Gov. Cuomo says Dunkirk station will be powered by natural gas

Kate O'Connell
December 19, 2013

The Public Service Commission has been assessing solutions for the future of the Dunkirk power station for months.

But the deal that Cuomo announced wasn’t actually one of them.

The new $150 million agreement is supposed to be contingent upon PSC approval.

But, Peter Iwanowicz, Executive Director of the Environmental Advocates of New York, says the governor’s public support for the plan puts the efficacy of the Commission’s process in doubt.

“One does have to question how independent the decision making will be when an announcement like this appears on the face to be a fate of complete. We hope that’s not the case, but it’s hard for me to sit here today and determine that an alternative result would come from a body that is appointed by the Governor.”

The deal came out of talks – encouraged by the PSC - between the owner of the plant, NRG energy, and upstate transmission operator National Grid.

Both parties say it’s a compromise between their original and opposing solutions for the plant.

NRG says the project will create jobs, reduce costs for consumers, stabilize the local tax base, and benefit the environment.

Tony Ingraffea, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University, says only some of that is true.

“It certainly will create some jobs in the short term and it certainly will stabilize the local property tax base, and that’s good for the people of Dunkirk," says Ingraffea. "But it certainly is not going to produce a cleaner power plant when viewed from the point of view of all greenhouse gases.”

He says it’s a common misconception that natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel because it produces lower carbon dioxide emissions. It still produces high levels of other greenhouse gases.

Many details of the plan, including costs and impact on consumers have yet to be finalized. In a written response, PSC officials say there’ll be a public comment period before a decision is made.