Dunkirk, NY - The Sierra Club is suing the state Public Service Commission over plans to re-power the Dunkirk power plant. Those plans call for the plant to be converted from coal to natural gas.
The lawsuit will delay the switch-over, and that is not sitting well with some lawmakers in the Southern Tier.
"They claim that the environmental baseline should be no plant at all. None. No jobs, no energy, no revenue, no tax base," says Chautauqua County Assemblyman Andy Goodell.
Congressman Tom Reed joined forces with Goodell Thursday afternoon to voice opposition to the Sierra Club's lawsuit. It aims to stop the NRG power plant in Dunkirk from converting to natural gas.
The lawmakers want it dismissed.
"I'm confident that we will win, and we will send the message that Chautauqua County knows what's best for its residents and its citizens, but we cannot underestimate the risk that this lawsuit represents to our community," said Reed.
Last December, Governor Cuomo announced the plan for the plant which includes adding 50 jobs in the area. The plant is the largest taxpayer in Chautauqua County and provides more than 40-percent of Dunkirk's tax revenue.
"I love our environment. We are not talking about destroying our environment. No one wants to pollute our air. No one wants to pollute our water," said Reed.
"The decision to prop up dirty coal through ratepayer subsidies of over $150-million is setting a bad precedent because it's basically saying that whenever any dirty fuels can compete, then there's just going to be these decisions outside of the public process that are going to prop up these coal and dirty energy plants on the ratepayer's back," said Lisa Dix with the Sierra Club.
This has also become a hot topic in the 23rd District. Reed is facing Democratic challenger Martha Robertson in his re-election bid.
"As my opponent has said, you know, she was very clear on the record when she came to Dunkirk and she tried to say she supported repowering, but just so we're clear, she said supporting repowering through biomass generation. Not natural gas," said Reed.
But Robertson's campaign made it clear Thursday night that she does not support the lawsuit.
The Sierra Club, by the way, has endorsed her as a candidate.
Robertson told us, "While I understand the Sierra Club's position, I also know that these jobs need to stay right here at home. I don't have anything to do with this lawsuit and I do not think it's in the best interest of working people in Chautauqua County. "
Reed says the case is scheduled to go to court November 7th. That is after Election Day. The project was expected to be finished by next fall.