On the evening of July 15, the Public Service Commission held a hearing in Fredonia on the repowering of the Dunkirk NRG plant to natural gas. I was pleased to see many south county residents there supporting our neighbors in the north county.
I learned some things that evening that were very helpful in making my decision to support this project.
First I learned that the entire project is to be paid for by NRG, not tax dollars. The folks from National Grid kept trying to paint this as a rate-payer subsidy. Every business in America has overhead that is paid for out of the profits of the business; why would NRG be any different than other businesses?
Obviously the closing of the NRG plant will somehow increase the profits of National Grid or they would not be so adamant about the plant's closure.
Secondly I learned that when converted to natural gas, the Dunkirk NRG plant would become the cleanest operating electrical generating plant in the state. On the other hand, the closing of the plant would require National Grid to purchase electricity from coal burning plants in Pennsylvania that are "dirtier" than the coal fired boilers in Dunkirk.
If the commission makes the decision to repower the Dunkirk plant, NRG will enter into a long-term contract with National Grid to supply electricity at a fixed cost. This can only help National Grid and its customers by having a known controlled cost of power. Repowering the plant will also maintain many good jobs and keep those paychecks supporting local businesses. NRG will also continue their PILOT payments in excess of $8 million per year to support our local schools, fire departments, police and highway crews.
I would urge all residents to contact the PSC between now and Aug. 16 and tell them that we must repower the Dunkirk NRG plant to natural gas. If the plant is allowed to close, there will be a financial and service reliability ripple that will be felt throughout Western New York.
Tell Gov. Andrew Cuomo and downstate leaders that for once we would like the phrase "This is good for the people of New York state" to mean the people of Chautauqua County.
Larry Barmore, from Gerry, is a Chautauqua County legislator.