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cpp powerlines120On March 28th of this year the New York State Public Service Commission granted an extension to Cayuga Power Plant owner Cayuga Operating Company (COC), and New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) to come up with a mutually agreeable proposal that would include repowering the plant with natural gas by December 1.  On November 26th the PSC issued an extension, giving COC until February 6, 2015 to submit a new proposal, implying that a joint proposal would not be forthcoming.

"Due to recent developments, submission of Cayuga's separate revised repowering proposal on December 1st would be premature," argued COC's Attorney John T. McManus.  "Accordingly, Cayuga respectfully requests a brief extension of the current filing deadline until February 6, 2015. This short extension will result in a more-considered revised repowering proposal that will promote the orderly and efficient conduct of this Proceeding and provide for more thorough Commission review."

The repowering controversy has effectively pitted Lansing against its fellow municipalities in Tompkins County, with Lansing officials arguing that losing the plant would deal a blow to the community that would eliminate jobs, local spending and result in a crippling rise in the tax rate.  Opponents have argued that ratepayers would bear the cost for an upgrade to another non-renewable energy source, with Dryden residents particularly objecting to a pipeline that would supply the gas through their township to reach Lansing from an existing pipeline location in Freeville.

Local opponents calling themselves Ratepayer and Community Intervenors have joined with Sierra Club, and Earthjustice to challenge the repowering of the plant.  While some opponents have said they would favor repowering the plant with renewable energy sources, others flatly want the plant to shut down.

"Cayuga's extension request, which NYSEG has not joined, makes clear that Cayuga and NYSEG have been unable to reach agreement on a joint repowering proposal that would protect the interests of ratepayers," their attorneys objected in a March 26th letter. "Granting Cayuga additional time to develop a unilateral proposal would be fruitless at this juncture."

On the heels of the COC extension request NYSEG sent a letter asking to be included in the extension so it would have an opportunity to respond to the new repowering proposal.

"NYSEG does not join or oppose the request by Cayuga, however, NYSEG anticipates that if an extension is to be granted, it would be applicable to NYSEG as well as Cayuga," said a NYSEG official.  "NYSEG could otherwise be prejudiced by filing its recommendations in this proceeding well in advance of Cayuga being required to do so. Cayuga would then be afforded an opportunity to review and counter NYSEG's filing."

In June the PSC announced it had approved repowering the Dunkirk plant, located near Buffalo, with natural gas.  A PSC press release stated that a $140 million agreement between National Grid and NRG would assure the plant's operation for 10 years with added capability to generate 435 megawatts (MW) using natural gas.

"The refueling plan will create approximately 50 construction jobs, preserve permanent jobs at the site, and restore tax payments to the Dunkirk community to their previous level of approximately $8 million annually," the release said. "The plan will approximately double the number of permanent jobs in the proposal endorsed by local labor groups and maintain the existing 68 jobs at least through mid- 2015."

Despite opponents' demands for a re-hearing, the PSC denied their petition at the end of September.

Most Lansing representatives have crossed political lines to join in support of repowering the plant, including town and school board members, former and current County Lansing Legislators Pat Prior and Mike Sigler, State Senator Mike Nozzolio and Congressman Tom Reed.  All have been outspoken in their support of keeping the plant open to continue to provide reliable power from  local source, preserve jobs, maintain local spending, and with the hope that the plummeting property value of the plant would stabilize, providing relief to property taxpayers who have seen alarming increases, particularly in school taxes.

Meanwhile Auburn's largest NYSEG customer, Nucor Steel, also sent a letter to the PSC opposing the repowering plan.

"Cayuga has not alleged any specific facts which would justify such an extension," wrote Nucor Steel's attorneys.  "In requesting its so-called 'brief' extension of an additional ten weeks, Cayuga also does not allege that an agreement with NYSEG is imminent or that this amount of time would in fact be sufficient to complete an agreement.  In prior requests for extension, Cayuga has expressly stated that it and NYSEG 'have been working and continue to work diligently in an attempt to develop a mutually-agreeable revised proposal.'  In this request, Cayuga does not even assert that its discussions with NYSEG are ongoing. Cayuga only avers that this extension 'will result in a more-considered revised repowering proposal.'"

In February Sigler initiated a petition in support of the repowering, which has been distributed door to door and has an online component, which supporters can use to sign and leave comments.  But officials supporting the plant have openly worried that the state is getting a mixed message with strong support in Lansing, but strong opposition coming from its neighbors.  Lansing Supervisor Kathy Miller has noted that Lansing's situation is different from Dunkirk's because there was more uniform local support for that plant.

With at least four extensions already granted, the Cayuga plant's ultimate fate may not be known for some time.  NYSEG originally opposed keeping the plant open, favoring a plan to upgrade the transmission lines instead.  Power plant officials say are not able to answer questions about the nature of the negotiations or proposals at this time.  If a joint proposal is off the table the company will have an opportunity to object to a new repowering proposal.


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