First public hearings held on proposal to expand the Danskammer plant

I testified during the afternoon session in opposition to this proposed plant that would be powered but fracked gas from Pennsylvania.

Many of the hundreds who spoke were relatively local while I live down the Hudson on Manhattan. I made three points in less than three minutes. (1) They would Never have thought of putting such a plant in my neighborhood — so much easier to put it in the middle of a community of color without enough clout to fight it. (2) Anything that happens upriver is going to affect me, coastal Maine, and the rest of the globe. (3) NY was one of the first states to ban fracking and adopted legislation in 2019 calling for zero emissions by 2040. Food & Water Watch (and others) have successfully stopped efforts at running pipelines thru the State. This proposal is just another attempted end run around NY voters by getting a permit to burn gas fracked in Pennsylvania. 

There’s plenty of time still to file written comments before the 12 months expires for making the decision.

https://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Hearing-on-re-powering-Hudson-Valley-gas-plant-16067443.php

Hearing on re-powering Hudson Valley gas plant draws lots of speakers

Danskammer plant looking to eventually burn hydrogen fuel in Orange County facility

Photo of Rick Karlin

Rick Karlin March 31, 2021Updated: March 31, 2021 5:09 p.m.

NEWBURGH — With a ruling expected inside of a year, nearly 300 speakers signed up for a web-based public hearing Wednesday afternoon on a proposal to rebuild and re-activate the Danskammer power plant along the Hudson River near here.

A second hearing before the Public Service Commission’s Electric Generation Siting and the Environment also was set for Wednesday evening.

Even though the plan submitted to the Public Service Commission has been deemed to be complete, most of Wednesday’s speakers said they opposed the plant due to the pollution that an expanded larger natural-gas fired facility would emit.

“We have clean energy programs on the way,” said Beth Hoeffner, an Orange County resident, referring to the state’s push, under a landmark 2019 law calling for greenhouse gas reductions in the coming decades.

“The emissions will worsen climate change,” said Caroline Fenner, with Mothers Out Front, a nearby Dutchess County group.

“I’m not the only person that needs clean air,” said Ann Logan, a resident of New York City’s Upper West Side.

Like some others who spoke against the plant, she lived outside the plant’s immediate location in the Newburgh area. But like others, she referenced the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which lays the groundwork for a transition to green energy such as wind and solar to meet future power needs. The law calls for carbon free electricity in the state by 2040.

Others noted that the plant would use fracked natural gas from out of state, even though New York has banned drilling for such gas amid fears of harming the water supply.

The Danskammer plant isn’t new or closed. Dating to the 1950s and originally built to burn coal, the facility currently operates as a “peaker,” plant which is fired up during periods of peak power need, usually in summer when air conditioning use strains the grid.

But owners Danskammer Energy Inc. are proposing a $500 million plan to retire its current equipment and rebuild the plant, user newer cleaner technology for a 600-megwatt capacity plant to operate on an ongoing basis. Part of that could be to fill any energy holes created by the coming shut-down of the last unit at Indian Point nuclear plant near Peekskill. They say the plant would run 60-70 percent of the time but because it would use new equipment, would offset pollution such as nitrogen oxide that older gas plants in the area currently emit.

Danskammer also wants to be able to eventually transition to using cleaner hydrogen fuel rather than gas, although that plan has drawn its own controversies.

Hydrogen proponents cite its abundance – it can be made from water — and its cleanliness, as advantages.

But skeptics say it’s relatively unproven for large-scale power plants. And they note that extracting hydrogen from water, the H in the H20, requires energy.

Others believe the push for hydrogen is a way to buy time for the natural gas and the pipeline industry, when the focus should be on solar or wind.

Hydrogen also is found in natural gas.

There were some supporters on Wednesday including local officials who say their community would get a property tax boost and a new plant would be an improvement.

“To know we have this tax base for the next 20 years will help Marlboro families,” said Alphonso Lanzetta, Marlboro supervisor.

Christopher Cerone, a local labor union representative, noted that the re-built plant would be air-cooled rather than using Hudson River water.

The Public Service Commission and its Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment has in the past asked for more information on the plan, especially regarding its proposal to use hydrogen or even biofuel to see if that is feasible.

The Commission is expected to approve or disapprove the plan within the next 11 months.

Department of Public Service spokesman James Denn said in a prepared statement that “The public hearings that are being held are part of the Siting Board review process. 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, etc.; and cumulative impact of emissions on the local community according to environmental justice regulations.”

“This stringent and exacting 12-month review,” he added, “includes determining whether the facility is a beneficial addition to or substitute for generation capacity and that it is in the public interest.”

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