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  • Joseph Wetmore and Karen Edelstein

Setting the record straight on Lansing, Lifton and Cayuga Power Plant

The June 26, 2015 Lansing Star bases its strongly worded editorial on many false assumptions. Below are a few of the significant ones: False Assumption #1: All of Lansing is in favor of re-powering the Cayuga coal burning power plant.

We are homeowners in the Town of Lansing and have paid property and school taxes for over 20 yeas. We are not in favor of the Cayuga Power Plant's continued operation. We share this viewpoint with many other Lansing residents, who have made energy efficiency and environmental conservation top priorities in our lives. False Assumption #2: It will be an economic disaster to Lansing if the plant closes. All the financial analysis of the plant closing that we have seen assume the property is completely off the tax rolls and that no alternative planning is done to diversify Lansing's economy. It is irresponsible to simply demand that we have a polluting power plant in our community and not even look at other options. It's not difficult to name towns and cities that have faced similar challenges when a major industry closes there. Sometimes, recovery is difficult. But in many cases…and we see examples across the Northeast in Rochester, Buffalo, Pittsburgh to name a few…the communities have creatively met change and resurrected their vitality after finding themselves close to the brink. That takes analysis, planning, and resourcefulness. Expecting a complete crisis if anything were to change—only takes time and energy away from what could be better spent engaging the change itself before we reach an unanticipated economic crisis. The adage that warns about putting all of our eggs in one basket couldn't be more clear in the case of Lansing. Thinking that the economic stability of the Town is critically dependent on a single tax payer like a power plant is a fiction, fueled by local media that beats the drum about the power plant closing as "disastrous". What is "disastrous" is a system that is so comfortable with status quo—despite the impacts it has on other communities around the state, that it doesn't take the steps to prepare for transition or change even when that change is endorsed by New York State Electric and Gas, itself. False Assumption #3.: Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton is advocating for a disastrous plan for one of the communities she represents. Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton is calling for New York State to develop a plan to protect the workers and communities that rely on these plants. A couple of programs Lifton has cited include a fund to aid municipalities and schools that lose 20% or more of their payment-in-lieu-of-taxes revenue from the closure of a fossil fuel based electricity generation facility. Another potential source of aid is NYSERDA's Energy, Education and Workforce Development Programs, which can aid "in finding employment and training for the highly-skilled energy sector workers who may be displaced." Lifton has gathered a coalition of more than seventy of her fellow legislators from across the state in support of this approach. False Assumption #4: Some future generation will deal with the plant closing, and it won't be a problem then. Now is the time to put our resources into improving the grid, readying it for decentralized green energy, not investing in a dying fossil fuel system. Coal remains a dirty and inefficient source of energy, despite the "state-of-the-art" scrubbers we have that still drop particulate matter on the neighboring properties, and pollutes our lake with toxic fly-ash. Continuing to shift the expense of running an unprofitable power station to ratepayers across the state is lacking in vision, and, frankly, morality. Conversion of the plant to natural gas and the construction of new pipelines will only add to the carbon budget that Tompkins County has simultaneously vowed to decrease. Instead of going down this power generation dead-end, we urge for the upgrade of transmission lines, and a full-on effort to move New York to renewable energy. Those changes need to start locally, here and now, in Lansing. To quote Gaylord Nelson, co-founder in 1970 of Earth Day: "The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard." Sincerely, Joseph Wetmore and Karen Edelstein Lansing, NY

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