An Early Christmas In Dunkirk

Christmas came early this year in Dunkirk. On Sunday, December 15, Governor Cuomo came to announce his support for keeping open the Dunkirk Electrical Generating Plant.

This is good for everyone in Chautauqua County: employees, construction workers, taxpayers and especially, electricity consumers. The Governor, of course, can’t unilaterally make a decision like this, but indirectly he can he appoints the members of the Public Service Commission who do make such decisions.

Electricity is something we take for granted. We get up in the morning, flip the switch and the lights come on. Each month, we grudgingly pay our electric bill and forget about the fact that a lot goes into making the electrical grid work. I remember many years ago when the high voltage line (the one you pass under when you drive from Mayville to Westfield) was built. Then there was a branch of it constructed down through the Panama area toward Lakewood and ultimately to Jamestown, in part to serve the old Art Metal (now Cummins) plant.

All of this was connected back to the generating plant at Dunkirk. Instead of being out at the end of a power line in the forgotten corner of New York state – we have been fortunate to have had power generation nearby providing reliability to our grid. Power outages are fewer and reliability greater the closer you are to the source of the energy. Wind, solar and renewable energy rely on the dependability of such baseload generation: so does manufacturing and modern farming.

In an unseen kind of way, the power grid connects us. We may never know all of the political forces that led to the Governor’s Dunkirk trip, but we should give credit to the citizens in the community who became involved and to our state and local elected officials as well as business and labor leaders who helped get the job done. The people of Dunkirk and the Dunkirk School District should be especially pleased that this economic engine will remain on the tax rolls.

It was good for our region that the Governor came to announce his support. Reliable public infrastructure should be one of the prime interests of government.

It is tempting sometimes to reflect only on the shortcomings in our body politic. The Dunkirk Repowering effort was a success. It was an early Christmas present for all of us who live here.

A Chautauqua County resident interested in analyzing public policy from a long term perspective writes these views under the name Hall Elliot.