DUNKIRK - A release Wednesday from opponents of repowering the Dunkirk NRG plant, and a plant in Cayuga County, was met with harsh criticism from three state senators.
The release detailed the views the groups filed with the Public Service Commission on Wednesday. Joining in the filing on PSC Case 12-E-0577 were The Business Council of New York State Inc., Sierra Club, ACE NY, Earthjustice, Vote Solar Initiative, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Environmental Advocates of New York, and Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership.
The PSC is deciding between two options it wanted studied, repowering with natural gas as proposed by the power plant owners, or transmission line upgrades proposed by National Grid, which owns the transmission lines. According to a release from the Business Council, the groups jointly called for cleaner solutions to replace the outdated Dunkirk and Cayuga coal plants.
"The Business Council joins with the environmental advocacy community in calling upon the Public Service Commission to place an emphasis on the most efficient and cost-effective solutions when planning for the retirements of Cayuga and Dunkirk power plants. The commission should consider the following alternatives including transmission upgrades and clean energy alternatives such as energy efficiency and demand response that will reduce overall demand, cut waste, reduce energy costs and limit the need for new generation," said Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State. "The commission should reject the current repowering proposals which runs counter to New York's now-dynamic and competitive energy market where capital costs and associated risks for conventional projects are borne by the developer, not by the ratepayer. Energy market forces and design have already provided New York consumers with cleaner, more reliable generation, and historically lower wholesale electricity costs."
Lisa Dix is the senior New York representative for the Sierra Club.
"We can't afford to sink more money into dirty coal of the past. The potential retirement of these coal plants is an opportunity to invest in a healthier future for our kids that we can't miss out on," Dix said. "Upstate New York has tremendous potential for clean, renewable energy like wind, solar and efficiency that together could cut energy demand, lower electricity prices, create jobs and clean up the air we all breathe."
"Their uninformed stance represents a direct attack on the communities that we represent."
state Sen. Cathy Young
State Sen. Catharine Young, who represents Dunkirk and Chautauqua County, was joined by Senate Energy Chair state Sen. George Maziarz and state Sen. Mike Nozziolo in their joint statement.
"We are shocked and deeply troubled by the press release circulated by the Business Council and Sierra Club calling for the closure of the Upstate New York Dunkirk and Cayuga power generating stations. Their uninformed stance represents a direct attack on the communities that we represent, the workers at those facilities, and the Central and Western New York economy," the senators stated. "Upstate New York has suffered through the loss of manufacturing jobs, tax base and population, and now the Business Council, which claims to support job creation and economic development, is working with leftwing New York City environmental interests to kill middle class jobs in the power generation industry. The Business Council's out of touch, anti-jobs position on this issue and its collaboration with groups, who on a regular basis work to kill job opportunities and a hopeful future for upstate New York, is an affront to common sense and the antithesis of that organization's stated mission.
"The proposals to repower coal plants in Lansing and Dunkirk to natural gas will guarantee jobs remain for workers and new construction jobs will be created, the tax base will be protected for communities and school districts, and the environment will be much cleaner."
The senators noted the proposals to build state-of-the-art combined cycle natural gas plants submitted to the PSC represent a combined $1 billion investment in the two local communities.
"These plants will create more than 1,000 construction jobs and maintain good-paying union jobs at the repowered plants and protect millions of dollars that are badly needed by local communities and schools. The energy produced at the repowered plans will substantially reduce (by between 73 to 100 percent) emissions of harmful pollutants such as mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter," the senators stated. "Studies show that repowering these plants will produce substantial ratepayer savings, with at least $300 million in benefits to ratepayers totaling $3 billion over the next 10 years. These savings will help energy consumers, including family budgets, senior citizens on fixed incomes, and manufacturers and small businesses that provide jobs.
"The Business Council's assessment was premature, without a factual basis or adequate research, and heavily weighted toward the special interests of private utility companies that have vested financial stakes in killing these projects."
When the PSC will release its decision is not known, but expect the war of words to continue until the decision is released.