Actor James Cromwell Joins Power Plant Protestors In Dutchess

Jan 29, 2019

A natural gas-fired power plant expected to be finished in 2020 in Dutchess County, New York, is the target of ongoing protests. The latest featured actor and activist James Cromwell in an effort to raise the opposition’s profile.

Actor James Cromwell told the crowd of near 80 about his activist start in the civil rights movement. He then quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.

“This is a time for vigorous and positive action. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” Cromwell said. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy, and we will win.” 

It was Cromwell’s first time protesting against Advanced Power’s Cricket Valley Energy Center in Dover, though not his first power plant protest. Cromwell, an Orange County resident, was arrested and sentenced to a brief time in the Orange County jail in 2017 for blocking construction at Competitive Power Ventures’ Valley Energy Center in Wawayanda, a plant he demonstrated against numerous times and which is now operational.

“And the only way we can stop them is put our bodies on the line. That’s what happened in the civil rights movement. That’s what happened in the anti-war movement. That’s what the Black Panthers represented,” Cromwell said. “People, people power on the ground, and that I intend, as a person, to be involved in that.”

“And if you’re arrested, you’re arrested,” says Dunne.

“Yeah,” says Cromwell.

Stop Cricket Valley Energy member and demonstration organizer Charles Davenport says he met Cromwell while protesting across the river at the CPV plant.

“We’re not here for fun,” Davenport says. “We want to spread a message, and the more people we have spreading the message, the better.”

Cricket Valley Energy Center Project Director Scott Curry, in an emailed statement, says, in part, “Cricket Valley Energy Center will be one of the lowest-impact facilities of its kind, providing energy to 1,000,000 homes, $4 million in tax revenue, and significant economic development to the local region. Peak employment of nearly 1,200 craft workers is anticipated in February, 2019 to support completion of this highly-efficient combined-cycle power generation facility. The project remains on schedule and is expected to begin providing reliable, affordable energy to residents of the Hudson Valley in the Spring of 2020.”

The plant is being constructed on a former industrial site that Cricket Valley had remediated. Cromwell signed a letter calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to require the following:

“We are asking the governor to look at this again and demand that they do a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement so that this plant can be shut down because it represents a threat to this community and it actually, if you think about it, represents a threat to the entire world,” said Cromwell.

Erica Ringewald is spokeswoman for New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

“In 2016, following a comprehensive public comment period and review, this facility received its require Title V air permit. With this permit, as with all permit applications, DEC closely scrutinizes the application to ensure proposed projects are protective of both public health and the environment,” said Ringewald. “DEC then monitors and evaluates ongoing facility operations to ensure compliance with all existing laws and regulations, and we will continue to do so at this facility.”

Sachem HawkStorm is chief of the Schaghticoke First Nations.

“We have a reservation bordering Kent, Connecticut and Dover, New York. We’re in the blast radius of the Cricket Valley power plant,” HawkStorm said. “And we’re not getting any Free, Prior and Informed Consent about what’s been going about our air quality, about what’s going on with our water.”

Caroline Fenner is with Mothers Out Front Mid-Hudson Valley.

“I’m here because this massive 1,100 megawatt fracked gas plant is wrong for Dover, New York, and wrong for New York state,” Fenner said.

Wassaic resident and farmer Ben Schwartz says he is concerned about the environmental impact of the power plant and wants more studies. Schwartz also is one of four activists who was arrested January 16 for blocking a shipment in New Milford, Connecticut that was headed to the Cricket Valley site.  

“So what we did was we took a 1957 Massey Ferguson tractor and we pulled it out in front of one of the shipments of Cricket Valley with the media there, and we peacefully locked ourselves to the tractor. There was four of us,” Schwartz said. “And we did a civil disobedience. It went over really well. And we had a police negotiator and we had the media there. And it felt really good to just kind of put an exclamation point on our need to turn towards renewable energy.”

On the subject of civil disobedience, here’s Cromwell:

“I personally believe, as I said in my remarks, that the only thing that gets their attention is adverse publicity usually caused by civil disobedience,” Cromwell said. “I’m a strong believer in civil disobedience.”

Local leaders broke ground on the $1.58 billion project in June 2017.