Tompkins County Legislature Votes 12-2 in Favor of Resolution Opposing Repowering of Cayuga Power Plant with Fracked Gas

For Immediate Release: November 21, 2018


Lisa Marshall, Mothers Out Front, 850-291-5259
Sandra Steingraber, 607-351-0719
Irene Weiser, Fossil Free Tompkins, 607-435-3010


Tompkins County Legislature Votes 12-2 in Favor of Resolution Opposing Repowering of Cayuga Power Plant with Fracked Gas


More than 50 local residents—including scientists, health professionals, youth, faith leaders, unionists, elected officials, disabled individuals, homeowners, and business owners—speak during two-hour public comment period, with near unanimous support for resolution.


Ithaca, NY – Receiving a standing ovation from members of the public who had packed the chambers to standing room only capacity, the Tompkins County Legislature voted Tuesday night 12-2 in favor of a strongly worded resolution opposing the Cayuga Power Plant’s proposal to convert from burning coal to burning fracked gas to be trucked to the Lansing facility from Pennsylvania.


The resolution represents a resounding victory for climate action and sends an unequivocal message to Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that the County does not want a gas-fired power plant here.


The resolution seeks Governor Cuomo’s help in providing support for conversion to solar power with energy storage, support for displaced plant workers, and support for the Town of Lansing and the Lansing School District, both of which receive tax revenue from Cayuga Power. It also urges the DEC to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement of Cayuga Power Plant’s proposal.


Built in 1955, this inefficient and obsolete plant—one of only two operating coal plants still remaining in New York State—had a severe fire in 2016 in one of its generating units and now only half the plant is operational. In 2010, New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) the local utility, completed transmission line upgrades in the Ithaca area to ensure adequate electric supply in the event the plant was no longer operating.


The resolution notes that repowering of this plant to natural gas would increase carbon dioxide and methane emissions and is “incompatible with the urgent global imperative to reduce fossil fuel use, and is incompatible with New York State’s energy policies and with Tompkins County’s GHG emission reduction goals.”


Heorot Power Holdings LLC, a Blackstone Group subsidiary, and owner of the Cayuga Power Plant, seeks to convert the burned out unit to burn methane gas, delivered by truck as compressed natural gas (CNG), by truck. The company indicates that as many as 60 trucks a day (120 truck trips) would deliver fuel to the repowered unit.


The resolution indicates that these trucks have had several roll-over incidents in New York State and on two occasions necessitated road closures because of gas venting; one incident necessitated evacuation of people within a quarter mile radius of the crash. Maps by FracTracker Alliance indicate the route from Pennsylvania to the power plant would involve driving through residential neighborhoods, near schools, homes, and day-care facilities. Heorot’s prposal suggests that, depending on market conditions, they may apply for a pipeline permit at a future date.


On Tuesday night more than 100 residents packed the legislative chambers, and more than 50 spoke in opposition to Heorot’s plans for the 63-year-old plant. The recurring theme of these comments was the urgent need for a response to climate change at all levels of government. Residents expressed concerns about the safety of CNG truck traffic on rural roads and air pollution from the plant.


Deliberation among the legislators included a consideration of several amendments. One clause added to the resolution notes the overwhelming outpouring of support from the community in the form of e-mails, comments, and the number of people in the room.


The final vote count was 12:2 in support of the resolution with Mike Sigler (R District 6) and Glenn Morey (R District 9) opposed.


“Cayuga’s proposal to convert to burning fracked gas is in clear conflict with Tompkins County’s and the State’s energy policies and the urgent global imperative to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next ten years to avoid catastrophic, irreversible global warming,” said Irene Weiser, Town of Caroline Councilmember and coordinator of Fossil Free Tompkins.


Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Emeritus, Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow at Cornell University and New York State Professional Engineer Anthony Ingraffea, PhD, PE, said, “The needle is really moving. Residential and small commercial photovoltaic electricity is doubling in New York about every 18 months. Community solar and large commercial solar doubles that rate of increase. The time is now to displace fossil fuels for electricity generation in our state.”


Biologist and Trumansburg resident Sandra Steingraber, PhD, said, “The Tompkins County Legislature played a heroic, transformational role when it issued a resolution in opposition to fracking and again when it resolved to oppose gas storage at Seneca Lake. In both these cases, it became clear that our governor listens to the voice of municipal governments. Legislators, now send a message to Albany that says we are serious here in Tompkins County about doing our part to solve the climate problem, in alignment with statements, policies, and resolutions that this county has already made. Please speak, once again, clearly, strongly, unanimously, heroically, and with all the children of Tompkins County in mind.”


Lansing resident and member of the local chapter of Mothers Out Front, Sue Ruoff said, “My husband and I are part-owners of the Lansing Market, our local grocery store. I care about Lansing. When I learned that most of the revenue from the power plant has been lost already and that the plant is terribly inefficient, these two facts, along with the huge increase in trucks on our roads and the environmental issues, are plenty of reasons to realize repowering the plant with natural gas is a terrible idea. New York should be leading the way toward renewable energy.”


In a written statement read aloud by read aloud by Lansing resident Kristin Bartholomew, former Lansing Central School District board member Ted Laux said, “The LCSD administration has demonstrated it can manage the fiscal aspects of the plant devaluation and still provide a superior education for its students. The power plant assessment has decreased from $160 million to $25 million since 2009. The LCSD is a National Blue Ribbon School. It’s been named a top school in central NY. If the district has dealt with a $135 million devaluation in recent years and come out looking great, it certainly could handle another relatively minor devaluation rather easily, especially when the district’s tax base has increased by more than $100 million since 2012.”



No Fracked Gas Cayuga