I am writing to support the Lighthouse Wind project along Lake Ontario.
First, let’s be clear, students of Barker Central School benefited directly through the tax base of the Somerset power plant. Years ago, I was one of those beneficiaries.
During the 1980s and 1990s, students from other districts referred to us as “pig farmers.” Yet, when we traveled to those same districts we ran on muddy tracks and swam in dilapidated pools. We, as BCS students, weren’t joking that we “burnt books to heat our school.” To the contrary, we had access to the best educational resources and athletic equipment as other school districts experienced broader economic decline. BCS and the Town of Somerset were revenue positive thanks to the power plant.
Somerset power plant is just an electric generator. Small by U.S. standards, it feeds into the electric grid. Its electricity is not earmarked for local residents, any differently than power from the Niagara hydro project. Electric grids work that way, especially when local demand is tiny. However, we benefited economically from the Somerset power plant’s physical location through good jobs, tax revenues and public works funding.
We received a 615-foot tall smoke stack “eyesore” ensuring others received our waste emissions, not us. Now, with advanced energy technology, there is opposition to local, sustainable development with minimal waste because wind turbines are tall and make far less noise than the coal train does?
There is also a myth that “political meddling” in Albany or Washington, D.C., is the primary culprit of coal’s decline. However, the global economy bears greater responsibility and the U.S. trend is towards more responsive and efficient forms of energy, namely natural gas.
Wind and solar power have marginal effects on coal’s economics, but not significant to the Somerset power plant’s viability. Canadian hydro and nuclear power undermine fossil generators in New York, also.
The Somerset power plant will ultimately close. There is no “War on Coal”; natural technology progression and grid interconnection are advancing us beyond coal power.
What will Somerset, Barker and BCS do to raise needed revenues upon the power plant’s closure? Its tax obligations, after multiple ownership restructurings, have plummeted already. Were students asked to wear jackets and hats so as not to “burn books or football equipment” last winter?
Will leaders support innovative projects to benefit the community for the next 20 plus years? Current opposition and unfounded legal roadblocks only help delay needed local economic development.
Wind power, just like coal that preceded it, is only one part in an overall energy mix. With Lighthouse Wind, we can leave our children with a cleaner future and provide them the best educational resources in the region.
In retrospect, I appreciate the Somerset power plant’s past. However, its’ closure is a certainty, if not today, then tomorrow. The community has the unique opportunity today to start a project that will support its tomorrow.
I know what I support, do you?
Originally published as a Letter to the Editor in the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal newspaper on October 13th 2016.
Image from The Internet, from Ontario, Canada. A contrast in notable landmarks, those from New York State seeing the skyline of Toronto & the CN Tower.