Uninvited guests

Demonstrators gather at Danskammer event

By Lina Wu
Posted 2/12/20

Tara Vamos stood in the rain banging against her drum as she led a drumming circle of fellow activists and Hudson Valley residents. Other activists stood with them chanting and holding …

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Uninvited guests

Demonstrators gather at Danskammer event

Posted

Tara Vamos stood in the rain banging against her drum as she led a drumming circle of fellow activists and Hudson Valley residents. Other activists stood with them chanting and holding anti-Danskammer signs as cars drove past honking in support.

The group rallied on South Plank Road outside of the Danskammer office even as the rain showed no sign of stopping, last Thursday.

According to a press release for the rally from February 5, the  group was rallying against a town hall event  that was designed for the purpose of winning support among elected officials. The rally was only a small feature of a series of actions going back months against the Danskammer power plant.

Santosh Nandabalan of Food & Water Watch explained that the town hall event was announced two weeks ago. Santosh said that the town hall ran into scheduling issues and miscommunications. It was initially public but Thursday’s town hall session was a private event.

“This isn’t transparent of Danskammer,” said Nandabalan.

Food & Water Action, NYPIRG, Renewable Newburgh, Extinction Rebellion Hudson Highlands, U-Act, and local residents and climate activists participated in last Thursday’s rally.

Vamos is a Cold Spring resident. Cold Spring is only one of many municipalities that have joined the growing opposition against the Danskammer power plant. The Cold Spring Village Board voted to oppose the possible expansion of the Danskammer power plant on the Hudson River on June 25.

The City of Newburgh voted to oppose the power plant this past fall. The City of Poughkeepsie was the 14th city to oppose the power plant. Despite growing opposition, some municipalities and public officials haven’t expressed dissent to the power plant.

Experts have said that “there’s no need for the power generation that the new Danskammer [plant] would produce,” said Vamos. “It’ll create ten times the amount of pollution that the current plant creates.”

Vamos struggles with asthma. She explained that the amount of air pollution will make the quality of life increasingly difficult for individuals struggling with conditions like asthma.

“Asthma rates are already really high here,” said Vamos. “They’re just going to shoot up further which causes people to be sick. It causes people to go to the hospital. It’s a really unfair thing to ask.”

Taking a pause, Vamos expressed concerns over the power plant adding more problems to the current PFO/PFAS water contamination in the City of Newburgh and Town of New Windsor.

“Besides that,” said Vamos. “It’s just absolutely, not the right thing to do.”

Nandabalan believes the power plant won’t succeed. Standing under the rain, Nandabalan joined in chants of “We will, we will, stop you” to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

Despite the fight being long and tedious, activists like Nandabalan are dedicated to defeating the power plant. The group will be holding another rally outside of the Ulster County Legislature in Kingston on February 18.

“We want to make sure the public knows about it [the issues with the power plant],” said Nandabalan. “This is a dirty dangerous project. We’re not going anywhere, we’re definitely here at every step.”

Update:

On February 13, Michelle Hook,  Danskammer Energy Vice President of Public Affairs, responded to the rally over the phone.

"Food and water watch likes to twist things and just get some things flat out wrong," said Hook. She explained that the event was a stakeholder meeting rather than a townhall. The event was always private. 

Hook's position with Danskammer is required by the state.   By law she is required to do community outreach and stakeholder information sessions. To be able to disseminate information more efficiently, she holds meetings with 20 to 30 people invited. 

Hook had sent out personal invites to specific elected officials before the meeting. "The reason I did [that] was because I didn't want to  too many from one legislative body to come," said Hook. "That would be an open meetings violation."

Hook said an official from Ulster County forwarded to the event to Food and Water Watch.

"I started seeing on their Facebook page that they were going to stand outside of our office and protest the event," said Hook. "They were treating it like we were disseminating propoganda and we weren't being public about it." 

Hook emphasized the event was always private rather than public, one reason being space issues.  The venue had been changed to an undisclosed location before the rally. 

"I don't want them [those in attendance] to walk through an environmental picket line," said Hook.  "That's not fair to them."

"They [Food and Water Watch] acted like we were the bad actors here, when I'm required to hold these meetings. They were trying to thwart my efforts to disseminate information."

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