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A view of the sprawling property where the ReEnergy Black River plant sits on Fort Drum. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

FORT DRUM  The company that has provided all of the energy at Fort Drum will keep a contract with the Department of Defense.

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, announced Tuesday that ReEnergy Black River LLC, Latham, will continue to operate its biomass plant that provides all the energy for Fort Drum.

Last week, Defense Logistics Agency announced that it will no longer seek to renegotiate its contract with ReEnergy.

“I’m so pleased to hear that the Army will be honoring its contract with ReEnergy, and that Fort Drum will maintain its status as the only 100 percent energy-independent, self-sustaining and off-the-grid military installation in the country,” Sen. Schumer said in a statement.

ReEnergy is a 22-megawatt facility that generates 162,000 megawatt hours per year and is located on post.

In 2014, the Army promised the Latham company that its $50 million biomass facility on post would provide 100 percent of Fort Drum’s electricity for the next 20 years.

The $289 million agreement was announced with much fanfare as the Army’s largest renewable energy project, and it would create 33 jobs at the forestry-waste-burning facility.

Rep. Stefanik said that the Department of Defense’s use of alternative energy strengthens its ability to conduct combat operations, humanitarian response and protects our national security.

“Fort Drum not only plays a critical role in national defense with its rapid deployment capability, it also continues to be a leader in pursuing energy solutions that enhance national security, training capabilities and operational flexibility,” she said.

Just a few years into the $289 million contract, the Defense Logistics Agency talked in June 2018 about ending the contract with the $50 million biomass plant and proposed using the electricity from the plant only for backup purposes, rather than 100 percent of Fort Drum’s energy needs.

After getting the senator and congresswoman involved in the situation, the Defense Logistics Agency agreed to discuss renegotiating the deal.

“Not only does this contract support good-paying jobs in the North County, but it also ensures that in the event of an attack on our power grid, Fort Drum could continue to meet readiness requirements without disruptions. I thank the Army for heeding my numerous calls and helping to promote Fort Drum’s energy security and reliability,” Sen. Schumer said.

The plant is a boost to the north country economy, with an estimated 300 jobs and many businesses associated with the power industry depending on work from ReEnergy.

When it was promised the deal, the company invested $50 million to convert the former coal-fired plant into a biomass facility and construct an intertie system between the facility and two electrical substations serving Fort Drum.

ReEnergy incurred $15 million of debt just to construct the intertie system.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(2) comments

rdsouth

Schumer and Stefanik decided to not pull out of a contract with a local company that powers Drum with local products and provides local jobs. It would be less corrupt to import something that destroys the environment. Failing to choose coal simply because it's coal is picking and choosing. When we don't collectively make sacrifices for the right private interests that's communism.

Holmes

Hmmm, it appears to be misuse of position and government resources, both a violation of the Hatch Act. Nothing like improper political interference of government contracts....

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