Out in the western portion of New York there is a coal fired power plant located in Dunkirk which is operated by NRG Energy. It’s an aging plant and they recently made the decision to convert over to natural gas. The reasons are varied, but there’s obviously been a lot of pressure from the government to get away from coal energy. Plus, natural gas prices are at historic lows, while producing fewer carbon emissions so the government was all on board with that also. It’s a great plan, right? Unfortunately it came to a screaming halt this week, two years after being cited by the Governor’s office as a great victory all the way around. (Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin)

An aging western New York power plant’s $150 million transition from coal to natural gas is officially in limbo, less than two years after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local officials held a news conference heralding the plan.

David Gaier, a spokesman for NRG Energy, said Tuesday the company has put its plans “on hold” for the power plant in Dunkirk, Chautauqua County. The company also alerted the state Public Service Commission it plans to close another plant in Tonawanda, Erie County.

Gaier pointed to “uncertainty” surrounding the Dunkirk project created by a lawsuit filed earlier this year by a subsidiary of Entergy Corp., the company that owns the Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan, Westchester County.

What went so wrong? As mentioned in the article, there are too many known unknowns about the future of the plant because of a lawsuit brought by the energy company which operates the Indian Point nuclear plant. You see, as part of the deal which the state worked out to ensure the conversion of the Dunkirk plant away from coal, they secured huge subsidies to come from the state and also through additional fees handed down to consumers. With that big of a thumb on the scale, Indian Point was finding it tough to compete.

Entergy Nuclear Operations has accused the state Public Service Commission of illegally influencing the New York’s energy markets by approving a package of subsidies for a coal-fired plant in Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, that is converting to natural gas.

“The (Dunkirk) deal undercuts the prices paid to other power plants for the services they provide, financially straining their ability to remain competitive and ultimately leading to early (power plant) retirements,” Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said in a statement.

Just for some icing on the cake, NRG Energy has another coal fired plant in Tonawanda, New York which might have followed the same pattern, but now they basically thrown in the towel and are just shutting it down. The government’s anti-coal, anti-carbon agenda drives a lot of interesting decisions these days and they mostly involve Big Brother jumping in and picking winners and losers to satisfy the demands of their core constituency. Those plants not only provide a lot of jobs in the struggling upstate economy, but they kept a solid, reliable source of power on the grid. But by jumping in the middle of the energy market, the state government was cutting the legs out from under the nuclear power producers. (Which, by the way, produce zero carbon.)

This set of events played out rather differently in the media, but it’s still an embarrassment to Governor Andrew Cuomo who was crowing over how well he had handled the entire thing. But as usual, people without the skills required to run a lemonade stand probably shouldn’t be dipping their toes into anything as massive and complicated as the energy market. Unfortunately it’s probably too late for the workers at these plants. At this point I’m just hoping that there’s enough juice on the grid to keep the lights on this winter.