Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there would be public hearings on the plant this July. That is incorrect.

Ithaca, N.Y. — Hundreds of area residents have weighed in on the fate of the Cayuga power plant, which is asking the state to support its conversion to natural gas.

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The power plant, which is the county’s biggest taxpayer and provides for about 70 jobs, currently relies on coal. But says it needs to retrofit its operations to natural gas if it is to remain in business.

NYSEG and many local environmentalists, however, oppose the move to natural gas —  saying that the area’s energy needs can be met elsewhere, and that the public shouldn’t have to bail out the plant.

See related: A beginner’s guide to the crucial fight over the Cayuga power plant’s future

This month alone, about 150 people have written to New York state’s Department of Public Service on both sides of the debate. The state’s Public Service Commission will ultimately decide which plan to approve.

The majority of letters to the state appeared to back the arguments made by NYSEG and others in opposition to the natural gas conversion proposal.

See related: Public shouldn’t have to bail out Cayuga power plant, NYSEG says

“I support the NYSEG plan to upgrade transmission lines to ensure electric reliability. It is by far the cheapest option to keep rates low and it is cleaner for the environment,” says Roberta Silbey, of Ithaca.

“NYS can achieve a win-win partnership for ratepayers, (the) environment, local tax base — and that transitions workers to a truly clean energy economy.”

Many, however, wrote to say that the plant should be allowed to pursue natural gas retrofitting.

“NYS has done a tremendous job reducing emissions and enjoys stable rates due to fuel diversity; now is not the time to allow any environmentally compliant power generator to retire,” Phil Wilcox wrote.

See related: School superintendent says death of Cayuga power plant would ‘be too much to bear’

Others still said that if the state does decide to let the plant close, Gov. Andrew Cuomo should do something to ensure the economic health of the Lansing region so supported by the plant.

“If the Cayuga Power Plant has to close because it is losing money, I urge you, as Governor … to advocate for NY State regional development and/or other funds provide transition funding for workers, the Lansing school district, and municipalities affected by local tax losses,” one Trumansburg resident wrote.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.