The effort to keep a local power generator operator continues.
New York State Sen. Catharine Young has filed a request with the state's Public Service Commission that it hold a hearing in the local area on the future of the NRG Dunkirk plant and its repowering proposal.
"It is only right that the members of the community that are directly impacted by these proposals be given a voice in this critical matter, and granted a hearing with those making the decisions," Young wrote PSC Chairman Garry A. Brown. "Therefore, I request that you arrange to have at least one public hearing in Dunkirk or its immediate surrounding area as soon as possible, within the timeframe of the 45-day public comment period."
Young added that SUNY Fredonia President Virginia Horvath has made the college available as a site for a hearing. Young spoke to the OBSERVER about the request and project. She said she was hopeful that Brown will hold a local hearing.
"This is so important for our region. We've had a great response from people submitting letters to the Public Service Commission but we need many, many more," Young stated. "We need people to weigh in and by having a public hearing that allows our community members the opportunity to give their stories first-hand and I think that can make a huge difference."
Young was asked if there was precedence for the PSC to hold hearings in a locality away from its Albany offices. She said the state's Administrative Procedures Act covers hearings.
"Usually it's used for regulatory changes so there is a lot of precedence as far as holding public hearings in communities. They should be holding hearings regardless, but those hearings shouldn't be in New York City or Albany, they should not only be in western New York but they should be in Chautauqua County because it is our community that is so severely affected if this repowering project doesn't go through," Young explained. "This can be such a win-win-win for everyone if we can get the new natural gas-fired plant because of the job growth, because of keeping our jobs in Chautauqua County, and also saving the tax base. All of the environmental impacts are extremely important too."
Young said it was her understanding the PSC would make its decision after the 45-day period which ends in mid-July. She was asked if there is another avenue NRG and its supporters could pursue if the PSC goes with National Grid's transmission system update plan.
"The PSC is key because they are the regulatory authority that oversees these projects, so we really need the Public Service Commission's approval to go ahead," she replied.
"The ISO, The New York Independent System Operator, has determined that the NRG plant is needed from a reliability standpoint and so there would be a gaping hole if NRG does not continue to operate. Also, one of the issues with the National Grid project is that it would bring in power from Ohio and Pennsylvania and they don't have the same stringent environmental regulations and rules that we have in New York state.
"The irony would be that the power that would be imported probably would come from a dirty coal plant."
Young said she thinks NRG's proposal exceeds all of the factors that the PSC was required to consider per language in the state budget, including the impact on the tax base, jobs, the environment and the need for power.
"From another standpoint we need to maintain our ability to produce our own energy in western New York if we're ever going to regrow the manufacturing base. Once you lose that capability, it's very difficult to get it back," she stated. "That's another really crucial reason why we need to keep the NRG plant operating.
"We've got a lot of comments and support. I know the 4,000 people who signed the petition was really wonderful. We did send the signatures to the Public Service Commission just to show them the broad depth of support for the repowering project, but even if people signed a petition it still would be very helpful for people to send in their own letter also."
Letters may be sent to: Chairman Garry A. Brown and Acting Secretary Jeffrey Cohen, NYS Public Service Commission Agency Bldg. 3, Empire State Plaza Albany, NY 12223. Be sure to refer to case number 12-E-0577.
Public comments and letters may also be submitted to the PSC online by going to documents.dps.ny.gov/public/Comments/PublicComments.aspx?MatterCaseNo=12-E-0577.
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