Last coal power plant in New York closed this week


New York State’s coal-burning era ended Tuesday when Somerset Operating Co. officially retired its power plant on the shore of Lake Ontario in Niagara County.

It means the share of the state’s power generation coming from coal will fall to zero.

“We were the last coal-fired plant in New York State,” plant manager Brian Gregson said Monday.

The 675-megawatt plant, opened by New York State Electric & Gas Corp. in 1983, last generated electricity on March 13, when it burned off the last of its coal. The process ended at 12:02 a.m. March 14.

The plant sat idle more than it ran in recent years. It has been at least five years since the plant operated without interruption for as long as a month, Gregson said.

The plant’s 613-foot smokestack can be seen from as far away as Buffalo on clear days.

So could the emissions from the stack, although the plant won awards for emission control before the state imposed new regulations which in effect made it illegal to burn coal to generate electricity.

The business hasn’t been healthy for years. In December 2011, AES Eastern Energy, which had bought the plant from NYSEG in May 1999, went bankrupt because it was unable to pay bondholders.

The creditors formed Upstate New York Power Producers and took over the plant. Beowulf Energy of New York formed Somerset Operating Co. and bought the plant in 2016.

“Somerset as we have known it for so many years no longer exists,” Gregson said in a company news release. “This is a sad day for all of us here, and the corona pandemic has made it an even more difficult one.”

The shutdown means 52 people will lose their jobs.

Source: The Buffalo News