The New York state Department of Public Service held two public hearings Wednesday on an application to repower the Danskammer power plant in the Town of Newburgh, along the Hudson River. The virtual hearings drew hundreds of commenters, with many opposing the proposal.
Prior to construction, Danskammer Energy must obtain a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need from the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. It’s part of what’s called an Article 10 process. The existing Danskammer facility operates as a so-called peaker plant — a natural gas-fired peaking facility with a capacity of up to 532 megawatts. Danskammer officials say the repowered facility would be a natural gas-fired combined cycle facility with a capacity of up to 600 megawatts. The Siting Board’s first public hearing ran more than four hours. Harriet Cornell’s family goes back generations in Central Valley, near Newburgh.
“To allow Danskammer to go from operating its Newburgh plant at less than 5 percent a year during peak periods only to the proposed new plant which will run 70 percent of the time year round will result in far more air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, including highly potent methane and known carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde and radon,” says Cornell.
Cornell, a Democrat, is chair of the Rockland County Legislature’s Environmental Committee.
“As a New York state resident, I am proud of the state’s actions as laid out in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The Danskammer proposal is antithetical to those goals and harmful to our economy, our health and the environment. It would erode the natural beauty of the Hudson River Valley, a major drier of the $5.3 billion tourism economy,” Cornell says. “It would disproportionately affect nearby vulnerable communities, particularly low-income neighborhoods, which will feel the brunt of the pollution from the plant.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019. Other speakers also say the Danskammer proposal flies in the face of the Act. Danskammer officials, however, say their $500 million project helps reduce the emissions that lead to climate change and serves as a bridge to meeting renewable energy goals. Town of Marlborough resident Chris Cerrone says he has worked at Danskammer and lives two miles from the plant.
“The repowering of Danskammer will be an important first step towards the goal of transitioning the Hudson Valley towards being 100 percent emission free by converting this and similar facilities that are needed for energy reliability to carbon-free hydrogen,” says Cerrone. “Additionally, the upgraded plant will no longer rely on water from the Hudson River for cooling purposes but instead will be cooled with air conditioning units.”
Andrew Moore, his wife and two kids live in Chelsea, a hamlet of the Town of Wappinger in Dutchess County, directly across the Hudson River from Danskammer. Moore says he can see the plant from his bedroom window.
“I don’t want my children exposed to the increased airborne toxins and pollutants and particulate matter that will be produced by this proposal,” Moore says. “Moving from a peaker use to a full-time operation produces a great increase of greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change, which will impact our children’s future.”
Aria Valdez has lived in the City of Newburgh for 30 years, and suffers from asthma.
“I love my home and I do not want to leave, but I will be forced to if Danskammer is approved,” Valdez says. .”Please show compassion for our community.”
Ann Logan opposes the proposal.
“I have asthma. Without medication, I sometimes have problems walking down the street. But I’m lucky, I live on the upper West Side of Manhattan, and that’s a place where this sort of project would never be put. I’m not the only person, though, who needs clean air. Newburgh’s population already has five times the national rate of asthma and the highest rate in the state,” Logan says. “It’s time we stopped dumping health problems on those of color and those who are economically a little bit less well-off than the upper West Side simply because they usually have less clout to fight the projects that will affect them the most.”
Marlborough Town Supervisor Al Lanzetta is hopeful there will be delivery of funds to his tax base.
“I would support Danskammer’s project. The new PILOT [Payment in Lieu of Taxes] that provides regular reimbursements to our school districts will help alleviate the tax burden weighing on our taxpayers,” Lanzetta says. “To know we have this additional tax base for the next 20 years will help Marlborough families.”
A few SUNY New Paltz students as well as representatives from various environmental and community groups denounced the proposal, as did six-year-old Gardiner resident Cassandra Benner.
“I want to stop Danskammer power plant from being built because it is unfair for us kids because we have to grow up in this world and we want it to be a good world, not a bad world that is polluted,” Benner says.
A DPS spokesman says the Siting Board must review the comments that have been received and make explicit findings regarding statewide electrical capacity; ecology, air, ground and surface water, wildlife and habitat; public health and safety; cultural, historical and recreational resources; transportation, communication, utilities; and cumulative impact of emissions on the local community according to environmental justice regulations.