LANSING, N.Y. — There’d likely be a major economic blow to Lansing if the Cayuga Power Plant closes.
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Some of these figures are contested, but the plant — the county’s biggest taxpayer and a provider of 70 full-time local jobs — estimates that if it shuttered:
— Lansing property taxes would jump by 12 percent annually.
— The average homeowner’s bill would increase by over $600 a year.
— County taxes would increase by about 1 percent.
— The school district would lose about $1.25 million in annual revenue instantly.
— 15 teachers’ positions would have to be cut by the local school district.
That backstory is crucial for understanding a statement issued Tuesday by Ithaca area Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, who last week announced that she is leading an effort to get Gov. Andrew Cuomo to close power plants across the region for economic and environmental reasons.
Lifton called for the upgrading of area transmission lines, which NYSEG has said would be a more efficient and cleaner solution than the plant’s proposal to retrofit to natural gas. But while upgrading the transmission lines may address the Ithaca area’s power needs, the economic impact for Lansing would likely remain.
In a conference call with other reporters last week, I asked Lifton about the local economic considerations.
“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,” she 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.
Lifton’s statement yesterday more precisely addressed what could happen in the event of a plant closure.
She noted that the state Assembly, State Senate and Governor’s office had established an “unprecedented $19 million fund to aid municipalities and schools that lose 20% or more of their payment-in-lieu-of-taxes revenue from the closure of a fossil fuel based electricity generation facility.”
She cited the text of the bill:
“Contingent upon available funding, ….. moneys from the urban development corporation shall be available for a municipal corporation or school district, as determined by the urban development corporation, where (i) a fossil fuel electric generating facility located within such municipal corporation or school district has permanently ceased operations, and (ii) the closing of such facility has caused a reduction in the tax collections and receipts from payments in lieu of taxes of at least 20%…”
It’s far from a done deal: Lifton noted that the $19 million fund is “apparently intended” for Long Island. Still, she said that the language of the bill will remain in effect until 2025 — opening the door for its application to other communities.
“I will be fighting in every budget cycle, to try and make sure that such funding will be available for municipalities and schools across the state that are affected by coal plant retirements as they go forward in the years ahead,” she said.
Lifton also pointed out that she has been calling for state funding for “affected communities and school districts” from plant closures since August 2013 and did so again in a letter to Gov. Cuomo last week.
“I was very happy to learn at session’s end that language was included in the final package to establish such a fund,” said Lifton.
Lifton added that the fund could be complemented by assistance from NYSERDA’s Energy, Education and Workforce Development Programs, which can aid “in finding employment and training for the highly-skilled energy sector workers who may be displaced.”
Also of help, she said, could be the state’s Green Jobs, Green New York, initiative, which may offer training in renewable energy jobs.