New hope

Re-powering NRG in 2017

OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul affirmed the state’s commitment to re-powering the Dunkirk NRG plant with natural gas Thursday.

For a year that started out with a bomb, it is ending with a bang — but this time the good kind.

In January, NRG announced that the re-powering to natural gas as well as operations in Dunkirk would be put on hold due to an ongoing lawsuit. The lawsuit was dropped in November and Thursday, one more piece of the puzzle fell into place.

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul was in Dunkirk for a different announcement when she was asked about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s position of re-powering the plant.

“The governor wants (re-powering) to happen and we are fully committed to making sure that happens starting in the next year,” she said. “There’s a process that has been ongoing and it has been mothballed for a number of years, so it’s going to take some time to get it running. I don’t have a time commitment on that, but I think that what this community needs to hear and wants to hear is that New York state will uphold the commitment the governor made years ago when he first came here. It was sidetracked due to circumstances beyond our control, but now we’re back on track.”

The governor’s support puts one more player in favor of moving forward, thereby keeping Chautauqua County’s largest taxpayer operating.

Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas was excited to hear the good news.

“I’m very happy the governor is behind it and it appears now we will have re-powering of the plant. So, that’s great news for the city. We’re starting the new year off with a bang,” he said.

Assemblyman Andy Goodell added elected officials never wavered in their support for re-powering.

“To hear today that the governor is fully behind this project and it’s moving forward is tremendous news for all the Dunkirk taxpayers. This is a project where the local elected officials never, ever, ever gave up. Whether it was Mayor A.J. Dolce or Mayor Willie Rosas on a city level, our County Executive Vince Horrigan, State Senator Cathy Young and myself and even our Congressman Tom Reed, were all fully behind this project and never gave up fighting. … I think this project is a go,” he said.

State Senator Cathy Young said until the project is finished, she will fight to make sure there is transition aid available in the budget for the city, school and county.

“It was phenomenal to hear the lieutenant governor reaffirm Gov. Cuomo’s support. I’ve spoken to National Grid and NRG and they’re both willing to move ahead. So, this is great news for Dunkirk and the entire region because we can finally get the re-powering underway. … Some of the permitting process is already underway. It’s my understanding that NRG will have to order equipment and do the construction and that could take some period of time. So, until that occurs and the project is finished, we’ll have to look at making sure that there is funding through the mitigation fund in the state budget to offset the tax loss for the city, the school and the county. We’ll be starting session in January and the governor will give his budget address at that time, so I’ll be working to fight for more funding to help our local taxpayers,” she said.

Hochul also mentioned Athenex, saying that project is still on track.

“You’ll see some physical activity going on next year, but right now there’s actually some things such as the SEQR process and the engineering plan is being developed. So it’s moving along as well,” she said adding she did not have a specific time frame.