Independent Study Concludes Repowering Cayuga Will Have Major Economic Benefits

cpp_powerlines120According to an independent study repowering the Cayuga Operating Company, LLC (COC)  power plant will generate $5.3 million in new direct earnings on the site and an additional $3.5 million in direct earnings for New York State, plus $16.4 million in new sales.  After construction repowering would create 116 new jobs including 30 jobs retained at the site.  Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD) commissioned the study from Camoin Associates, which concluded that not repowering the plant would eventually mean higher energy costs to ratepayers.

"Months ago, TCAD calculated impacts of a repowered plant," says TCAD President Michael Stamm. "We felt the data was good but could be better, so we hired a consultant to provide a deeper, more detailed analysis. The State has said economic impact is an important factor in their decision so we wanted the State to have the best data."

The study found that the construction phase would create about 46 job-years (at 2,080 man hours per job-year that comes to 95,680 man-hours) that would generate $5.3 million in direct earnings and 63 indirect job-years that would mean another $3.5 in indirect earnings.  Construction phase earnings would be $8,759,999 in direct and indirect earnings, and sales during the construction phase would be $16,404,759.  The study considered new sales including equipment purchases and construction materials, plus retail, entertainment and other purchases made by construction workers.

After construction the study finds 116 new jobs, 30 of them on-site, would be supported by the plant with total earnings coming to $10,134,386.

Stamm says that the main impacts to the local economy would come primarily from property taxes, construction jobs and permanent jobs for the regional labor market.  But while there would certainly be a major impact one way or the other, he says it is difficult to calculate the exact county-wide impact.

"It is difficult to assign impacts of the construction project on the County because we do not know if construction workers will be County residents," Stamm says.  "The same with permanent workers at a repowered plant.  It is important to look at jobs supported or generated by the plant that are not jobs actually at the plant.  'Indirect' and 'induced' impacts are significant for the region and the State.  They are almost impossible to quantify for the County."

It is not hard to calculate the impact on Lansing if the plant closes.  The study warned that closing the plant would increase property taxes by over $400 per year for the median homeowner, and would cost the average Lansing homeowner $600 per year more in property taxes and negatively impact local businesses that service the plant.  Those impacts were based on figures taken from a letter Tompkins County Director of Assessment Jay Franklin sent to COC CEO Jerry Goodenough last July.  Franklin wrote that the median residential property, valued at $175,000, would pay an additional $450.01, which would be an annual tax burden including Lansing Central School District, Tompkins County, Town of Lansing and Fire District taxes.

Franklin said COC tax payments currently account for 11.70% of school taxes, 1.34% of county taxes, 7.36% of town and 6.53 of fire district property taxes.  As that is reduced or eliminated property owners take on the burden.

The study also cautioned that even if repowering is more costly than upgrading transmission lines at first, it may not be the most economical choice for the local and state-wide economies in the long run.

"While the Transmission Project may have a lower initial cost to ratepayers, it is not necessarily the case that it will result in a longer term benefit for New York State," concludes the report.

The study is based on the assumption that the coal-powered plant will be closed if the NYS Public Service Commission (PSC) does not rule that it should be repowered with natural gas.  Economic impact is one of the factors the PSC will consider in deciding whether or not to repower the plant.

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