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County Legislators Urge NY Gov. To Halt Sheridan Ave Fracked Gas Plant, Seek Clean Energy Instead

Empire State Plaza
Empire State Plaza

Local officials are bringing their concerns about a proposed natural gas power plant in downtown Albany to power the Empire State Plaza to the governor.

A proclamation signed by 24 Albany County legislators was dropped off at the state capitol Thursday.  The paper, delivered to Governor Andrew Cuomo's office, calls on the governor to suspend what activists call the proposed Sheridan Hollow Fracked Natural Gas Microgrid and to issue a Request for Proposals to identify renewable alternatives to power the Empire State Plaza. (Scroll to the bottom of this article to view the proclamation.)

The proposed microgrid project would be located on the site of the old ANSWERS plant along Sheridan Avenue. During its heyday, the plant burned approximately 350 tons of waste each day, sending toxic materials into, and sometimes beyond the downtown Albany air.

People of Albany United for Safe Energy member Mark Dunlea says concerned citizens met with the governor's office Wednesday.   "We particularly questioned them about 'What did it mean that the Power Authority had agreed to take a step back and actually look at renewable energy alternatives. So far we've met with NYPA, they've been pretty dismissive of it, and what we want is for them to actually put out a full Request for Proposals to allow companies to come in and lay out how they could either use, say, geothermal or solar power to do what the state is trying to accomplish. The governor's office was unable to actually make a commitment and said they did not know what NYPA was thinking about at this point."

A spokesperson for the Cuomo administration told WAMC "NYPA announced further study on this two weeks ago."  Albany County Legislator Merton Simpson, co-chair for SHARE, the Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy, hand-delivered the proclamation.  "Well we don't wanna hear about studies. We wanna hear about a specific request for proposals. The information that we provided the governor gives a number of actual programs throughout the world where geothermal options have been used, from St. Patrick's Cathedral to the Nashville Airport. Right now, one of our major mentors and consultants is working with NYSERDA to develop projects all over New York state that actually use geothermal options. So the real question is 'Why is it that there are some places in the state that are doing what's right, but in communities of color, they're willing to do what the governor says he's against,' which is fracked fossil fuels, but they actually have a proposal which they said they're gonna look at alternatives, they're gonna consider alternatives. We don't want that kind of vague language. We want a concrete commitment to do what's right."

Dunlea fears the proposed microgrid would cause the Empire State Plaza to rely on natural gas produced from fracking for at least 90 percent of its electricity and 100 percent of its heating and cooling for years.  "It would basically commit this low-income neighborhood to another 30 years of having gas burned in their community. We think we can do a much cleaner alternative, and if the governor is serious about moving away from burning fossil fuels that he should be using the Empire State Plaza as a model."

Dunlea cites Oklahoma as an example of a state that heats its capitol geothermally.

Albany Co CUOMO Proclamation on Scribd

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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