While U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer was on the city of Dunkirk pier talking about NRG's need to make full payments on its Dunkirk plant's PILOT program, NRG was still waiting on the results of a reliability study on the need for the Dunkirk plant in meeting the state's electrical needs.
Along with those present on the pier, NRG officials were also finding out about Schumer's statements - and taking exception to one of them in particular. In a release prior to his appearance, Schumer called on NRG to make the payments and not "skip out" on the next two years of payments.
David Gaier is the spokesman for NRG's Northeast Region and took issue with Schumer's contention the company would "skip out" on payments.
"We wouldn't be skipping out on any payment under any circumstances," Gaier began. "The PILOT agreement provides lower tier payments if any of the plant's four units are mothballed. NRG is not skipping out. If any of the four units are mothballed payments actually go down. There is no question on skipping out on any payments, NRG has and always will make the payments under the agreement."
Gaier said NRG is waiting on the state's Public Service Commission to issue its findings on NRG Dunkirk's necessity to the reliability of the state's electric grid.
"We're waiting to hear and our hope is we'll get a contract for one or more units to be kept online. Our hope is to preserve as many jobs as possible at the plant, which is what we've said all along," Gaier explained. "Throughout this process we've communicated regularly with the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency and County Executive Greg Edwards with respect to PILOT payments, plant employment and other issues. We've been working together for months on creative solutions which we think will provide the best outcome for the community, plant employees and taxing jurisdictions, and will continue to do that.
"We've also been in touch with the governor's office, which has urged all the parties to work collectively to find solutions to taxes, employment and system-reliability issues. They've supported our efforts and our approach."
Gaier noted it's been two months since the mothball notice was filed in March.
"We filed the mothball notice because the Public Service Commission required us to file the mothball notice before we go forward to seek a reliability contract to keep one or more of our units online. In other words, we filed a notice so we could continue to keep the plant running and not take it offline," he explained. "We really appreciate the strong support we've gotten from the local people and we think the community recognizes NRG is doing everything possible to keep the Dunkirk plant in operation and at full employment. We also want to recognize the efforts of Sen. Cathy Young, who has worked tirelessly to support the plant with legislation and other efforts.
"Nothing has changed and we're continuing to do everything we can to support the plant and to get a reliability contract."
Gaier said the slowdown had cost NRG a substantial loss in revenue.
"We invested over $200 million on backend controls, an investment we put into that plant," he stated. "We expected it was going to be running and we expected it to be making money."
County Executive Greg Edwards responded to a question about the PILOT during Schumer's pier appearance. He said the same entities that negotiated the original PILOT have been meeting for six months to explore, "every possible opportunity for us to have a contract, an agreement, that we continue to operate at least minimum level to keep them open, operating and contributing to our community is underway right now.
"NRG has been very good at having their highest-level people at that same table, having that negotiation regularly behind the scene," he stated. "I remain optimistic that there are a number of ways to do that, but first and foremost is the reliability study."
Whether NRG Dunkirk will make money in the short term is doubtful, given the various factors in play against that happening, especially the low cost of natural gas. The key thing, according to all involved, is to keep the plant open for the next few years in the hope it can again be a viable player in the energy market.
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