The St. Lawrence County Operations Committee showed its support Monday night for a resolution which would call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to restore biomass as an important renewable energy source in an effort to keep the doors open at the cogeneration plant on Fort Drum.
The plant provides an estimated 300 jobs across Northern New York to loggers, truck drivers, landowners, saw mill operators, and others involved in the forest products industry. But, according to the resolution, due to the failure to recognize the benefits of biomass and the forestry industry, the plant is being forced to close.
The resolution presented on Monday night was the second time the county has made an effort to stop the closing of the plant. With the resolution, the county would call on Gov. Hochul and state lawmakers to “reverse course and restore biomass as an important renewable energy source to strengthen the economy and encourage land stewardship and responsible forestry practices.”
“As everyone knows, we addressed this not too long ago and brought up a very similar resolution asking the state of New York to do precisely this,” said county Legislator James Reagen, R-Ogdensburg. “Sadly, it was in the news the past couple days that Gov. Hochul has abandoned her position.”
Mr. Reagen stated Gov. Hochul included language that would have kept the plant as a biomass facility in the state budget.
With the plant closing, Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division will be cut off from a reliable on-post electrical generating plant which supplies 100% of its energy needs.
“Closing the plant will make Fort Drum dependent on less secure energy sources that could be jeopardized by cyber attacks, sabotage, natural disasters, and major weather events,” the resolution stated.
In addition to this, the loss of 300 direct and indirect forestry industry jobs will impact 80 businesses across the region and could cost an estimated $25 million, which would have a multiplier effect on the economy.
Forestry owners, farmers, landowners, saw mills, wood pellet companies and local governments could also be impacted by the plant closing. As stated in the resolution, the closing of the plant would reduce the availability of well-paying jobs and increases the price of electricity.
“The big concern here is the number of jobs and the impact on the forestry industry,” said Mr. Reagen. “The impact on our forest land owners, the impact on farmers and others who own woodlands. There are a large number of jobs that are going to be impacted when the cogeneration closes.”
County Legislator Rick Perkins, R-Potsdam, echoed Mr. Reagen’s point.
“Some of the businesses that will be affected are small family-owned businesses,” said Mr. Perkins. “They’ll end up having to shut down.”
The committee voted unanimously in support for the resolution and it will be voted on at the full county board meeting on May 1.
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