NRG to shut down Tonawanda & Dunkirk plants

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y (WIVB) – The huge facility along the Niagara River has been burning coal to make electricity for more than fifty years, but pending approval by the Public Service Commission, it could all come to an end in six months.

NRG Corporation announced today that it will ask for Public Service Commissioner approval to retire the Huntley Station by March.

NRG East Region Spokesman David Gaier explained why. “This is essentially three things, low natural gas prices because natural gas sets the price of electricity, low capacity payments in this part of New York, and low energy margins for the electricity that we actually sell.”

The news came as a surprise to Town of Tonawanda resident Marilyn Siluzio. “I feel bad for the people that work there, but I think it’s a necessity.”

All seventy nine employees will be out of work in Tonawanda by March and another sixty eight NRG employees in Dunkirk will be done in January when the Dunkirk plant is placed in mothball status. A planned project to turn the Dunkirk plant  into a natural gas producer has also been put on hold because of a lawsuit filed by a competing company.

Clean Air Coalition Director, Erin Heaney says she feels for the families of the workers, but from an environmental standpoint, “NRG is a coal burning power plant and it certainly has contributed to the air pollution challenge, though I have to say, in the last couple years, they really haven’t been. It really has been market forces that have driven the plant. It’s just not economical.”

It will come as a financial hit tomore than just the workers, according to NY State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. “This plant paid in property taxes, through a pilot agreement to the Ken-Ton School District roughly three million dollars, to the Town of Tonawanda, roughly two million dollars, and to the County of Erie roughly one million dollars.”

Schimminger says it may be possible for those municipalities to tap into a $19 million dollar fund that was set aside in the current State budget for the purpose of easing the transition for communities which experience a plant closing.

AFL CIO President Richard Lipsitz wonders why NRG and local lawmakers couldn’t have worked together toward a better transition. “What do we do for communities and for those workers to help them make a transition so that they’re not devastated by a problem they did not create themselves, and that’s the real issue here.”

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