A public comment meeting Thursday evening on the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities' proposed $145 million "clean coal" power plant project, predicted to be stormy, turned out to be relatively mild.
Comments during the four-hour session in Jamestown High School's auditorium were divided between commercial and civic leaders, who said it would be good for business, and clean power advocates, who said it is not needed and would only be a nuisance.
Many business owners said that having low-cost energy available in Jamestown will attract businesses in the future and keep them here. Not having the new power plant -- which would be built at the site of the Carlson Generating Station and BPU administration offices on Steele Street -- could mean higher rates and discourage business from moving to the region.
Todd Tranum, executive director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier, said the group paid $30,000 to hire an independent consulting firm to study the project.
"You may ask why would an organization bother to spend that kind of money to analyze such a topic. The answer is we were concerned. Ultimately, we wanted to know if there were any other viable alternatives," he said.
In the end, Tranum said, they found it was better to have the BPU produce power locally than to purchase it from an outside source.
Jamestown School Superintendent Ray Fashano, who supports the project, said eliminating the power plant and not having a new facility built would cut the tax base by $1.5 million.
Fashano also pointed out that two school buildings use the heat from the existing power plant in the winter months.
Among the opponents was Walter Simpson, speaking on behalf of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, who said the proposed power plant is unnecessary.
"Eighty percent of Jamestown's power comes from low-cost hydro purchased from the New York Power Authority," he said. "The remaining 20 percent is a combination of NYSIO grid purchased power and self-generation."
Simpson said that self-generation is modest and easily replaced by less costly energy strategies, such as wind power or biomass energy, than by building a new coal-burning plant.
Simpson said the proposed plant, operating at 75 percent capacity, "would annually emit 340,000 tons of carbon dioxide, equal to the emissions of over 50,000 cars and trucks. This is not clean coal."
He also called the plant "a political loser" because outgoing Gov. George E. Pataki and incoming Gov. Eliot Spitzer are against it.
Colin Chase, a local businessman and self-described wind power advocate, said the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the plant never fully explored the possibilities of wind power generation in Jamestown.
"New York ranks 15th in the nation for wind energy potential. Wind power is a highly viable alternative solution, along with concerted demand-side conservation efforts," he said.
A Draft Environmental Impact Statement was approved by the BPU in October and is scheduled to be voted on by the City Council later this month.