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Advocates say it’s time to shut down Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant in Albany

Residents speak out on cancer impacts from the Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant. (July 8, 2024).
Dave Lucas
Residents speak out on cancer impacts from the Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant. (July 8, 2024).

Residents living in the shadow of Albany's Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant area calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to address the impacts of climate change on the neighborhood. 

Resident and members of SHARE, the Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy, gathered on a sweltering Monday afternoon outside the facility, calling on Hochul to shut the steam plant down and to sign the superfund bill to protect New Yorkers against future climate harms.

State lawmakers passed the Climate Change Superfund Act before the session ended in June. It requires fossil fuel companies pay for project costs involving climate change. Governor Hochul hasn’t acted on the bill yet.

Albany County Legislator Merton Simpson represents the 2nd district. He says fracked gas is pumped in every day from Pennsylvania to power the facility.

"We're here today to give testimonials to people who have been victimized by environmental racism since 1911," said Simpson. "There are members here since the early 50s who have had family members or themselves who have been subjected to carcinogenic outputs from this same facility. The governor has met with the Pope and talked about climate change, but as some of my old friends used to say, she's preaching in her underwear. You can't have daily exposure... right now, we have people from former Burma, Myanmar, who live right next to this facility, and on the other side, they don't even know what they're being subjected to. But again, they continue to marginalize people of color and subject us to the worst environmental hazards."

Simpson says residents continue to be harmed by the outputs from the Sheridan Avenue steam plant, and previously from the Answers plant, which operated from 1981 to 1994. Lillian Garland says many of her family members died of cancer.

 “We grew up on Clinton Avenue, we played at the basketball courts. We would come in, there'd be ashes all on our hair, our eyebrows. We would have to literally change our clothes before going in the house and take a bath because it was too much soot on us. I'm asking the governor again the last time I asked Governor Cuomo. Please shut this plant down. I'm tired of losing family members. I'm tired of losing people in our community. We suffered enough,” said Garland. 

In May SHARE released areport on solutions, including using geothermal technology to heat and cool the nearby state capitol and Empire State Plaza without fossil fuels.

Elaine May is with the Powerhouse Residents Community Association, which seeks justice for families that lived on Orange Street, Sheridan Place and Sheridan Avenue.

"The properties that are around this area are built on top of soil that is contaminated to this very moment right now. And it's a sad state of affairs that families are moving into areas and don't even know what they're living on top of and what they're breathing each and every day. It's got to stop just being all about the money. Lives are important. Everybody deserves a quality of life," said May.

The governor's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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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