Groups voice concern over plans to convert Cayuga Lake Power Plant

Demonstrators outside Ithaca Town Hall, on how the Public Service Commisison is deciding the future of a coal-powered electric plant on Cayuga Lake

Various organizations, legislators and town officials, and private citizens gathered Monday to voice concerns about the plan to retrofit a power plant on Cayuga Lake.

The proposal is to convert the electric power plant in Lansing from coal to natural gas-powered. Concerns are about the future costs of natural gas (which could come from hydrofracking), about the cost of the conversion (estimated at a half billion dollars) and where the pipeline that would supply the plant would be located.

In addition to those specific concerns, a noontime meeting at Ithaca's Town Hall also included questions of the Public Service Commission's process toward a decision.

Many of the documents made public, includiing more than half of the plan owner's proposal, are unavailable. The document from the Cayuga Operating Company has pages and pages of blank documents. "Both sides have redacted environmental and economic information," Town of Caroline Council Member Irene Weiser told us. "These are essential pieces of information for the public to make a decision that's going to affect rate hikes, or if there are surcharges on electric bills for years to come. We have a right to know what we're paying for."

NYSEG indicates that no matter the decision on the plant, electric transmission lines need to be upgraded. Some at today's meeting say that would be enough to cover a projected power shortfall in high peak times, and would leave more time to review what happens at the Cayuga Lake Plant, including alternatives to natural gas. NYSEG was not at the meeting, however a statement on the proposal was sent to us (see below)

"As a rate payer, I don't like to pay more rate," Cornell Professor Elmer Ewing told us at the meeting. "I don't like to have an unknown. The unknown is what bothers a lot of us."

The Public Service Commission has extended the deadline for comment, until this Friday, but many at the meeting want it extended, so they can review new information, if it comes. Brian Eden, who coordinated today's meeting, said if the extension and information do not come, they'll consider taking legal action.

To file a comment, you can pohne (800)335-2120 or post on line at case # 12-E-0577

NYSEG provided CNYCentral with this information on its position, which indicates a primary concern over reliable power for its Auburm area customers, and preference for building an additional transmission line rather than getting power from the Lansing plant:

On January 18, 2013, the PSC directed NYSEG to evaluate repowering the Cayuga plant as an alternative to the companyâ??s proposed transmission upgrades. NYSEG was required to submit a report examining the relative costs and benefits of repowering the plant compared to the costs and benefits of alternative transmission upgrades along with its recommendation for future Commission action. NYSEGâ??s objective was to identify the best option to ensure continued safe, reliable service for our customers.

NYSEGâ??s Proposal

NYSEGâ??s study indicates that the overall costs and benefits of transmission upgrades outweigh the costs and benefits of repowering the Cayuga plant.

NYSEG has an existing reliability need to strengthen its system for the intermittent loss of generation at the Cayuga site (Phase 1 transmission project).

Having both Cayuga generators unavailable would create an additional reliability need on NYSEGâ??s system (Phase 2 transmission project).

Without either of the Cayuga generators operating and absent the transmission reinforcements, NYSEGâ??s Auburn area customers may be exposed to extended outages for approximately 500 hours each year.

Phase 1: Construct a new 14.5 mile, 115-kilovolt (kV) line in existing electric transmission rights of way from NYSEGâ??s State Street Substation in the City of Auburn to National Gridâ??s Elbridge Substation in the Town of Elbridge.

Phase 2: NYSEG and National Grid each own a portion of the existing transmission line from State Street Substation to Elbridge Substation, which will become overloaded if the Cayuga generators are unavailable. This line must be rebuilt to a higher capacity.

Phase 1 is dependent on receiving an Article VII certificate and other agency approvals. NYSEG will work to complete construction and energize the new transmission line in mid-2016. Phase 1 must be complete before Phase 2 construction can begin in order to maintain reliability. NYSEG will work to complete construction of Phase 2 by mid-2017.