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NRG to start Huntley layoffs in March

NRG Energy will start laying off employees at the Huntley Station power plant in March, as it shuts down its coal-fired facility in the Town of Tonawanda.

The layoffs will occur from March 31 to June 30. NRG still plans to close the plant March 1, said David Gaier, an NRG spokesman. “Not all employees at the plant will depart immediately. They will do work on decommissioning.”

The layoffs and plant closing were anticipated since NRG last August submitted a plan to the state Public Service Commission to permanently retire the plant along the Niagara River in March. NRG at the time said it did not “foresee any scenario where the plant will be economically viable.”

NRG has not yet determined what it will do with the property after it closes, since it is still too early in the process, Gaier said.

The plant ranks as one of Erie County’s biggest polluters. But its closing will also mean the loss of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for the town and the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District. The looming shutdown has sparked discussions about how to best reuse the property, ensure the displaced workers find new jobs, and how to make up for the lost revenues.

Last week, local leaders, including County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, sent a joint letter to the PSC, urging the commission to look closer at other options before NRG closes the plant.

The letter said municipal officials want “to better understand the process under which NRG can retire the Huntley units and what options exist to forestall, prevent or ameliorate this eventuality or allow for potential repowering.”

The officials said repowering was an option that was supposed to be considered under state law before any decision to allow Huntley to be shuttered.

Separately, NRG is putting its Dunkirk Power Station on “mothballed status” starting Jan. 1. NRG planned to repower the Dunkirk site with natural gas, but said that plan is “on hold” after another energy company filed a federal lawsuit to block the $150 million project.

NRG has told the state Department of Labor that layoffs of 64 employees at the Dunkirk site will begin in late February. The Dunkirk facility is a major source of tax revenue for the city and for Chautauqua County.