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Energy

What do you do with a power plant no one wants?

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rchappo2002
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via Flickr
Any takers? With no buyers in sight, the mothballed power plant at Russell Station will soon meet the wrecking ball.

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Russell Station - the coal power plant on the shores of Lake Ontario near Rochester, that's been shuttered since 2008 - will now be demolished.

New York's Public Service Commission (PSC) announced on Thursday that plant owner RG&E has six months to draft a plan for demolition and environmental cleanup.

Thursday's decision by the PSC is actually part of a larger order issued by the regulatory agency. Here's what it boils down to:

It's a tough time to be selling power plants.

"Right now, the economics are such that it's not economical to build another [plant] or retrofit that plant to generate electricity," says RG&E spokesman Dan Hucko of the Russell Station property.

Ordered to sell

The decision to tear down Russell Station comes after RG&E parent company Iberdrola USA couldn't find a buyer for the aging plant.

Back in 2008, when the American arm of Iberdrola, a Spanish energy giant, purchased the parent company of local utilities RG&E and NYSEG, one of the conditions of the deal was that Iberdrola had to sell off its New York power plants that ran on fossil fuels.

So Iberdrola packed those plants, including Russell, up into a bundle, and tried to sell the facilities as a package deal.

But in trying to auction off the plants in one fell swoop, Iberdrola couldn't find a buyer. So they appealed to the PSC to try again, this time with different terms.

On Thursday, the PSC directed Iberdrola to sell off its plants individually, rather than as a group.

As part of that order, the PSC said Russell Station had to go.

"According to the [PSC] press release, the PSC is going to ask us to put together a plan to demolish the generation plant and put together a plan to remediate the site," says Hucko.

Hucko says demolishing Russell Station was one several options Iberdrola presented to regulatory agency. He says it's too early to tell what we'll be next for the site.

Tear it down

PSC spokeswoman Anne Dalton says the site's poor environmental condition made it unlikely that RG&E would ever find a buyer for the old coal plant.

As the PSC press release put it, "RG&E is likely to continue as the owner of the Russell site for some time."

The PSC says tearing Russell down is the best option. The agency says demolition will reduce the risk of further environmental damage at Russell Station.

Last year, vandals caused an oil spill at the site as they rummaged for copper piping.

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