If you have taken a ride by my house lately you have no doubt seen many political signs - for both parties.
It is no secret to those who know Richard and me that we are a family divided when it comes to political affiliations. When it comes to politics, however, there is one thing we do agree on, and that is the need for economic growth - that means jobs! We need to retain those that are here and find ways to bring new ones in. This leads us to the topic of the day - economic development by becoming energy independent. That is a major concern of Sen. Cathy Young and Congressman Tom Reed.
We have a coal-fueled power plant right here in Dunkirk that is down to close to 1/3 of its capacity. Many of our neighbors have lost their jobs, and those who remain can't feel too secure. If this plant goes, it will be a major loss to our region. According to Doug Stock, president of the Dunkirk Area Central Labor council, "The NRG power plant in Dunkirk is vitally important to the area and needs to remain here."
Young and the PowerUpWNY Coalition is seeking approval from the state to replace the existing coal-fueled NRG power plant with a brand new, state-of-the-art natural gas power plant. If approved by the state, the new plant would produce cleaner energy, create up to 500 jobs and provide energy and resources to attract more businesses to the area.
"At a time when the upstate New York economy is struggling, we need to do everything we can to keep important businesses here and allow them to expand and alter their processes so they stay competitive," stated Young. "This new plant would be state-of-the-art and become a fixture of the community for decades to come. We can all help Governor Cuomo and the Energy Highway Task Force to see us show a united front. That's why we need the whole community to come on board with our coalition and sign this petition so we can send a message to him as soon as possible." (Please go to www.powerupwny.org and sign the petition.)
In addition to the concern for NRG, we need to look at the overall domestic energy crisis we are facing. Congressman Tom Reed is leading an effort to seek out domestic, clean renewable energy sources that allow us to rely less on Middle Eastern crude. He has championed an approach that is all encompassing including wind, solar, hydrogen, natural gas and biomass sources
When it comes to developing a domestic energy plan, we can no longer afford to look the other way. Ohio and Pennsylvania are embarking on the controversial process of Hydraulic Fracturing, otherwise known as "fracking." This has proven to be environmentally safe as well as a major job creator in areas where it is being practiced. In Ohio, it has been reported that the production of the Utica shale will bring up to $34 billion to the area and will create more than 200,000 jobs over the next five years.
We, here in western New York need to look at this process as an opportunity for economic growth, job creation and a valuable source of energy that is not imported from the Middle East or South America.
And then we have wind-power. I have read the pros and cons on this issue and I am a believer that there is a place for these wind turbines in western New York. This needs to be reviewed and evaluated and looked at objectively with the idea of job creation in our area.
Lastly, everyone living and filling their gas tanks in Chautauqua County are aware of the high cost of gasoline. It has been predicted that the cost of home heating fuel will rise again this winter, and once again, the fuel we use will most likely be imported into our area.
It is crucial to our economic growth and recovery to recognize this crisis for what it is and support those who are working to solve it by creating a plan that includes regional natural gas development. So I encourage you to think about this the next time you're at the gas station and don't like what you see, or when you open your bill from National Fuel or NRG.
The U.S. can't continue to ignore a domestic energy plan. Our energy costs are only going to increase if we do. We need renewable energy. We need to harness the wind right here in western New York, and we need to look for ways to develop our local resources. We need to put the right people in the right places. We need a domestic energy plan. We need Cathy Young and Tom Reed.
Don't forget to vote Nov. 6.
Have a great day.
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.