"The plant and NYSEG are working together on a single, joint proposal," says Upstate New York Power Producers CEO Jerry Goodenough. "We are being asked to develop a project that meets the needs of all the stakeholders including, but not limited to ratepayers, USNYPP shareholders, plant employees, and the local community."
PSC officials originally promised a ruling by the end of last year. Cayuga Operating Company LLC (COC) had submitted four proposals for repowering the coal-operated plant to natural gas: 1) to repower the two existing coal-fired boilers with natural gas, 2) to construct three new gas-fired units in a simple cycle configuration, 3) to construct one new gas-fired unit and repower one of the existing coal-fired boilers with gas, and 4) construct three new gas-fired units in a combined cycle configuration. Part of the conversion would be an 18 mile extension of a gas pipeline from the Freeville area to the northwest Lansing plant location. All four options included a two megawatt solar array.
Option 1 was the only one that was seriously considered. Goodenough argued it would be less costly than a transmission upgrade project, and could potentially reduce ratepayer bills because of revenues coming back in Installed Capacity (ICAP) payments over a 20 year period. NYSEG had submitted a counter proposal that would close the plant in favor of upgrading transmission lines to insure uninterrupted service to Auburn, especially to Nucor Corporation, NYSEG's largest customer. Nucor is a manufacturer of steel products ranging from floor joists to steel bars, sign poats, rebar, gratings, and coiled wire to nuts and bolts.
COC requested an extension on November 21. The request was opposed by Sierra Club and Earthjustice, national lobbying groups, in support of a local initiative called Ratepayers & Community Intervenors (RCI) that is headed by Tompkins County Legislator Carol Chock and Town of Caroline Councilwoman Irene Weiser. But PSC granted an extension until December 23rd.
Meanwhile Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $650 million plan for repowering the Dunkirk plant near Buffalo. RCI says the cost of repowering both plants could cost ratepayers as much as $1.5 billion.
With a massive campaign opposing repowering, Lansing Supervisor Kathy Miller called last month for Lansing residents to call Cuomo's office before December 28th, the date it was expected Cuomo would announce the decision. Meanwhile COC and NYSEG had requested an additional extension on December 19th. The PSC granted the extension on December 23rd, giving the companies until February 28th to submit 'a mutually-agreeable revised proposal.'
Opponents of repowering have criticized the PSC for not considering options other than natural gas, but supporters of repowering say it is the only viable option for now. Goodenough confirms that natural gas is the only option PSC is currently considering, and that the new agreement is based on Option 1 from COC's original proposal.
"The joint proposal has consistently involved option one from the original proposal," Goodenough says. Asked whether he is optimistic that the plant may remain open Goodenough replied, "Absolutely, yes."