The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation has denied a key permit for a natural gas power plant in Orange County. The plant had been gearing up for full operations this month.
On August 1, the DEC issued a letter to Competitive Power Ventures’ Valley Energy Center in Wawayanda, denying its request for renewal of its air state facility permit. DEC spokeswoman Erica Ringewald says the agency denied the request because the current permit does not meet regulatory requirements.
“Specifically, revisions of the applicable regulations now require a Clean Air Act Title V permit to operate this type of facility. And this facility has not submitted an application for nor has been granted this type of permit,” says Ringewald. “Facilities of this size and nature must be subject to the most rigorous air pollution controls to ensure the public is protected. And Title V permits provide for greater transparency and community input prior to authorization.”
A CPV spokesman did not respond in time for this broadcast. Pramilla Malick is a longtime CPV plant opponent and chair of Protect Orange County.
“And what it means is that we could breathe easily for a little while because, during their testing phase, many, many people, including myself, were getting sick after being exposed to the emissions,” says Malick.
Malick, a Democrat who is running a second time for the state Senate seat being vacated by Republican John Bonacic, says this is not a death knell for the 680-megawatt plant, and people-powered pressure must continue.
“We reiterate our call for the governor, by executive order, to revoke all state permits, and they have many state permits right now. And he has the authority to do that,” Malick says. “And the residents of Orange County deserve peace. We’ve been living with this threat for years.”
The August 1 DEC letter says operation without a valid Title V permit is a violation of state regulations and federal Clean Air Act requirements. Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis, whose district includes Wawayanda, is just one of the lawmakers from both parties seeking the revocation of CPV’s air permit. The call came in April, following the March conviction of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s former top aide Joseph Percoco on bribery charges that involved state business with two companies, including the power plant. Skoufis, who is running for the state Senate seat occupied by retiring Republican Bill Larkin, says the permit denial is a win for Orange County, but more needs to be done.
“It’s clear Joe Percoco was found guilty, he was convicted, and CPV was intrinsically tied to that conviction. That is indisputable,” Skoufis says. “And so really, what I’ve been saying is, since the indictment and especially since the conviction, we have to take a whole new look at this. We should start over, if CPV wants to do that, but certainly the permits that they’ve earned, that they’ve won approval for are suspect now. And they’re questioned, they should be questioned and, in the meantime, they should be withdrawn.”
In April, CPV spokesman Tom Rumsey said the project permits “were never alleged to have been obtained in an improper way, nor was any evidence provided suggesting they were. The validity of our project permits has been upheld by state and federal regulators and in state court, and claims to the contrary are without merit.”
CPV has been operational using its backup source of diesel fuel. The company’s web site notes that the facility was put on standby by New York’s grid operator to meet the soaring demand during the last heat wave. In July, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave Millennium Pipeline Company the green light to operate its Valley Lateral pipeline connecting to CPV. The web site says now that gas is available, the final testing and commissioning phase is underway.
Meantime, Republican state Senator Terrence Murphy from Westchester County is calling for an immediate meeting of New York’s Indian Point Task Force to address the potential aftermath of the DEC’s denial of the permit. Murphy says that power generated from CPV was supposed to replace a portion of the power from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which is slated for closure beginning in 2021. And while he applauds the DEC’s denial of the air permit on both environmental and political grounds, he remains concerned about replacement power for Indian Point.