The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation held two public hearings Wednesday in Middletown on draft air permits for the CPV plant in Orange County. Opponents urged DEC to reject the permits and shut down the plant.
Competitive Power Ventures Valley Energy Center in Wawayanda has been operational since fall of 2018. In August 2018, DEC staff had denied CPV’s request to renew its Air State Facility permit, saying the permit had failed to meet current regulatory requirements. Then, on May 29, DEC released two draft Title V and Title IV air permits for public comment. The July 17 hearings were part of that process.
Town of Goshen resident Judy Skelly choked back tears during her comments. Citing Andrew Cuomo’s recent Catskills Challenge announcement, Skelly called on the New York governor to take advantage of a photo op for the CPV issue. Her son lives a quarter of a mile from the plant and she worries.
“When will we get the attention we need to shut this monster down? When will our families and concerns count?” Skelly says. “When will Cuomo take a ride down on his motorcycle to show up at one of our hearings? We’ll take pictures of you, Governor Cuomo.”
Longtime CPV plant opponent and Protect Orange County chair Pramilla Malick:
“This is the biggest and most important permit. This is the permit that we fundamentally had always opposed,” Malick says. “We’ve always opposed this plant because of its emissions, because of its air emissions, because of the pollution and because of the health impact that is implicit with those types of emissions.”
Several residents spoke about the onset of health conditions with the plant’s operation, such as nosebleeds, headaches, breathing problems and more.
“My wife, who never had breathing issues, now uses a nebulizer daily. She’s on a cough assist machine daily. She carries around an inhaler with her, and she’s on medication,” says Hurst. “And she is so anxious that she’s afraid to go outside. And it just breaks our heart. This is not fair to the people who live here.”
That’s Randoph Hurst, a 32-year resident of Slate Hill. He lives about a mile from the plant in a passive-active solar home he built on an organic farm.
“As we speak, my wife is in New Mexico working with a realtor to see if we can find… relocate to a place where we can breathe the air,” Hurst says.
CPV Senior Vice President for External Affairs Tom Rumsey, in a statement, says, “The public meetings are important because they’re an opportunity for interested parties to discuss the facts around our facility. Clearly for some, facts are in short supply. When the discussion is focused on data, it’s clear CPV is good for the environment and the regional economy.”
“It’s a health issue, it’s a safety issue and it’s a fundamentally human rights issue,” Malick says.
“If DEC approves this air permit, what are the options?” Dunne asks.
“We’ll sue,” says Malick.
Malick and other opponents contend the 680-megawatt natural gas power plant was built on bribes, citing the conviction of Cuomo’s former top aide Joseph Percoco on bribery charges that involved state business with two companies, including the CPV plant.
Orange County resident and actor James Cromwell noted he was preaching to the choir with regard to the 40 or so people who attended. He spoke about his opposition to the plant in the context of climate change.
“We must demand justice. We must take back our government, take back our democracy and change this,” Cromwell says. “Stop this bloody plant.”
Of the 25 people who spoke, one did not outright oppose the DEC’s granting CPV the necessary air permits. Bruce Marley, a former utility company employee, said the opponents have lots of good arguments but are veering away from the issue at hand.
“And I’ll hearing about is how we’re using fracked gas, we’re using this and that and we got bad politicians,” Marley says. “What does that have to do with the air quality?”
In concluding his comments, Marley said:
“I don’t know why, your honor, why this permit would be denied unless if CPV is out of compliance with their air,” says Marley.
A DEC statement says the agency continues to monitor operations at this facility to protect public health and the environment and will bring swift enforcement action if violations are detected. The public comment period closes July 29, but Malick is asking for an extension. Malick filed a FOIL request for DEC’s monitoring results and says her group needs more time to receive and evaluate that information.