LYONS — The loss of the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in the Wayne County town of Ontario would have a huge impact on tax revenues and jobs, warns a county economic development official.
“I believe it is important to keep that plant open until the end of its license (2029),” Peg Churchill, executive director of the Wayne County Industrial Development Agency and deputy director of economic development and planning, told the Wayne County Board of Supervisors’ Economic Development and Planning Committee last week.
As it stands, keeping it open until 2029 is hardly a given. The plant, which at one time was owned by RG&E, is now owned by Exelon, which said it is losing millions of dollars a month on the plant because other power producers, such as natural gas facilities, can offer lower-priced electricity.
A hearing last week in Rochester by the state Public Service Commission focused on a short-term plan that would allow Rochester-area consumers to subsidize the plant for $175 million over the next 31⁄2 years, which for a resident, comes to about $6 a month. RG&E, which gets much of its electric from its former nuclear plant, said it needs Ginna to stay open for at least the short-term until other power sources can be found. Otherwise, it claims, blackouts would be possible. While the deal would result in a few dollars a month for most residential customers, the hit would be higher for industries. Pactiv in Canandaigua attended one of the hearings this past week and claimed the deal would cost them nearly $2 million in electric bills over the 31⁄2-year period.
While the debate goes on for the short-term life of Ginna, Wayne County officials, fearing the loss of a reliable, albeit diminished revenue stream, as well as hundreds of jobs, is looking to the state for a long-term lifeline.
It is hoping nuclear power will be included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s effort to reduce carbon-based emissions by 50 percent by 2030. The plan is called the Reforming Energy Vision, or REV.
Churchill said that while nuclear power doesn’t hit all the marks as a renewable energy, it’s considered a steady source of energy that does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
A separate round of PSC hearings on the governor’s carbon-reduction plan takes place this week, including one at the Chili Town Hall on Thursday at both 2 and 6 p.m. Other hearings are scheduled around the state as well, including Oswego and Liverpool, Onondaga County.
Churchill has already written to Cuomo asking that the PSC include nuclear power in the REV initiative, “either as a transition piece or permanently.”
The hope is that if nuclear power is eventually going away, impacted regions would have time to develop new jobs to replace those lost from closing the plants, possibly in the energy sector.
But losing Ginna sooner than that would be a huge hit to the county, she said,
“For Wayne County, the loss of Ginna would be devastating,” Churchill wrote to Cuomo. “Combine the closure of several facilities over the past several years … [and] Wayne County might never recover.”
She cited the closure of the homegrown Heluva Good Cheese plant in Sodus and several other industries, as well as the state’s Butler Correctional Facility.
Ginna’s closure would result in the loss of hundreds of well-paying jobs and the “dramatic exit” of some of the highest-paid people in the county, she said. And “the multipliers for jobs (lost) … are going to change dramatically,” said Churchill.
It also would have a big effect on government finances, she noted. Under a payment in lieu of taxes agreement set up to help Ginna’s finances, the plant is paying about $2.1 million of the county’s $38 million tax levy in 2016.
Palmyra Town Supervisor Ken Miller, chairman of the Economic Development and Planning Committee, said he supports efforts to keep Ginna operating well into the future.
“Everybody knows Ginna is going to close (eventually),” said Miller. “Wouldn’t it be proactive to take some of the ouch out of it?”