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Power Plant Opponents Say Link To Federal Probe More Reason To Stop Construction

James Cromwell
James Cromwell

Opponents of a planned fracked gas power plant in the Hudson Valley say they are hoping the US Attorney will investigate decisions made in the permitting process for the plan, now that it’s been revealed that the wife of a former top aide to Cuomo took payments from the lead engineering firm in the project, and that her husband is the subject of a federal probe.

The activists, who include actor James Cromwell, say they’ve witnessed the years- long process to approve the power plan with growing unease and bewilderment. They say their concerns about potential pollution, overreliance on fracked gas, and encroachment of historic sites and endangered species’ habitats have been ignored by Governor Cuomo’s Department of Environmental conservation and other state and federal agencies.

They say their interest was piqued when it became public through state financial disclosure forms that the wife of Joe Percoco, Governor Cuomo’s former close associate and a former middle school teacher, received between $75,000 and $100,000 from a consultant to Competitive Power Ventures. The company, also known as CPV, is building the power plant. CPV confirmed to Newsday that it has been subpoenaed by the US Attorney and is cooperating fully with the probe. Competitive Power Ventures is a major donor to Governor Cuomo, giving his campaign $75,000 in recent years.

Pramilla Malick, with Protect Orange County, says the group is posting over 10,000 documents it’s collected during its fight on its website and handing them over to US Attorney Preet Bharara.

“[We’re] urging him to cast his net deep and wide,” Malick said.

Cromwell and five others were arrested last December for trying to stop the plant. The actor in numerous films and television series including Babe and the Green Mile says building the plant commits the US and the rest of the world to yet 40 years of dependence on fossil fuels.   

“This is a completely crackpot and insane idea of how we should move off of fossil fuels to a non polluting resource,” Cromwell said.

The group says they also want to hand over their documents to the investigator that Governor Cuomo appointed to review the questions raised by the federal probe.  They say all work on the power plant should be halted while the investigation continues. They also said they asked for a meeting with Governor Cuomo weeks ago and were told the governor would see them, but so far that gathering has not occurred.

The governor’s office released a letter from Cuomo’s top counsel to the heads of the state Power Authority, Department of Environmental Conservation, and Public Service Commission, telling them to cut off all contact with Competitive Power Ventures, while the probe continues saying there’s reason to believe that there was improper lobbying and undisclosed conflicts of interest.

A spokesman for the governor says the Power Authority still needs to give permission for the plant to connect with a major power line in order for it to go forward, and that process is currently “on hold”.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.