With emission stacks and a coal pile in the background, the city of Dunkirk pier played host Thursday to a large gathering on hand to hear about a coalition working on keeping the owners of the stacks and pile generating electricity. Eventually, without the use of coal.
The coalition, PowerUp Western New York, is chaired by state Sen. Catharine Young and consists of Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, IBEW Local 97; Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce; Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards; Chautauqua County IDA officials Bill Daly and Rich Dixon; County Legislature Chairman Jay Gould and other legislators; Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce; United Way of Northern Chautauqua County; Dunkirk Area Central Labor Council; Sheet Metal Workers Local 112: IBEW Local 106; and the Buffalo Building and Construction Trades Council.
Young welcomed the crowd of some 200 people to the press conference.
OBSERVER Photo by Matt Panebianco
State and area officials line up with workers from the NRG plant, in the background, to announce the company’s plans.
"I think this is a great barometer of the enthusiasm that we have here in the community, and actually across the entire region, because this event is not just about our future in Dunkirk but it's our future in western New York," she stated. " ... The exciting impact of this effort is almost beyond words because of its positive, long-lasting effect on the western New York economy. It's a stupendous economic opportunity. Gov. Cuomo has done a fantastic job by working with the Senate and Assembly to turn the state around. We are making great progress and now, today, we are cranking up our efforts to an even higher level."
Young cited Cuomo's efforts to make the state an economic giant again and said the message is resonating across the state.
"The governor also understands that we need to protect our environment and have a reliable transmission system to this Energy Highway Initiative to repower the state's economic growth," Young continued. "We are here to show our unified support of a $700 million investment in our economy by repowering NRG in Dunkirk from a coal plant to a state-of-the-art, 600 megawatt, high-efficiency combined cycle gas turbine generation plant.
"Think about it, when did we have an opportunity for a $700 million investment in western New York? And especially Dunkirk, New York? ... In all of my days in the assembly and senate, I have never seen a more unified effort, a community speaking loudly with one voice more than I've seen for keeping the NRG plant in business, securing our future in Dunkirk and across western New York."
Young said the coalition is committed to seeing the project completed.
Goodell touted Young's efforts and the bi-partisan effort involved.
"When I became involved in this project, like many of you, I also wrote to the governor, Speaker Silver, Dean Skelos and state leaders, and when I reached out to the city I had the good fortune of talking to Mayor Dolce," Goodell explained. "It wasn't about Republican, it wasn't about Democrat, it was about our future and the future of Dunkirk and that's what we want to see happening in this county."
Edwards added the process is ongoing.
"We're not at the end of the road, we're at the beginning of the road and we need now to redouble our efforts and our support for a great corporate partner we have in NRG here in Dunkirk," Edwards stated. "So that we can see this plant move forward to the 21st century with the highest level of technology and with the private sector investment and with the jobs that come with it. We want to make sure that Dunkirk is the center of economic development for western New York."
Young then introduced Dolce, saying he's doing an excellent job.
Dolce began by saying NRG contributes 23.6 percent of the revenue stream in the city and added the state should focus on in-state resources that have contributed to the state for decades.
"The Energy Highway Action Plan must focus upon already operational, in-state, permitted generators which are capable of producing significant amounts of electricity in a clean, efficient manner. NRG's Dunkirk facility should be the model of the supply side resource for New York's Comprehensive Public/Private initiative to upgrade and modernize the state's electric power system," he explained. "Therefore, I enthusiastically support the proposed natural gas conversion and call on our state and federal officials to similarly support and assist NRG in seeing their goal become a reality."
NRG's Director of Development for New York state Jon Baylor talked about one of the important aspects of the project for the community.
"It adds jobs and maintains the tax base in western New York. NRG believes firmly that we are partnered with the community and we want to maintain that partnership and we want to see this go forward into the future," Baylor said. "We appreciate all the work that has been done by Gov. Cuomo in setting up the Energy Highway Task Force, but what we need now is to partner with the community and that's what this coalition is about, partnering with the community.
"If you are supportive of the project, don't be shy. Write to your senator, write to the legislators, write to the governor, write to the members of the Energy Task Force. We're excited about this opportunity. We want to partner with you to take Dunkirk into the energy future."
The coalition website, www.PowerUpWNY.com, has contact information and Young urged people to keep writing letters and sending emails.
"If you don't feel comfortable sending those directly you can send those to Assemblyman Goodell and me. We will make sure they're delivered personally to the governor's office," she said. "This is where you come in. This is where we need you. You are excited today. We have to maintain that excitement, that energy, that enthusiasm to get this over the goal line. Is that a deal?" she asked to a reply of applause and cheers.
The end result of the coalition's effort remains to be seen as the governor will make the final decision.
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