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State adds funds to budget in case of coal plant shutdown

The allocation of $19 million in the state budget that’s designed to help communities affected by retiring coal plants was hailed Monday by the local Just Transition coalition. The coalition has been planning for the possibility of the retirement of the Huntley Generating Plant in the Town of Tonawanda.

Reduced operations at the Huntley plant have resulted in decreased tax revenue received by the town, Erie County and the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Schools. While environmental advocates urge the transition from coal-powered electrical generation to clean energy, it’s also anticipated that a full shutdown of that plant could have devastating economic impacts on labor and the community.

“We look forward to working with the Governor’s Office and Legislature to secure this funding for Tonawanda should the Huntley plant announce a retirement or mothball,” said Rebecca Newberry of the Clean Air Coalition. “I am proud of our collaborative work to find a bright future for Tonawanda.”

The funds were included among the last bills passed before the State Legislature recessed.

“The Kenmore Teachers are delighted that our Legislature is recognizing the adverse effects that declining Payments in Lieu of Taxes have on educational programs in our public schools,” said Peter Stuhlmiller, president of the Kenmore Teachers Association.

Added Richard Lipsitz, president of the Western New York Area Labor Federation: “Our coalition believes that foresight is always better than hindsight. While we have no knowledge of a retirement of the Huntley plant, we are in favor of preparing for any eventuality.”