More than one year ago, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer came to Dunkirk with a stern message to NRG Energy Inc.: make good on your payment in lieu of taxes.
In terms of timing, it was a far from perfect scenario. NRG had announced in previous months it was mothballing a portion of its city facility due to the fact the coal-powered facility was not as cost effective in producing electricity with the decline in natural gas prices. Area leaders were worried more - at that time - with keeping the plant viable for the future than the payment in lieu of taxes agreement.
Fast-forward to this week and you have the most significant development of NRG's case for the future: Schumer's endorsement of the $500 million repowering of the plant.
At nearly the same location he spoke in 2012, Schumer put New York state and the Public Service Commission on notice that he backs this project. "We know if the plant continues, it will continue to pay its taxes; keep the tax burden on the city of Dunkirk, the county of Chautauqua low," he said Tuesday. "So like I said, it's a win-win-win. ... Who could say no? I'm sure the PSC wouldn't do that."
He also took issue with National Grid's position on the city plant. "Who would recommend we rely on an investment outside our community? I'm saying to National Grid, you have a New York responsibility and you ought to be stepping up to the plate and joining us in this."
Schumer, for his part, is the second federal representative to step up. We never heard a peep from our former U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins on this issue and still have not heard from U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Nevertheless, Schumer's stance was welcome and needed.