If the inclusion last week of $30 million in the state budget to assist communities like the Town of Tonawanda affected by the closure of electric power generating stations was like winning the Super Bowl, then the ticker tape parade was held Thursday.
A cross-section of elected officials, labor groups and others involved in the year-long advocacy effort on behalf of the town and Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District took a victory lap to celebrate the fund, which will offset the loss of $6 million in annual tax revenue from the closure of the NRG-owned Huntley power station.
“The future is a little brighter today for our town because of this mitigation funding,” said Town Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger said during an afternoon news conference at the school district’s administration building.
The state wants to phase out coal-burning power plants, and while Huntley is believed to be the first to close, it will not be the only one.
Now, focus is turning to how to eventually wean communities off the limited transition funding by spurring economic development at the sites of the former plants.
“The localities have been, if I may create a new verb, ‘Huntley’d,’” said Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Kenmore, who secured the funding. “They’ve been ‘Huntley’d.’ They’re left with the carcass of the plant. They’ve been left with a big gap in their revenue.”
Deputy County Executive Maria R. Whyte said federal help will be needed to clean up the sites and return them to productive use as the nation moves away from using fossil fuels for energy.
“This property represents potential development somewhere down the road,” she said of the 100-acre Huntley site on River Road.
In Tonawanda, the industrial area around Huntley is ready for a transformation, mainly through a brownfield remediation program, Emminger said.
“We’re entering a new phase of our town,” he said. “The River Road corridor is our growth area.”