NRG Energy has found a buyer for its shuttered Huntley Generating Station in the Town of Tonawanda.
An unknown company has signed a letter of intent with NRG to buy the coal-fired power plant along River Road, Supervisor Joseph Emminger said on Monday.
NRG recently informed the supervisor of the letter but did not identify the prospective buyer or say what the company plans to do with the site, said Emminger.
It's not clear how long it would take for the parties to close on the sale, but Emminger nonetheless greeted this news with enthusiasm.
"This is the first step in a long road to get this property redeveloped," he said.
An NRG spokesman declined to directly address any letter of intent, saying the company doesn't discuss the confidential conversations it has with elected officials.
"NRG does not comment on early stage sales processes," NRG's David Knox said in an email. "I can say that NRG has been actively engaged in a national marketing and sale effort since early 2018 with the intent to attract a qualified buyer with the financial capacity and experience to redevelop the Huntley Station."
NRG shut down the plant, which opened in 1916, in 2016 and officially listed it for sale through real estate broker CBRE/Buffalo one year ago. Robert Dimmig, the CBRE sales associate who is leading the firm's efforts to market the site, deferred comment to NRG.
At the time of its closure, the Huntley plant generated $6 million in local tax revenue and had 79 employees but also ranked as one of Erie County's biggest polluters.
The Huntley site itself covers 84 acres and includes more than 2.5 million square feet of space in several different structures. There are two off-site parcels that add another 124 acres.
The site, at 3500 River Road and 4293 River Road, also includes a 756-foot dock along the Niagara River. The Town of Tonawanda in 2017 sought proposals from energy companies, site selectors and developers interested in reusing the site.
The site has immediate access to the Niagara Thruway, main railroad lines and a water treatment plant, but there are considerable cleanup costs involved.
It remains unclear whether the plant would be reused or whether a buyer would seek to raze the structures and start over on the property. But it's likely any buyer is interested in the property primarily because of its riverfront location, and any redevelopment of the site would seek to leverage that asset.
Emminger said the town wants to meet with the buyer to offer assistance and information on available tax incentives.
Emminger said the town will continue its efforts to acquire the property through eminent domain, however, to preserve the untreated water that flows from the site to local industrial customers. The Town Board was holding a public hearing on the effort Monday but the earliest the board would vote is April 22.
Companies including PeroxyChem, tire maker Sumitomo and 3M O-Cel-O-Sponge use this low-cost, raw water in their manufacturing processes.
The town worries NRG would cut off access to this water, threatening the companies and their work forces. NRG has objected to the eminent domain effort, saying the potential legal challenge makes it harder to find a willing buyer.
On Monday, Knox said NRG has reached extensions on the water-sharing agreements with the two companies that directly receive raw water from Huntley: PeroxyChem and Sumitomo. Any other companies receive the raw water through PeroxyChem or Sumitomo, he said.