After 17 months of waiting for new proposals about the future of the Cayuga power plant, it appears that there is a clear path forward.
On the one hand is Cayuga's proposal. Astonishingly, in its new proposal, instead of just converting the coal plant to burn gas — which was bad enough — Cayuga says they want to be able to keep burning coal, too.
What's more, the cost NYSEG customers would pay to convert the 60-year-old plant has gone up from $100 million to $145 million.
In contrast, there's the NYSEG proposal. As before, NYSEG proposes to upgrade the transmission lines in Auburn so that they no longer overheat during times of peak demand. This upgrade will resolve the reliability concerns for the region and make the grid more efficient. Surprisingly the cost for those upgrades has come down by $35 million — so the final cost NYSEG customers would be asked to pay for transmission upgrades would be approximately $20 million, seven times less than the cost of converting the plant to gas.
But the really big news is that NYSEG's new proposal offers to address the loss of property taxes in Lansing when the Cayuga plant closes. They propose working with state agencies to develop renewable energy projects in Lansing that would support the tax base and create jobs while also supporting New York's goals for increasing renewable energy resources.
Of course, details need to be worked out, but NYSEG's offer is a real game-changer — one that allows a win for Lansing schools and taxpayers, a win for Governor Cuomo and a win for the planet.
While Cayuga's proposal takes a giant step back to the 20th century, asking NYSEG customers to pay an indefensible $145 million to prop up a dying coal plant, NYSEG's proposal offers a 21st century solution — increasing the efficiency and reliability of the electric grid while also supporting the Lansing community with sustainable energy projects and green job development.
The choice is clear: The Public Service Commission should end this boondoggle and reject Cayuga's regressive proposal, which is not in the best interests of either the ratepayer or the environment. The NYSEG proposal takes us in the right direction. Let's move forward with reforming the energy vision, starting in the Town of Lansing.
Weiser is a council member in the Town of Caroline and director of the Ratepayer and Community Intervenors group.