Final day to comment on NRG

Today is the final day to comment on repowering the Dunkirk NRG coal plant with natural gas.

NRG is proposing to construct a $500 million gas plant in Dunkirk to replace the clean coal facility, but needs approval from the Public Service Commission. The PSC has been gathering comments, electronically, in print and through voicemail. Today is the deadline the PSC set to end accepting comments.

In an e-mail, state Sen. Cathy Young noted that “hundreds of people from outside of our area have gone online and submitted comments trying to convince the PSC to shut down our plant. To set the record straight and show the PSC that those who live here and pay taxes in Chautauqua County support repowering, we need as many people as possible to respond.”

On July 15, the PSC held a public hearing at SUNY Fredonia, which more than 2,000 people attended, with nearly everyone in favor of the project. Those who were unable to speak or attend the hearing have been invited to share their thoughts to the PSC.

Along with Young, a number of other local, county, state and federal officials have voiced their support. Previously Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, and Congressman Tom Reed spoke in favor of the project. Last week U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer came to Dunkirk to voice his support.

Young noted that if the PSC decides against repowering NRG, “more of our power will be imported from dirty coal facilities in Pennsylvania and other states that do not comply with the high environmental standards we have in New York. We will be forced to get our energy from dirtier sources in other states we have no control over.

“Our ability to rely on a stable and affordable power source will also suffer. Western New York actually paid the highest electricity rates in the entire state during parts of the July heat wave, due in part to the loss of generating units that have already shut down at the Dunkirk NRG plant. The loss of these units resulted in congestion in the flow of power and unprecedented spikes in the prices paid by consumers. Prices shot up even higher than in New York City, which typically has the highest electricity rates in the entire continental United States.”

Young noted the loss of NRG will also result in enormous tax hikes and job losses in Dunkirk and Chautauqua County as a whole.

“If NRG leaves Dunkirk, every homeowner in Chautauqua County faces the potential for huge tax increases. Taxes on the average home will increase by $1,000 or more. NRG is the largest taxpayer in the county, and if the plant leaves, our tax base will be left with a giant hole that can only be filled by cuts, layoffs, and tax increases of up to $3 million per year.

“In Dunkirk, the Dunkirk City School District may have to hike property taxes by as much as 42 percent or lay off 58 teachers to make up the difference. The city of Dunkirk may have to hike taxes by 56 percent to cover the loss of NRG!

“Without NRG, we will be facing either huge tax hikes, crippling teacher layoffs, or a devastating combination of both, with both public and private employees losing their jobs and important public services being cut back or eliminated entirely.

“Fortunately, we can still secure a future of good jobs and clean, reliable energy. We still have a great chance to continue generating our own power, restore our manufacturing base, and ensure good jobs for people in our communities.”

In order to comment today, there are three options. People can:

Email secretary@dps.ny.gov and including the email subject “Case No. 12-E-0577.”

Submit an Online Form by going to www.nysenate.gov/senator/catharine-young and click on the link for the comment submission form.

Call the PSC’s toll-free opinion line at 1-800-335-2120 and select “1” to leave comments on “Case No. 12-E-0577, Repowering Alternatives to Transmission Reinforcements.”

The PSC has not stated when a decision will be made, although it is believed it will be some time this fall.