The Lansing Town Council passed a resolution on Dec. 18, 2019, to establish an advisory committee to oversee the future of the Cayuga Power Plant. The Cayuga Operating Company (COC), which owns the plant, plans on converting it into either a data center or some sort of energy storage structure.
According to the resolution, the committee will be tasked to “promote transparency through effective communication between the Cayuga Operating Company, Lansing Town Board, the LAC-PPF, New York State authorities, other interested organizations and the public;” “provide public engagement and outreach opportunities by holding regular open LAC-PPF meetings and through other means of communication;” “explore possibilities and propose solutions to issues associated with or affected by the transition;” and “support Cayuga Operating Company in its seeking of state funds and/or other incentives to ensure the power plant transition, if in the best interest of the Lansing community.”
In addition to establishing the committee, the Town Council also appointed the following members of the committee: Hilary Lambert (Steward/Executive Director of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network), Robert Jetty (Chief Operating Officer of Distributed Solar Development, LLC), Dr. William Klepack (Medical Director of the Tompkins County Health Department), licensed professional engineer Robert Bland, Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne, Eileen Stout (owner of Rogues’ Harbor Inn), communications professional Lauren Chambliss and Lansing resident Sue Ruoff.
This past October, after applying for a 25 megawatts of hydropower allotment to the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to begin the transition process, COC was granted just two megawatts, Lambert said.
Though she is a resident of Dryden, Lambert believed she could provide an important perspective on water quality protection to the committee while also remaining respectful of the fact that this is a project related to Lansing.
“You have a wonderful site there on the shoreline of Cayuga Lake. A lot of decisions have to be made how that site is going to be used,” Lambert said. “Just upslope of the power plant itself is a significant coal ash waste fill. It’s a regulated landfill. It’s carefully monitored by state authorities, the Department of Environmental Conservation and so on. A large part of it is aligned and…coal ash contaminants could be leaching out from the bottom of the landfill, getting into ground water and maybe getting into the lake.
“I’m just concerned that some of the proposals for redevelopment of the site might sort of forget about this. It’s kind of what I call a ‘legacy pollutant’ that we must not forget about in our rush to redevelop the site.”
Chambliss said she will be bringing her communication skills, her experience working in the field of environmental advocacy and her experience as a business journalist covering Wall Street to the committee. She said she wanted to be a part of the committee to help garner community support around a transition that would create more jobs and improve the community’s tax base.
“I think it’s really fantastic that the Town Board has opted to put this committee in place, I think, because it’s a bipartisan committee representing many, many different, diverse interests in the community,” Chambliss said. “It will be a model for other cities or towns that are considering some sort of industrial transition and how the community could be more engaged and involved in that process to make it a win-win for everyone.”