siglersigns_120Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler and Lansing Councilman Ed LaVigne were out in the 16 degree weather Wednesday putting up signs supporting repowering the Cayuga Power plant with natural gas.  Sigler initiated a petition last week to collect what he hopes will be at least 5,000 local signatures to show Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Public Service Commission that there is overwhelming support for the repowering in Lansing.

"It's going really well," Sigler said Wednesday.  "Last time I checked online there were about 120.  I've collected about 50 and I have other people out collecting.  My goal is to get to 5,000. If we got there that would be great."

Earlier this week Sigler launched an online version of the petition (click here to view/sign the petition).  His goal was ambitious because it looked as if there may not be enough time to collect enough signatures before Cuomo announced the State's decision on whether or not to keep the plant open.  But Wednesday also brought good news for plant officials when the Public Service Commission (PSC) granted a request for a third extension that would give Cayuga Operating Company LLC (COC) and NYSEG until March 31 to come up with a mutually agreeable plan.

siglersigns_edmike400Lansing Councilman Ed LaVigne (left) and Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler erected eight signs around Lansing Wednesday to get people to support repowering the Cayuga Power Plant.

Many in Lansing believe closing the plant would be a disaster for the community, with individual property taxes significantly rising to make up for the loss of plant value, lost jobs and local spending worth millions.  Sigler says that repowering the plant will save those jobs and spending, and possibly restore some of the significant value that has already been lost over the past three years.

"If this plant is repowered they're going to have to run a pipeline to it," he adds.  "People forget that the pipeline has an assessed value.  When they did this in Dryden the assessed value of that pipeline was $25 million.  So it's a significant amount.  That's just another benefit to repowering this plant."

Originally NYSEG opposed repowering the plant, favoring a plan to upgrade the power delivery grid to more reliably serve Auburn and its largest power user, NUCOR Steel.  COC argued for keeping its plant open by repowering the coal plant with natural gas.  The Public Service Commission had granted two extensions, the most recent giving NYSEG and COC until February 28th to devise a mutually agreeable plan.  COC asked for a further extension on February 18th that would give them another month to complete the agreement with NYSEG.  Plant officials said they had been working with NYSEG to develop a proposal they could both agree to, and was reviewing the term sheet between National Grid and Dunkirk Power LLC to see if anything in that filing could be used to arrive at a final filing here.

But NYSEG disagreed.  On February 19th NYSEG, The Sierra Club and EarthJustice filed objections to a further extension.  NUCOR Steel also opposed the extension, claiming that there was 'no good cause' to extend the deadline further, and arguing that ratepayers will bear the costs of further delay.  But Wednesday NYSEG withdrew its objection.

"As stated previously, NYSEG and Cayuga have worked diligently in an attempt to develop a mutually- agreeable revised proposal and NYSEG has remained willing to continue," wrote NYSEG attorney Jeffrey A. Rosenbloom.  "In light of new developments and in the continued spirit of cooperation, NYSEG is hereby withdrawing its opposition to the extension request."

In addition to the online version Sigler says about ten people are distributing the petition door to door.  Last week he asked County republicans to distribute the petition, as well as Lansing Democrats.  For those who don't want to sign online and who are not visited at home, a copy of the petition is available at the lansing Town Hall.

"(Democrat and Lansing Town Supervisor) Kathy Miller is on board.  She's collecting signatures and she's got her people collecting signatures," Sigler says.  "This is definitely a bipartisan thing.  Anyone can sign.  You don't have to be a registered voter.  You just have to live in the town.  We'll keep pressing on.  We got some good news today. NYSEG withdrew its extension objection.  It's good that they changed their mind and will keep working together."

After NYSEG withdrew its objection the PSC granted the extension.  That gives Sigler more time to reach his goal of 5,000 signatures supporting the plant.

"More time is better for us," Sigler says. "If we can really show the Governor a good level of support, that would be best.  That's why we're putting up the billboards and the more people we get to call, the better."

By mid-afternoon Wednesday the online version had 147 signatures.  Sigler hopes the sign campaign will jump-start the process and garner throusands more.  Many of the comments left online lauded the plant for its clean operation as a coal plant, and argued the benefits of keeping it open keeps jobs in the county, help keep taxes in check and keeps jobs in New York instead of importing dirty energy from elsewhere.  One simply said, "Please save the town I grew up in and still live in."