U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, wants the owners of the NRG Dunkirk power plant to be good corporate citizens.
The owners of NRG Dunkirk want the government to make it easier to be a good corporate citizen.
Speaking from the Dunkirk pier on Lake Erie on Monday, Schumer called on NRG to make its full PILOT payments to the city of Dunkirk, Dunkirk Central School District and Chautauqua County.
From left, David Ortolano, Dunkirk City police chief; Gary Cerne, Dunkirk City School superintendent; Charles Schumer, U.S. Sen.; and Greg Edwards, Chautauqua County Executive, standing on the Dunkirk Pier. Schumer was in Dunkirk speaking about the on-going situation with NRG on Monday.
P-J photo by Gib Snyder
Schumer made the trip to emphasize his belief that the NRG Dunkirk plant owes the full scheduled payments, regardless of any other considerations. The power plant's PILOT agreements would net about $16 million to the county, city and school district, Schumer said, with Chautauqua County alone receiving $8.6 million in 2012, $8.4 million in 2013 and $8.2 million in 2014. Schumer also said 23 percent of Dunkirk's revenue comes from its PILOT agreement with NRG.
A short-term closure of the plant, according to the PILOT agreements, would give NRG the option of not making the full payments to the city, school and county.
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"I am calling today on NRG, whatever the outcome, to be good corporate citizens, live up to the responsibility it has, particularly in the community it calls home," Schumer said. "Continue their legacy of being good corporate citizens by continuing the payment."
NRG officials said Monday they will make the full payment they are required to make - though mothballing part of the plant will lower the amount it is required to make as part of its agreement.
"We wouldn't be skipping out on any payment under any circumstances," David Gaier, NRG's Northeast Region spokesman began, "the PILOT agreement provides lower tier payments if any of the plant's four units are mothballed. NRG is not skipping out. If any of the four units are mothballed payments actually go down. There is no question on skipping out on any payments, NRG has and always will make the payments under the agreement."
NRG is seeking a reliability study by the state's Public Service Commission to see if closing the plant will make the state's electric grid unreliable. Another alternative legislative effort is to have the New York Power Authority purchase power generated in Dunkirk as a way to make the plant more profitable.
Both Schumer and NRG officials say the best solution is to find ways to keep the plant operating at full capacity. The low price of natural gas is making NRG Dunkirk less competitive, making NRG willing to shut down the facility. In two years, when the coal plants are forced to shut down, NRG Dunkirk will likely be profitable again. The plant is expected to struggle in 2013 and 2014 before returning to profitability in 2015.
"I am calling on NRG, if we can't keep the plant open one way or the other, to continue those payments in lieu of taxes so that the city of Dunkirk, the citizens of Chautauqua County, won't have a very, very, big burden on their backs. An undue hardship and that would result in fewer services and increased taxes for almost everybody. here," Schumer said. "That's what we're asking them to do, we're asking them to be good corporate citizens."
Gaier said the company has been in discussions with the IDA and County Executive Greg Edwards as they look for ways to make the full PILOT payments and keep plant employees working. Nothing has changed since filing the original mothball notice with the Public Service Commission, which Gaier said was filed to keep the plant running and not take it offline while the company made its decisions.
"We've been working together for months on creative solutions which we think will provide the best outcome for the community, plant employees and taxing jurisdictions, and will continue to do that," he said. "We've also been in touch with the governor's office, which has urged all the parties to work collectively to find solutions to taxes, employment and system-reliability issues. They've supported our efforts and our approach."