Area residents will have the opportunity to have their voices heard about the future of the NRG power plant during a public hearing at the State University at Fredonia about the competing NRG and National Grid proposals currently under review by the Public Service Commission.
State Sen. Catharine Young, R-C-I-Olean, who has been leading the fight to save the NRG plant, said recently the Public Service Commission has responded positively to her request to hold a local public hearing. The event is scheduled at SUNY Fredonia's Williams Center Multi-Purpose Room on Monday, July 15. Presentations by National Grid and NRG with a question and answer period will be given from 6-7 p.m., and the hearing will begin at 7 p.m. An administrative law judge will preside over the hearing, and people from the audience will be allowed to testify.
As chair of the Power Up Western New York coalition supporting efficient, long-term energy projects in Western New York, Young wrote a letter on June 17 to Garry Brown, Public Service Commission chairman, asking that local residents be given the chance to voice their concerns in person about the impact of shutting down the plant.
In the letter she wrote, "The residents of the city of Dunkirk and the surrounding region will be significantly affected by the PSC's decision in this case. 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."
The agency started a 45-day public comment period beginning on June 12 and ending on July 26. The commission is expected to make its final decision in August or September, according to Young.
"The future of the NRG power plant holds profound consequences for our people and community. It is the largest taxpayer in Chautauqua County, and the school and city receive an enormous share of their budgets from the NRG PILOT payment. If the plant closes, we lose our tax base, jobs, and our ability to generate Western New York power. The potential for massive property tax increases and devastating school, city and county layoffs is very real," Young said. "NRG's proposal would repower the plant with clean natural gas, save existing jobs, put hundreds of New Yorkers to work, ensure a reliable source of power for Western New York, reduce energy costs for consumers, secure and stabilize our tax base for years to come, and lower emissions."
National Grid's plan opts for shutting down the NRG plant and installing long-distance transmission line upgrades instead. It is unclear under National Grid's proposal to the Public Service Commission where the replacement power will be generated, but is anticipated the electricity will come from out-of-state plants that have far less stringent pollution controls than New York state.
"The PSC is to be commended for listening to the people. I am grateful for their responsiveness by scheduling this forum, which will allow citizens to hear more about the competing proposals and ensure that their concerns are raised," Young said.
Because public comments and input from those affected will weigh heavily on the commission's decision, Young is encouraging all concerned citizens to attend the public forum and submit their comments via mail or online at: documents.dps.ny.gov/public/MatterManagement/CaseMaster.aspx?MatterCaseNo=12-E-0577
Letters can be brought to and submitted at the forum or mailed to: Acting Secretary Jeffrey Cohen, NYS Public Service Commission, Agency Bldg. 3, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223. Any letter submitted via mail should be sure to reference Case #12-E-0577.
"We need a huge citizen turnout to show the PSC how crucial the repowering project is to our community. I urge everyone to attend the hearing and consider testifying or bringing a written letter in support of repowering to personally submit at the forum if not mailing or submitting online beforehand. Our future depends on it," Young said.