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NYS DEC holds public hearing on Danskammer appeal

Courtesy of Riverkeeper
Danskammer Generating Station

In late October, the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation denied an air permit for the Danskammer Energy Center in Orange County. The permit is required for the repowering of the plant to move forward. Danskammer officials appealed the decision to DEC and, about one month later, filed an appeal in court. DEC held a public hearing earlier this month.

DEC issued a notice of denial of Danskammer’s Title V air permit October 27, after reviewing more than 4,500 public comments. On November 23, Danskammer appealed the decision, and DEC held a public hearing February 15. The majority of those who commented, such as Sheila Conroy, urged DEC to uphold its decision.

“Danskammer’s application has changed nothing. It’s the same application that they presented before,” says Conroy. “You rightfully denied it and I urge you to deny it again.”

Danskammer’s current facility is along the Hudson River in the Town of Newburgh, where Dean Tamburri lives.

“I’m in favor of the project,” Tamburri says. “I hope the DEC sees that it can go through.”

Others connected with local labor felt similarly. No one from Danskammer spoke during the hearing. Danskammer Energy wants to build an up to 600-megawatt, gas-fired power plant. The new construction would be adjacent to its peaker plant, which operates only at times during peak electrical demand. In denying the air permit, DEC said the proposed project does not demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and would be inconsistent or interfere with the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits established in the Act. Dansakammer’s attorneys, in their December 23 Article 78 proceeding filed in state Supreme Court in Orange County, say this rationale is unconstitutional, legally erroneous, arbitrary and capricious. A DEC spokesperson says the agency does not comment on pending litigation. To file the appeal in court, Danskammer first had to appeal the decision to DEC.

Tamsin Hollo lives in the City of Newburgh, a few miles from the plant, and is a steering committee member of the Newburgh Clean Water Project.

“Once again, I urge you to deny permits for Danskammer to protect the health of our local community. Our residents are already disproportionately shouldering environmental burdens, including lead and PFAS. Our childhood asthma rate is currently three times state average,” Hollo says. “Residents here will simply not survive increased emissions in addition to the existing environmental stressors. And for what? The energy’s not needed for our grid. It’s simply a moneymaking proposition for a Madison Avenue offshore investment cartel. We cannot trade local black and brown lives for profit.”

Michelle Hook is a spokesperson for Danskammer Energy. In an emailed statement she says, quote, "New York needs to decide if its goal is truly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to simply eradicate the use of natural gas. In recent years, it seems to be the latter. Many of the energy policy decisions made by New York regulators and politicians have actually had a more detrimental effect on statewide emissions. Denying Danskammer does not mean cleaner air. It just means very old, high-emitting plants in the Lower Hudson Valley will continue to run - and run more now that Indian Point has been shuttered." End quote.

She refers to the decommissioning Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County. Becos Ashoka is a Beacon resident and a member of Sunrise Movement, a youth movement to stop climate change.

“As a resident of Beacon, this would disproportionately burden the air quality of my community and the environmental justice community of the City of Newburgh, across the river,” Becos says. “We should focus on creating good union jobs in renewable energy, not fossil fuels.”

Union workers say there aren’t many green job opportunities in the Hudson Valley that can provide them with good, living wages. Mike Dunn is a construction worker who lives about a mile from Danskammer.

“This project’s going to create 450 new construction jobs with about $200 million payroll over the length of the project,” says Dunn.

Danskammer supporters say the $500 million project also will provide tax revenues for local schools and towns. Guy Jacob is conservation chair of the South Shore Audubon Society in Nassau County on Long Island and agrees with DEC that issuing an air permit for the Danskammer repowering project would fly in the face of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

“Permitting the buildout of fracked gas infrastructure while we construct offshore wind farms is like eating raw spinach in one hand while eating fried pork fat with the other,” Jacob says.

The public comment period on Danskammer’s appeal to the DEC ends today (Tuesday, February 22). Mail must be postmarked by February 22 while electronic comments are due by 5 p.m.

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