NRG’s future a regional debate

Besides attracting a contingent of activists to the state Public Service Commission hearing on Thursday in Albany, the NRG project continues to receive its share of praise and opposition.

On Monday, the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce voiced its disapproval of the project in the Batavia Daily News. “NRG, being the largest egg in Dunkirk’s small basket, would make the loss of the company a great hardship for the hard-working community, but it is wrong to force people and other businesses to bail out one division of a very profitable company,” the chamber wrote. “It is even worse to hurt other businesses that do not use NRG’s services, and will never see a financial benefit, to pay for NRG’s failed business plan.”

The Genesee County Chamber states the NRG plan will lead to higher electric rates for Western New York businesses and prefers the National Grid plan that would still increase power costs but not at “such a drastic increase in costs to consumers.”

Other power providers, who also compete with NRG in the market, have also unsurprisingly voiced their opposition to the $500 million Dunkirk project that would convert the coal-fired facility to a natural gas producer of energy.

But some in the industry note the plant’s lack of power generation has been a recent detriment. Last week in the Opinion section of The Buffalo News, the president and chief executive officer of a Central New York-based energy provider noted that “for the first time in 50 or more years, Western New York is not enjoying the lowest electricity prices in the state.”

Phil Van Horn of Blue Rock Energy wrote in the Nov. 6 opinion piece that Western New York electricity prices have been rising in August due to “high-voltage transmission lines that carry power to the rest of the state are at their capacity much of the day. One significant underlying cause of this is the termination of electricity production at the coal-fired power plant in Dunkirk.”

Our NRG plant, through an agreement with National Grid, will continue to run on one turbine through May 2015. What happens after that is up to the Public Service Commission, which continues to delay making a decision.

End of an era

On Monday, Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards leaves Mayville for a position as executive director at the Gebbie Foundation in Jamestown. While our newspaper has an appreciation for his efforts and communication, he leaves office touting some sketchy achievements.

For instance:

His work on the north county regional water district, that seems on shaky ground in recent weeks, has still not come to fruition.

He was a true leader in times of major crises, especially during the flooding in Silver Creek in 2009 and the major fire in downtown Dunkirk in 2010.

He claims to have reduced the numbers in the county work force, but when he took over after Mark Thomas the number of county employees actually increased.

He claims he has decreased taxes, but who in this county is paying lower taxes today than they were eight years ago?

Overall, his largest legacy may be his ongoing losing battle over state mandates. He was so consumed with this topic, it sometimes held him back from managing items that were actually within his control, such as the administration of the Chautauqua County Home or watching the welfare to work participation number plummet to 10 percent.

Obsessing over Albany’s work will not help this area in moving forward. What matters most is tough decisions made locally that promote growth and private investment.

Right now, however, those key decisions just are not happening.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 480.