– Groups Call On Gov Cuomo & Assembly To Cut State Subsidies For Dirty Coal Dinosaurs

March 21, 2012

Groups Call On Gov Cuomo & Assembly To Cut State Subsidies For Dirty Coal Dinosaurs

NYS Senate Budget Proposal Would Prop up Expensive, Aging Power Plants in WNY

ALBANY, NY (03/21/2012) – Environmental, energy, and health groups today are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to reject a Senate proposal to provide a lifeline in the form of a long-term contract between the New York Power Authority and aging coal-fired power plants in Western New York. The groups are asking state leaders to keep the state on track to a cleaner energy future.

“Paying a premium for dirty coal power is not a recipe to help the economy. Instead of bailing out the coal companies so these polluting old plants can run for a few more years, we should be investing in cheaper clean energy that has a future,” said Abigail Dillen, Coal Program Director for Earthjustice.

“For nearly a decade New York State has worked to diversify our energy mix and set an example for the nation. Keeping our coal fires burning by throwing a lifeline to dirty coal-fired power plants moves us back, not forward,” said Ross Gould, Air & Energy Program Director, Environmental Advocates NY. “If Governor Cuomo wants ammunition for his environmental legacy, squashing state subsidies for dirty coal dinosaurs should be near the top of his to-do list.”

In the American Lung Association’s 2011 State of the Air report, Niagara and Chautauqua counties received failing grades for ozone pollution, based in large part on pollution spewed by these two power plants.

“Western New Yorkers are sick of subsidizing dirty coal plants that are making us sick,” said Brian Smith, Program and Communications Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We are calling on Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to invest in clean, renewable energy for the future, rather than providing a lifeline to the dirty energy of the past.”

“New Yorkers shouldn’t be bailing out dirty coal plants, period,” said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with NYPIRG. “This proposal is bad economic policy and flies in the face of New York’s clean energy goals.”

“We are facing a climate change emergency and we need a statewide plan to phase out coal plants in an expeditious manner, not a short-sighted and wasteful scheme to financially prop up old coal plants whose time has finally come,” said Walter Simpson, leader of Clean Energy for Jamestown, a coalition of groups opposed to continued coal-burning in Jamestown, NY. “The plan should humanely address power plant employment and local taxation issues while quickly accelerating the deployment of clean energy resources.”

The State Senate’s one-house budget proposal includes language that directs the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to perform an “economic viability analysis” of coal-fired power plants in Chautauqua and Niagara counties. The study’s aim is to recommend the power authority enters into a minimum three-year agreement to purchase power from the coal-fired power plants.

The groups calling on Governor Cuomo and Speaker Silver to cut state subsidies for dirty coal-fired power plants include Alliance for Clean Energy New York, American Lung Association in New York, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Clean Energy for Jamestown, Concerned Citizens of the Jamestown Area, Earthjustice, Environment New York, Environmental Advocates NY, New York Public Interest Research Group, Renewable Energy Long Island, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, and Vote Solar.

Over the last several years, at least two of the coal-fired power plants that stand to benefit from the State Senate’s proposal have repeatedly noted their intention to shut down, and have shuttered, albeit temporarily, due to cost concerns and reduced demand. Most recently, the Dunkirk plant filed a “Notice of Intent to Mothball Dunkirk Units 1, 2, 3, and 4.” AES Somerset filed for bankruptcy protection last year. These outdated facilities are shutting their doors because they are too inefficient and therefore too expensive to operate when compared to newer and cleaner power generation.

“We shouldn’t be looking for ways to extend the lives of the dirty coal-fired power plants operating in the state; we should be looking for ways to extend the lives of New Yorkers,” said Jeff Seyler, CEO of the American Lung Association in New York. “Power plant pollution aggravates lung disease and cuts New Yorkers’ lives short. This proposal is a step in the wrong direction and we hope Governor Cuomo and the Assembly will work together to ensure it’s not in the final enacted budget.”

“New York shouldn’t pay to keep bankrupt, dirty coal plants alive,” said David VanLuven, Director of Environment New York. “Their soot increases asthma rates; their mercury makes fish too dangerous to eat. It’s time for New York to pursue modern, renewable power sources like solar and wind, and to let antiquated dirty coal facilities die with whatever dignity they still have.”

Energy production from the burning of coal is one of the largest sources of air pollution in New York State. These facilities emit enormous quantities of acid rain-causing pollutants, ozone forming chemicals that contribute to asthma, and carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change.

The State Senate included the proposal in Part YY of its one-house budget bill.