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Letter: Public ownership of water intake is critical in Town of Tonawanda

We applaud the Town of Tonawanda’s consideration to build a $27.2 million pumping station in response to NRG pulling the plug. Once again, NRG is putting our community resources at risk, this time threatening to terminate raw water intake services.

Why does public ownership of this raw water intake matter? Public ownership increases transparency and accountability. Private operators usually restrict public access to information and do not have the same level of openness as the public sector.

Public ownership increases accountability. NRG is accountable to its stockholders, not to people who live and work in Tonawanda. A shift in ownership can increase accountability and viability of this service.

Public ownership will also help the town weather the Huntley plant’s closure long term. After the initial investment, Tonawanda can recoup $600,000 to $800,000 a year selling water to manufacturers, offsetting a portion of the millions each year the town is no longer receiving from Huntley payment in lieu of taxes.

Over the past four years, our coalition has worked to transition Tonawanda’s economy through Huntley’s retirement in a way that sustains and creates a tax base, provides family-sustaining, safe jobs, improves community health and is boldly visionary, setting an example for other towns and cities facing similar energy transition.

It is imperative that we transform the former Huntley site from a liability to a community asset. We believe that town control of raw water intake is a step in the right direction.

Rebecca Newberry
Executive Director, Clean Air Coalition
Kenmore Teachers Association
United Steelworkers, District 4

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