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Huntley power plant buyer announced, while Tonawanda wants site by eminent domain

Mike Desmond
The Tonawanda Town Board mulls the future of the Huntley Station.

There are two parallel tracks underway regarding the future of the Huntley Station power plant in the Town of Tonawanda. Owner NRG says it has a buyer for the closed plant, while the town is still seeking to take the site by eminent domain.

When the plant was at full capacity, Huntley was nearly the biggest taxpayer in Erie County. It is not worth all that much now, as there is no electricity coming out of the River Road site and it is a complicated brownfield site.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
The River Road site is being sought by a new buyer and the Town of Tonawanda.

The Tonawanda Town Board held a public hearing Monday night about the planned takeover. NRG opposes the deal. NRG lawyer Elizabeth Holmes said her client does have a contract continuing the 25 million gallons of water a day going to industries around the old power plant.

Town lawyer Marc Romanowski said keeping that water flowing is a key issue.

"The Town Board had considered repeatedly existence, non-existence of whether or not there are agreements in place and the Town Board view on this has been: We need stability," Romanowski said. "This is a critical asset for the industry and to play this kind of cat and mouse game, where you don't know whether these industries are going to have water or not, is not something that the Town Board can sit idly by and allow."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Town attorney Marc Romanowski says keeping water flowing is a critical issue.

Speaker Craig Speers said there is a much better solution: reopen the plant.

"The better solution is to allow NRG to continue to operate the system and to push New York State hard to re-power the Huntley plant to burn coal, natural gas or biofuels - and strike a deal with NRG," Speers said.

That is unlikely because the plant was closed on the basis that there is not that much demand for its electricity.

The town only wants 57 acres of the site, including a strip directly along the Niagara River. There is a brownfield cleanup in the works for the area, where coal was piled for a century to be burned to generate electricity.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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