Rea­son for op­ti­mism

Pos­si­ble deal to re­use Hunt­ley Plant could re­solve many is­sues in Ton­awanda

The Buffalo News - - OPINION -

The de­tails are still un­known to the cit­i­zens of the Town of Ton­awanda but they can take heart that a so­lu­tion for reusing the shut­tered Hunt­ley Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion plant may be on the hori­zon.

NRG En­ergy has found a buyer. It is stay­ing mum on the com­pany, which has signed a let­ter of in­tent to pur­chase the coal-fired power plant along River Road, according to Su­per­vi­sor Joseph Em­minger. But the hush­hush na­ture of the deal can be for­given if there is a road clear to­ward re­pur­pos­ing what was once a toxin spew­ing fa­cil­ity which, if it were not for grass­roots en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fort, might have con­tin­ued even longer.

Right now, there ap­pears to be in­ter­est and a pos­si­ble agree­ment that would con­tinue to de­liver un­treated wa­ter to nearby com­pa­nies that de­pend upon it. This could be a win-win, al­though the de­tails mat­ter.

For ex­am­ple, it is not clear how long it would take for the par­ties to close the sale. Some is­sues to over­come in­clude ar­rang­ing fi­nanc­ing and sign­ing a for­mal pur­chase agree­ment. It is en­cour­ag­ing that the su­per­vi­sor noted that this is a first step “in a long road to get this prop­erty re­de­vel­oped.” The Town of Ton­awanda has sought pro­pos­als from en­ergy com­pa­nies, site se­lec­tors and devel­op­ers for the past cou­ple of years.

NRG of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment. How­ever, one rep­re­sen­ta­tive went as far as to say that the com­pany “has been ac­tively en­gaged in a na­tional mar­ket­ing and sales ef­fort since early 2008 …”

The plant has a long his­tory, dat­ing back to 1916. The plant de­liv­ered not only for the com­pany, but for the town, pro­duc­ing $6 mil­lion in lo­cal tax rev­enue. It had 79 em­ploy­ees yet ranked as one of Erie County’s “big­gest pol­luters.” The new own­ers would have a gen­er­ous amount of real es­tate, with the Hunt­ley site cov­er­ing 84 acres and in­clud­ing more than 2.5 mil­lion square feet of space in sev­eral struc­tures. Two other off-site parcels that add an­other 124 acres.

The river­front lo­ca­tion is a plus, at 3500 River Road and 4293 River Road. It in­cludes a 756-foot dock along the Ni­a­gara River. It also pro­vides quick ac­cess to In­ter­state 190, rail lines and a wa­ter treat­ment plant.

A large caveat ac­com­pa­nies any res­o­lu­tion. The plant clo­sure left be­hind a toxic residue from a cen­tury of coal-fired power gen­er­a­tion. Whether the plant is reused or struc­tures are razed is of ma­jor con­cern for res­i­dents. Cleanup costs will need to be ad­dressed.

While the town wants to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of tax in­cen­tives with the buyer, Em­minger said the town will con­tinue to try to ac­quire the prop­erty through em­i­nent do­main.

There are good rea­sons for the town’s ef­forts. Of­fi­cials want to pre­serve the flow of un­treated wa­ter to in­dus­trial cus­tomers such as Perox­yChem, tire maker Su­mit­omo and 3M O-Cell-Sponge.

De­tails re­main murky but there is fi­nally some rea­son for op­ti­mism when it comes to the Hunt­ley plant.

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