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Cayuga Operating Company LLC (Cayuga) filed a deactivation notice with the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) and the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) on Friday, June 28 announcing its intentions to retire its Tompkins County coal-fired power plant in the next 90 days, based on stricter new State air emission regulations designed to eliminate coal in New York and deteriorating market conditions.

The 309-megawatt (MW) facility, which is located in Lansing, currently employs 44 people, including 34 members of the IBEW Local 10 Union. Employees and Union leadership were advised of the decision to deactivate on Friday. Company representatives also notified local and State officials, including the New York Department of Labor and other State agencies.

Upon receipt of Cayuga's deactivation notice, the NYISO is required to assess whether such deactivation will trigger potential reliability needs to the State's energy grid. Should the NYISO determine Cayuga is still needed for grid reliability, Cayuga and the NYISO will follow the next steps in the tariff outlining the process for assessing a reliability need.

Cayuga's owner, Riesling Power LLC (Riesling), has proposed repurposing the Lansing plant and its Somerset coal plant in Niagara County (the last two operating coal plants in New York), into a new data hub called the "Empire State Data Hub", taking advantage of the skilled, local work forces and valuable on-site attributes that include existing electric infrastructure, expansive land, and a moderate climate. Repositioning the sites to a data hub would create Union construction jobs, new permanent fulltime positions and would enable Riesling to retain many IBEW employees for ongoing remediation and plant closure work.

Riesling is committed to working with the State and other key stakeholders to try and advance the proposal and has applied to procure renewable energy from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and economic assistance from the Empire State Development Corp. (ESD) to power the two large, power-intensive data centers with on-site solar electric generating capacity. The company is also seeking State support for employee retraining resources.

"While this is sad news, it is not entirely unexpected," said IBEW Local 10 Business Manager Gary Bonker, which represents the Union workers at Cayuga. "We've had a great relationship with Cayuga and we hope to continue to that relationship with the proposed Data Hub, which we see as an exciting opportunity for our members. If there is a next chapter in the Cayuga story, we want to support it -- for our members and for the Tompkins County community."

The Data Hub proposal has been enthusiastically supported by a broad coalition of key stakeholders including environmentalists, the Union, local elected officials, business leaders, and school district officials. The Niagara and Tompkins County legislatures have both issued formal statements in support of the Data Hub proposal, as have officials in the environmental and Union communities.

"As leaders in the environmental and Union construction community, we support this plan as a model for the 'just transition' to a better energy future envisioned by Governor Cuomo," wrote Lisa Dix, the Sierra Club's New York Director and Jim Cahill, the president of the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council in a joint statement. "It reflects the importance of reducing our dependence on fossil fuel while also recognizing the jobs and economic opportunity available as we move from the old, dying industry of coal to the new and growing one of high tech."

"It is our hope that we can bring the Empire State Data Hub proposal to fruition. It would enable us to address the Governor's environmental policy goal of eliminating coal while also transitioning to a new greener economy in New York," said Michael Enright, Managing Director of Beowulf Energy LLC, which manages the Cayuga facility. "However, while we continue to work with our stakeholders on determining the path forward, we were compelled to file a deactivation notice now to properly notify all parties and prepare in the event that the repurposing is not possible and Cayuga becomes a straight plant closure."

Company officials said that no decision has yet been made about the future of the Somerset coal plant in Niagara County.

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