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Governor praises coal-to-biomass plant conversion at Fort Drum

Joanna Richards

Governor Andrew Cuomo traveled to Fort Drum Monday, where he toured an idled coal plant being converted to produce power using wood biomass.

Cuomo says he is going to send a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta urging the Defense Department to draw up a contract with the plant to provide energy to Fort Drum.The former coal plant is owned by ReEnergy Holdings, headquartered near Albany. The company is in the midst of converting the plant to run on biomass – in this case, the wood byproducts of the logging industry.

The plant's reopening is expected to create about 300 jobs and it could potentially provide for all of Fort Drum's energy needs.

Cuomo took credit for creating a more business-friendly climate in New York state. And he praised this project for its creation of green energy jobs.

"It's clear that our current situation of dependence on fossil fuels is unsustainable, and we must shift to renewables," he said. "Whoever does that first, and best, I think is at the head of the pack. And that's one of the reasons we're so excited about this project, because that's exactly what this project is saying."

The project is a priority of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, and recently signed a tax abatement deal with local governments.

CEO of ReEnergy Larry Richardson said the project couldn't have moved forward without the support of the Cuomo administration.

"Most importantly, the fact that under the NYSERDA Renewable Portfolio standards program, we will be selling renewable energy credits to the state of New York, and that contract, that was awarded earlier this year, is the largest contract awarded to a biomass facility in the history of the program," Richardson said.

Richardson said of the project's approximately 300 jobs, 33 will be created at the plant, and over 100 will be in the logging industry. He said he's hoping for a contract soon with the Department of Defense.