Recently, the Public Service Commission unlawfully approved a $140 million bailout of an aging coal plant in Western New York at the expense of Saratoga County families and businesses. Governor Cuomo spearheaded this expensive, dirty coal deal that will mean big profits for utility-giant NRG at the cost of New Yorkers’ health and pocketbooks.
The Governor’s actions could set a harmful precedent for other failing plants in the state, upsetting New York’s competitive energy market and putting families at risk of even more subsidies for outdated fossil fuel plants.
The Dunkirk repowering deal would cost National Grid customers $140 million over 10 years to prop up a 435 MW coal plant that is three times larger than necessary to meet local reliability needs. This will hurt National Grid customers, including those in Saratoga Springs by raising rates to pay for the unnecessary generation capacity. And while the deal would add gas-firing capability to the aging coal plant, the plant would be able to continue burning coal indefinitely.
The revival of an aging coal plant would be a big step backwards for New York at a time when the rest of the nation is moving away from coal. While Governor Cuomo said he wants to be a climate leader, offering expensive lifelines for dirty coal plants will only worsen climate disruption. The plant is also responsible for belching out dangerous smog-causing nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and soot, and discharging mercury, arsenic and other dangerous toxic metals.
Governor Cuomo flew to Western New York to announce this deal in December, when the evidence before the PSC had already confirmed that transmission grid upgrades could address any reliability concerns from retiring the plant at one-quarter the cost. Ultimately, following Governor Cuomo¹s announcement, the PSC failed to act in the best interest of families and businesses. The PSC failed to minimize the costs for ratepayers and did not fully consider the environmental impacts of an unnecessarily large coal and gas plant. The PSC should be required to re-examine its approval of this dirty deal, fully account for the economic and environmental impacts of the project, and pursue the lower cost and cleaner alternatives that are readily available.
At the same time, Governor Cuomo should be investing in solutions that assist communities in the transition away from coal. These towns and workers cannot be left behind as the state transitions to cleaner solutions. Workforce and economic development programs should be directed to communities with aging coal plants to help them transition away from these dirty sources to a stronger economy.
We urge you to favor a thorough reexamination of this dirty and expensive deal that fully accounts for the impacts on New York’s economy, families, air and water.
In order for Governor Cuomo to fulfill his promise to be a climate leader, he needs to commit to moving New York beyond coal, aid communities in the transition, and invest in building a renewable energy economy in the state. Putting an aging and oversized coal plant on life support is a big step in the wrong direction.
Deputy Press Secretary, Northeast