The war of words over the proposed $500 million repowering project at the NRG Energy plant in Dunkirk is heating up.
National Grid says the repowering project isn't needed because National Grid can upgrade transmission lines at less cost to its ratepayers. Its filing with the Public Service Commission states the two repowering options its considered would increase delivery bills for residential users by 1.7 to 3.6 percent, and for business customers in a range of 3.3 to 9.5 percent.
Several groups, led by the Sierra Club and the Business Council of New York state, say repowering the NRG plant is a bad idea. The Business Council says transmission upgrades and cleaner energy alternatives should be used in place of repowering NRG. The Sierra Club ran back to its old standby reasoning. According to Laura Dix, Sierra Club senior New York representative, "We can't afford to sink more money into dirty coal of the past."
Those groups have their reasons for opposing NRG's proposal. National Grid stands to gain from losing a possible competitor. Environmental groups oppose anything that isn't this month's clean energy method of the month, like wind or solar. They especially love to preach the anti-development message of conservation.
Lost in all of this is the average taxpayer.
They don't put out press releases. They're too busy working, trying to make ends meet - and struggling more every year they see an increase on their property tax bill. Their thoughts are included in the Public Service Commission's ongoing repowering consideration, too. A couple of those more than 2,500 public comments are striking, like those of Joe Rozen, a Dunkirk resident whose comments were posted on the commission's website on May 15.
"I know this end of the state gets little consideration from Albany, but this is important to our community. Besides providing jobs, they are the largest taxpayer in our county. Imagine the impact on our area. If this plant would move. Even more New Yorkers would be moving to North Carolina!"
Then there is Amy Gregory, owner of Shor-Lan's Grape Farm in Westfield, who wrote, "I'm in favor of repowering the NRG plant from coal to natural gas. I do think the PSC should take into consideration of a broader economic benefits analysis as a significant factor in its final analysis."
We hope, as Public Service Commission members make their final deliberations, they remember the impact NRG has on Chautauqua County. It is the largest taxpayer in Chautauqua County and, obviously, for the city of Dunkirk and the Dunkirk City School District. Repowering will protect existing jobs, create temporary construction jobs and protect incredibly valuable tax base in Chautauqua County and provide low cost, reliable power to area residents.
Most importantly, keeping NRG in the community will help regular people like Joe Rozen and Amy Gregory and the countless others like them.