The New York state Department of Public Service held two public hearings Wednesday on an application to repower the Danskammer power plant in Orange County’s Town of Newburgh, along the Hudson River. The virtual hearings drew hundreds of commenters, with many opposing the proposal. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne has the second part of our story.
Danskammer Energy wants to build a gas-fired facility with a capacity of up to 600 megawatts. The new construction would be adjacent to its existing peaker plant, which operates only at times during peak electrical demand. 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. Beacon City Councilmember Air Rhodes says the proposed plant would be three miles from Beacon, across the Hudson River.
“Dutchess County’s air quality already has a ‘D’ rating from the American Lung Association, and COVID-19 has stressed our respiratory systems,” Rhodes says. “We can’t afford more pollutants in our local air.”
Daniel Ortega supports the project. He’s with the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative Local 825.
“We feel that anti-natural gas groups are using fear tactics to misinform elected officials and residents of our region to stop this and many other projects,” says Ortega. “We hope the Public Service Commission will take the time and fully consider the many benefits that this project has to the community.”
Danskammer says the project would provide 450 local union construction jobs. Dr. Courtney Williams is with the City of Peekskill’s Conservation Advisory Council.
“Peekskill, like Newburgh, is an environmental justice community. We do not want to participate in the harm to another community,” says Williams. “We do not want power from fracked gas.”
Williams than switched hats and spoke as a scientist and Hudson Valley resident.
“Nothing new came out today that wasn’t said in opposition to the AIM pipeline, in opposition to CPV, in opposition to Cricket Valley. It is all the same. We come and prostrate ourselves in front of the PSC asking you to do the right thing and protect our communities, and we are ignored over and over again. Please stop," Williams says. "It is time for the PSC to go rogue. I personally will set up the GoFundMe and contribute to a PSC employee who draws the line and refuses to participate in the harm to our community.”
She refers to the CPV Valley Energy Center in Wawayanda, Orange County, and Cricket Valley Energy Center in Dover in Dutchess County, which are both operational. Chloe Holden is a researcher for an energy consulting firm focused on natural gas, solar and energy storage industries. She says Danskammer is not needed for energy reliability.
“For several years now, the data has clearly shown that solar energy paired with lithium-ion battery storage power generation can be used cost effectively instead of gas-fired power plants. Solar storage paired with… solar paired with storage is already being installed instead of gas-fired plants all across the U.S.,” says Holden. “This technology is proven, it’s safe and it’s cost competitive, and it makes it unnecessary for repowering projects like the Danskammer plant to move forward.”
Others say battery storage projects, like in Ulster County, make more sense. Danskammer officials says the plant’s current building could accommodate battery storage and the company is researching the possibility of such a project, if the repowering permits are granted. Cornwall resident Douglas Land sits on the boards of various land trusts, including Scenic Hudson.
“The only way that Danskammer was able to complete its application to you was by inclusion of this fantastical hydrogen conversion fiction,” Land says. “This is pure fantasy and in of itself this should be reason to reject this application.”
Cornwall, near the Hudson River, can be visible from Danskammer and several Cornwall residents spoke against the $500 million project. Plans show an upgraded Danskammer could transition to zero-emission hydrogen power when the technology is available to transport and store hydrogen. Town of Marlborough resident Chris Cerrone lives two miles from Danskammer.
“In my opinion, the repowering of the Danskammer plant checks all the boxes — a more efficient, safer and much-needed power-producing plant, creation of local union jobs, additional tax revenue and a great community partner,” says Cerrone.
So far, the state has received more than 10,700 comments.