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Source: Ithaca Times

Groups Cry Foul Over Dunkirk Repowering Deal; File Suit Over Lack of Access

BY GLYNIS HART

Posted: December 20, 2013
Originally Published: December 19, 2013

Following the announcement by Governor Cuomo last week that the Dunkirk coal-burning power plant in Chautauqua County will be repowered with natural gas, environmental and ratepayer advocacy groups are filing suit in state Supreme Court, alleging that citizens and ratepayers have been actively kept out of the decision-making process, in violation of the Public Service Commission’s rules.

Tompkins County Legislator Carol Chock, president of Ratepayer and Community Intervenors (RCI), along with Citizens Campaign for the Environment, filed an Article 78 suit against the New York Public Service Commission on Thursday. The suit requests that the court force the PSC “to comply with their nondiscretionary duty to provide petitioners with access to critical documents” relating to the repowering plans for two former coal-burning plants: Dunkirk and Cayuga Operating Plant in Lansing.

On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo traveled to Dunkirk to formally announce a $650 million deal to convert the coal plant in Dunkirk to natural gas. However, Chock and the two groups charge that The Public Service Commission – the agency charged with reviewing the conversion proposal for the Dunkirk and Cayuga plants – “has yet to receive a final written proposal from plant operators, let alone review it, accept public comment, or issue a decision.”

"The Governor’s announcement that a deal has been made before the proposal has even been written and reviewed by the Public Service Commission demonstrates a flagrant abuse of authority, and is the latest example of the flawed public process that our lawsuit aims to challenge,” said Chock. “Converting these plants to natural gas would lock the region into continued use of fossil fuels and could hike electricity bills for people and businesses across a 20-county region in western and central New York.”

The groups are suing the PSC for access to documents believed to detail the environmental impacts and rate hikes associated with the conversion of the Dunkirk and Cayuga plants – including records of meetings between PSC staff and plant operators that led to the $650 million Dunkirk plant deal.