko, left, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry participate in a roundtable discussion at FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant Wednesday. 

The country's top energy official and central New York's congressman appeared together at an Oswego County nuclear power plant Wednesday. 

Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. John Katko toured the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba and held a roundtable discussion with Exelon CEO Chris Crane and other industry stakeholders. 

The roundtable discussion and tour were closed to the press. 

It was Perry's first visit to a nuclear power plant as energy secretary. He previously served as governor of Texas before being nominated by President Donald Trump in 2017 to lead the U.S. Department of Energy. 

In a statement, Perry noted that nuclear power accounts for 20 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S.

"At (the Department of Energy), we're partnering with industry to develop ways to extend the safe and economic lifespan of our nuclear fleet," he said. "And together, we're addressing the technical challenges to bringing advanced and innovative technologies to the market." 

FitzPatrick, which has more than 600 employees, nearly closed in 2016. Entergy, the owner of the facility at the time, announced in late 2015 that it would shut down the plant. The company cited low prices and other financial challenges as the main factors that led to its decision.

However, New York state intervened by providing $7.6 billion in subsidies to ensure FitzPatrick and other nuclear power plants remain open. Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed for the aid because FitzPatrick's closure, he said, "would be a financial crisis for the entire region."

The plant is not only a major employer, it is a major source of tax revenue for local governments and school districts.

Katko, R-Camillus, didn't have a role in crafting the state's plan for saving FitzPatrick and other nuclear power plants. But he was in constant contact with Entergy officials and workers at the facility. And he urged federal regulators to act quickly to sign off on the plant's sale.

In August 2016, Entergy agreed to sell FitzPatrick to Exelon for $110 million. Federal and state regulatory agencies approved the transfer, and the transaction was finalized in early 2017.

Perry is the latest Trump administration official to visit central New York and appear with Katko, who is seeking re-election this year. In July, Ivanka Trump, the first daughter and advisor to the president, joined the Republican congressman for an education roundtable discussion in Syracuse.

Vice President Mike Pence headlined a Syracuse fundraiser and toured Nucor Steel in Auburn during a swing through central New York in June. In November 2017, Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Administration, joined Katko for a roundtable discussion with Syracuse-area business leaders.

After Wednesday's event, Katko said he was "honored" to join Perry for the roundtable discussion and tour at the Oswego County power plant. 

"In addition providing reliable, emissions-free nuclear energy to consumers across the state, FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant is an economic driver in our region," Katko said. "This facility provides hundreds of skilled, well-paying jobs and is a vital part of New York state's clean energy portfolio." 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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