ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton is leading a group of lawmakers in urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to shutter “non-economic coal plants” across New York state and pursue upgrades to transmission lines as an alternative energy solution.

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The Cayuga Power Plant, one of Tompkins County’s largest taxpayers and biggest employers, faces closure unless the state approves the plant’s proposal to retrofit with natural gas. That plan is opposed by those, like NYSEG and Lifton, who support the alternative of upgrades to transmission lines.

Lifton said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that the state should help pay for economic transitions for communities, like Lansing, that would be affected by power plant closures.

Lifton recognized that the power plant — which says it wants to retrofit to natural gas — has a major impact and enjoys substantial support from many members of the public.

“Obviously, there are great pressures at the local level. Municipalities don’t want to lose the tax revenue from the power plants … and school districts are affected as well, and there are jobs,” Lifton said.

“These are very important considerations at the local level, which is why my letter calls for strong state support” to offset the impact of the plant’s closure, Lifton said.

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

Lifton did not identify exactly how the state could help Lansing make up for the lost economic impact of the plant, but she did point to both the New York Power Authority and the state’s overall budget as possible funding sources.

“We don’t need to present a false choice between dirty energy and helping our communities,” Lifton said.

Lifton was joined on the conference call by Irene Weiser, a member of the Caroline town board, and a representative from the environmental firm the Sierra Club.

She touted a letter to Cuomo she said had been signed by more than 70 elected officials.

“Low cost transmission upgrades can ensure power reliability across the state while retiring our state’s coal fleet and better facilitating renewable energy,” the letter states.

“The only economically and environmentally sound option seems to be the closure of the plant, in conjunction with a real and robust transition plan to support local communities that would suffer the loss of critical tax revenue and jobs.”

“The state must be prepared to phase out non-economic coal-fired power plants to meet critical state and federal climate change goals, while not sacrificing critical funding for all affected municipalities, including schools.”


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Jeff Stein

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