DUNKIRK – The effort to repower Chautauqua County’s largest property taxpayer appears to be over for good.
That’s according to the Jamestown Post-Journal, which reports Wednesday that county officials were made aware Monday of NRG’s decision to back off from the plant’s conversion from coal to a cleaner alternative in natural gas.
The plan was to convert the 530 megawatt coal burning facility to 450 megawatt gas burning facility and it appeared to be on track to take place earlier this year. However, concerns arose last month from NRG over the unanticipated cost of interconnecting the plant to the regional electrical power system and the schedule to get it done.
NRG says it was informed by the New York Independent System Operator that the cost to re-interconnect the plant would cost in excess of $100 million. An NRG spokesman had said that originally no interconnection costs were forecast.
The State System Operator, however, is reported to say that NRG’s decision to keep the facility out of service longer than originally stated meant the original interconnection rights had expired. If NRG had reactivated the facility within three years following the company’s decision to deactivate the plant, it could have avoided the need for system upgrades.
A little over six years has passed since NRG officials initially planned to mothball the facility.
The facility is the county’s largest property tax payer and was paying a significant portion of property taxes to both the city of Dunkirk and the Dunkirk School District. Those tax payments were adjusted when the facility was mothballed, though NY state had provided some aid to help offset the loss. A payment in lieu of tax arrangement was also revised by the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency in February 2017.
The IDA could now decide whether to continue or cancel the PILOT. If the arrangement was canceled, NRG would be forced to pay property taxes based on the current value of the plant. Without an NRG tax payment, city and school taxes in the Dunkirk area could increase by more than 42 percent. For the average homeowner, this could raise property taxes by about $1,000 a year.
When operation, the power plant employed over 100 people, with 50 more jobs being projected once the full conversion took place.