Hochul ends overhaul of Queens gas-fired power plant

The Hochul administration on Wednesday killed a fracking gas-powered power plant project in Queens – offering environmentalists hope they are dealing with a greener governor.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s decision came a week after Governor Kathy Hochul signaled to activists protesting the Astoria power plant replacement plan that she was on their side.

“I’m telling you, on this project, I’m with the people here today,” she said at the time.

In a statement released Wednesday, Hochul applauded the DEC’s decision, saying, “Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, and we owe it to future generations to meet our national climate and emissions reduction goals. “.

The decision effectively ended plans by energy company NRG to replace Astoria’s half-century-old ‘peaker’ power station with a new type of gas-fired facility, arguing that it would be necessary protect against power outages.

Spikes operate when electricity demand is high, such as during heat waves or cold weather, but they emit more nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide per unit of electricity than conventional electrical installations. These toxins can cause and exacerbate respiratory disease, as well as advance climate change.

By denying NRG’s air permit application, the DEC confirmed its earlier position that the proposed project did not comply with the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which mandates reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and increased electrification.

“We need to move to a renewable future,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. Tweeter.

“A Huge Blow”

The proposed replacement plant had drawn opposition from several elected officials — including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — as well as city residents who had protested the project for many months.

According to NRG, the replacement project would have resulted in reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cheaper electricity rates and better air quality compared to the current 50-year-old unit.

But that argument didn’t fly with the state, which indicated the company failed to prove the need or justification for the proposed project. NRG has also not offered a plan to meet the Climate Act mandate to have electricity generation zero emissions by 2040.

The proposed project would have operated more frequently than the current installation, resulting in “a new source of an increased amount of [greenhouse gas] emissions,” even taking into account greater efficiency, according to a note from Daniel Whitehead, director of the environmental permits division at DEC.

A rendering of the proposed state-of-the-art plant for Astoria
Courtesy of NRG

Whitehead also cited Con Ed’s three transmission projects – which are expected to be operational between 2023 and 2025 – which would help meet power needs and enable the peak to retire. The plant is expected to close in May 2023 when new state limits on nitrogen oxide emissions take effect.

In a statement, Tom Atkins, NRG’s vice president of development, said the company was disappointed with the DEC’s decision.

“It’s unfortunate that New York is turning down an opportunity to dramatically reduce pollution and bolster reliable food for millions of New Yorkers at such a critical time,” he said.

On Wednesday, the DEC also denied a permit for another new gas-fracking power plant proposed by Danskammer Energy Center in Newburgh, citing similar reasons.

“Hochul’s doing this is a huge blow to the fossil fuel industry and a huge win for New York’s climate movement,” said Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region Director of Food and Water Watch. “We really hope this will be the first domino.”

“Let’s protect our air”

Hochul’s shoutout to environmentalists suggesting she was opposed to the plant came on Oct. 18 as they demonstrated outside an event she was attending in Williamsburg, chanting, “Governor Hochul, show you care: Stop NRG, protect our air!”

She previously said her goal was to shut down “dirty polluting factories” when she backed new transmission lines to bring clean energy to the city.

“We are thrilled at this pivotal moment to signal an end to the long-standing pollution burden of peak power plants on the city’s most climate-vulnerable communities,” said Annel Hernandez, associate director of New York City Environmental. Justice Alliance.

Now conservationists want Hochul to continue the model for other fossil fuel projects in the city.

Local opposition to Astoria Generating Company’s plan to replace its peak gas-fired power stations located on barges off Gowanus and Sunset Park to provide “more efficient and cleaner power generation” is heating up.

The company has yet to formally submit permit applications for its proposal, which is similar to NRG’s.

A National Grid Depot in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on March 1, 2021.

The National Grid depot at Greenpoint
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Environmentalists planned to rally Wednesday night ahead of an event in Manhattan at which Hochul will speak to thank her for rejecting Queens Peaker’s proposal – and ask her to do the same for National Grid’s plan to expand its Greenpoint facility.

The company plans to add two new vaporizers to gasify low-temperature combustible liquefied natural gas, or LNG. National Grid also plans to extend the nearly seven-mile-long North Brooklyn pipeline currently under construction to this facility.

As THE CITY reported on Tuesday, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency plans to launch a civil rights investigation into the National Grid’s fossil fuel push following complaints that the projects are akin to environmental racism.

Several lawmakers had asked the Hochul administration to review a rate hike approved for National Grid customers in August that would partly pay for part of the pipeline.

“The DEC is sending a clear message today that fracked gas does not comply with New York law,” said Lee Ziesche, community engagement coordinator for the Sane Energy Project. “We look forward to the Dec and the Hochul government applying the same standard to coercive gas vaporizers offered by the national grid.”