From NRG to the Dunkirk Pier to the national debt, Congressman Tom Reed has his concerns and views on each of these issues facing the local area and nationally.
Reed recently sat down with the OBSERVER and discussed some of the issues that are affecting his district, which spans from Chautauqua County to Tioga County.
One of the major issues for the immediate area is the mothballing of NRG. Reed said Sen. Charles Schumer coming to Dunkirk in August to voice his support for the repowering of the facility was very important.
Rep. Tom Reed
"When Senator (Charles) Schumer came out in support, I thought that was really good," Reed said.
Reed believes within the next month a decision will be made on the repowering NRG to become a natural gas plant. He called the matter a "critical decision for the area."
Reed said his office was disappointed with the way National Grid has lobbied against repowering.
"We've put pressure on National Grid directly, telling them how displeased we were with them pushing" for NRG's closure, he said, adding "as much as we can."
Although a decision is expected soon from the Public Service Commission, a new chair, Audrey Zibelman, has taken over. According to Reed, his office is passing along information to Zibelman and helping her become informed on NRG. When asked if a new chairwoman would make any difference in the decision, Reed said it was unlikely.
"I think at this point it's past the point of a new chair coming in and having any type of real influence," he said. "Other than if she had a different agenda ... you're coming in on the final stretch. It'd be tough for one person to come in and switch the decision."
Another local issue Reed touched on was the Dunkirk harbor. He said he recently met with the brigadier general concerning the break wall.
"A little bit of prevention or smaller repairs now prevent huge costs down the road if you go bad. It's like your house or your car. If you don't change the oil you could have a major problem. It's the same type of mentality," he added.
Reed also spoke of the manufacturing rebirth occurring in the local area and nationally. He also said locally agriculture is a good resource for the county.
"New York has obstacles as a whole. We do offer a lot and this manufacturing rebirth is real. There's no doubt about it. I will tell you, with this happening and the natural gas field, manufacturing sits on the precipice of a rebirth," he said.
In order to make manufacturing successful, Reed said employers and employees need to offer educational workshops on skill building and employee development. He spoke of a workforce development seminar held at a community college in his local area.
"That type of stuff we need to duplicate. ... It's giving those skill sets to those manufacturers that they don't have," he said. "I see us, especially in this area, positioned very well with the historical infrastructure we have here."
Reed also touched on fracking and said he believes it can be done safely. Many of the concerns individuals have regarding fracking is touching a watershed. Most fracking does come close to the watershed during the process.
"The vast majority of it is outside of that watershed. It's kind of a balancing (act) ... I think it can be done," he said. "It's a game changer for America's future. It's a game changer economically and geo-politically."
Reed also touched on national issues. He believes the biggest issue facing Congress right now is the national spending debt. Reed said officials have the big question how to tackle the national debt and the debt ceiling. He said one option is to spend more and grow the economy more through stimulus projects and another option would be to focus on the private businesses to grow, the latter which Reed believes in. Reed also said a concern of his would be to fix the Social Security disability problem now before it reaches dire need in 2016.
"All those folks that are receiving Social Security and disability, there's not enough money in the fund to pay the benefit. So 2016 is two and half years from now. ... That's a real crisis. Will that put it into focus - I think it will.
"There is two tracks we're going down in a parallel fashion in my opinion. You're heading to the crisis that we know is coming ... or you go down the track that we're also running on, which I'm trying to be apart of. Let's solve it before it gets to that but we're running out of runway and you get to the point of no return pretty quickly," Reed concluded.
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