For Immediate Release:
October 3, 2013

Contact:
Sean Sarah, Sierra Club 202 548-4589 sean.sarah@sierraclub.org
Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice 212 845-7380 ksutcliffe@earthjustice.org
Conor Bambrick, Environmental Advocates of New York 518 462 5526 x240 cbambrick@eany.org
Carol Chock, Tompkins County Legislator  607 227-0006 carolchock@gmail.com

Groups Push Back Against NY PSC Support for Unnecessary, Expensive New Gas Plant
Issue Call for Transparency and Public Input in Controversial Coal to Gas Plan

Albany, NY – On Wednesday, environmental, community groups, and local elected officials requested that the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) withdraw its request for a revised proposal to repower the Cayuga coal-fired power plant with gas. Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Environmental Advocates filed a motion with the PSC to request more information about the process noting that the PSC has not identified areas for public participation and that the process lacks transparency.
The groups have expressed concerns over current plans to switch Cayuga from coal to gas fired power stating that the proposal is expensive and unnecessary and could lead to higher electricity bills for families and businesses statewide.  They also state that PSC has not adequately explained the need for a coal to gas transition.

“It couldn’t be clearer that the best solution for families, businesses and the Upstate economy is to retire these dirty and outdated coal plants and invest in cost-effective transmission solutions that will mean reliable, affordable power for our homes and businesses,” said Jennifer Tuttle, an organizer for Sierra Club in New York.

Currently Cayuga supplies a small amount of support to the region’s electric grid. Cayuga could be replaced, the groups contend, with low-cost transmission upgrades that would move power around the region more effectively without the added cost of an entirely new plant.

“This PSC proceeding has been characterized by secrecy and concealment of crucial information from the public, and last week’s move was no exception.  The PSC staff has already conceded that each of the four repowering proposals for the Cayuga plant impermissibly shift the financial risk of continuing to operate this uneconomic plant to the ratepayers.  Nevertheless, the PSC is insisting that yet another repowering proposal be prepared, without providing any explanation for its decision.  The PSC has yet to address any of the numerous public comments from ratepayers and others opposing repowering.  The Commission has also failed to enforce its prior directive that the environmental impacts of repowering be analyzed before any decision is made.  Our motion seeks to stop the PSC’s  rush to judgment on repowering, and to ensure that New Yorkers are allowed a chance to participate in a decision that will impact their electricity bills and their communities for years to come,” said Earthjustice attorney Chris Amato.

Environmental and community groups are concerned because the PSC has ignored thousands of public comments and technical filings which support a more cost-effective transmission solution. This week’s motion demands that the PSC respond to these comments, as well as provide justification for its request of a revised proposal from NYSEG (the region’s electricity provider) and Cayuga Operating Company (the owners of the Cayuga plant) to repower the Cayuga plant.

“We who live in the electric service area whose rates and environment will be affected by a decision submitted our comments over the summer, expecting they would be taken into account. Instead, we learned that the staff and commission are proceeding as though we don't matter.  The ratepaying public deserves better from the agency charged with protecting our interests,” said Tompkins County Legislator Carol Chock, among a group of elected officials from Cayuga, Cortland, Erie, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins counties who have intervened in the PSC proceedings.

The motion filed by the coalition also criticizes the lack of overall transparency in the proceedings, made especially clear in a recent filing by Earthjustice on behalf elected officials, ratepayers and groups concerned about the project. This action seeks public access to heavily-redacted documents from the coal plant owners and transmission utilities.

“Instead of forcing upstate ratepayers to subsidize these unnecessary and uneconomic power plants, the Public Service Commission should remain focused on the state’s clean energy policy goals by investing in smart, efficient and renewable technologies designed to address our 21st century economic and environmental challenges,” said Conor Bambrick, Air and Energy Program Director for Environmental Advocates of New York.

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