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Source: The Tonawanda News

Coal power proposal criticized

BY MICHAEL REGAN

Posted: March 22, 2012
Originally Published: March 22, 2012

A proposal currently under discussion in the New York State Senate to extend power purchased from coal-fired plants has several groups up in arms.

Environmental, energy and health groups Wednesday called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to spurn a proposed contract between New York Power Authority and two local coal-fired power plants in Western New York.

The groups are asking state leaders to keep New York focused on cleaner energy options, like solar and wind power — something they say the state already made a commitment to do.

“Western New Yorkers are sick of subsidizing dirty coal plants that are making us sick,” said Brian Smith, program and communications director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Smith said the contract would be for a minimum of three years, but feels the proposal lacks sense, as the AES Somerset plant and another in Dunkirk have had dramatic financial difficulties as of late.


Most recently, the Dunkirk plant filed a notice of intent to close several of its units, while AES Somerset filed for bankruptcy protection last year.

C.R. Huntley Generating Station, a coal-fired power station owned and operated by NRG Energy in Tonawanda, was left off the list the groups had criticized, likely because of its current economic viability, though Smith said the plant is no less culpable from an environmental perspective.

“There certainly is a cumulative impact of all the different industries in the Tonawanda community and Huntley is a part of that,” he said. “This is about killing a bad proposal that unnecessarily keeps two coal plants open, that are already on their way out.”

In a 2011 report released by the American Lung Association, Niagara and Chautauqua counties received failing grades for ozone pollution, based in large part on pollution stemming from the two power plants.

The Senate’s budget proposal includes language that directs NYPA to perform an “economic viability analysis” of the plants in Chautauqua and Niagara counties during the course of the next 90 days.

Environmental groups say the outdated facilities are nearing closure due to inefficiencies that raise expenses, while burning coal remains one of the largest sources of pollution in the state.

“We shouldn't be looking for ways to extend the lives of the dirty coal-fired power plants operating in the state, we should be looking for ways to extend the lives of New Yorkers,” said Jeff Seyler, CEO of the American Lung Association in New York, in a statement.