This week the Southern Ulster Times interviewed Michelle Hook, Vice President of Public Affairs for Danskammer Energy LLC, seeking her comments on last weeks reporting of a meeting in the City of Beacon by opponents of a new $400 million power plant that is being proposed beside the company’s old plant, located on the shores of the Hudson River in the Town of Newburgh. The original plant burned coal and in recent years it has used natural gas.
Danskammer’s new gas-fired plant will produce up to 550 megawatts of power and serve 500,000 residents. In a recent newsletter, Danskammer CEO Bill Reid said the company is committed, “to make Danskammer cleaner and more efficient and to help New York create a bridge to a renewable energy tomorrow by providing power that is needed today.” Reid welcomes the public approval process, “because we know the project can stand on its merits and we are committed to transparency and engagement.”
Danskammer has touted some of the key advantages of a new plant: when needed it can power up in minutes rather than the 11 hours that it now takes for the old one. The new plant will use up to 50% less natural gas than at present and will pass lower energy costs on to consumers. Overall there will be 80% to 90% fewer emissions coming from the proposed plant, according to the energy company.
The new plant will be air-cooled rather than draw water from the Hudson River as the old one has done for decades. The plant will require no new roads, pipelines or transmissions lines in the modernization process.
Opponents of the project have stated that the old plant only runs about 5% of the time and the new one will run “24/7 approximately 70% of the time: thus producing more emissions. Hook questioned the coupling of 24/7 with a 70% figure since 24/7 means 100% of the time.
Amber Grant, a City of Beacon Councilwoman, stated that another fossil fuel burning plant is not needed in the Hudson Valley but Hook said the New York Independent System Operators refute this claim. Press releases from the NYISO, however, are not in complete agreement with Hook’s assertion. NYISO has stated that steps are being taken to meet the electrical needs in the area and that the loss of energy due to the closing of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant by 2021 will be made up, in part, by three new plants that are built or are coming online: Bayone Energy Center (120 MW), CPV Valley Energy Center (678 MW) and Cricket Valley (1,020 MW). Hook stressed that while the state is moving toward renewable energy, “it is not going to happen overnight” and a plant like the one they are proposing is needed.
Critics state that emissions from a new plant would be “tenfold” over the level it is presently. Hook pointed out that even if the plant were to run 30% to 50% of the time, the reduction of nitrous oxide and other particulate matter is “so great” that overall there will be a net improvement. She added that because today’s newer plants are so efficient they are not the cause of asthma and respiratory issues and will actually offset the amount of pollution that is emitted from other older area plants, such as Roseton next door and the Bowline Point power plant in Haverstraw.
Hook said Danskammer earned $11 million in 2018 and $500,000 in 2019, before interest and taxes, and including amortization and depreciation.
Hook presented estimates on the decreased levels of emissions on a per hour basis from the proposed plant: a 95% reduction in Nitrous Oxide, 88% reduction in CO2, 85% reduction in Volatile Organic Compounds and a 75% reduction in Particulate Matter.
Hook said her company is committed to helping transition from a dependence on fossil fuels; “absolutely, but it’s not instantaneous and making our existing infrastructure as efficient and as clean as possible in the meantime is a step in the right direction while we’re waiting the many years it’s going to take to build the wind and solar and then build the transmission lines to bring that power to downstate residents.”
Hook said building a new plant does not lock the Hudson Valley into a fossil fuel facility indefinitely.
“We will be there until there is a good replacement to help the state meet its renewable energy target and we’re offering a much cleaner option for the region than they’ve had there for a very long time,” she said.
Hook said if given the chance to explain the proposed facility people will understand that, “we are not the big, bad devil coming to town; we’re an existing facility and we’re cleaning it up.” She said after she explains the project, people say, “this makes sense, why wouldn’t we have this here, why wouldn’t we support this.”
Hook said once the Public Service Commission determines Danskammer’s application complete “and no longer deficient in any areas” there is a year of review that will take place before a decision is made on their proposal.
“There are many experts reviewing our application on the state level. If we aren’t needed and don’t fit the state’s energy objectives, then we won’t get permitted and won’t get built. They will make their decision based on their obligation to provide reliable energy to the residents and businesses of New York,” she said.
Todd Diorio, of Local 17 and President of the Hudson Valley Building and Construction Trades Council, said, “the building trades are 100% behind the Danskammer Power Plant.” He said from the very beginning Danskammer has made a commitment to use local union labor to build the plant that will create 300 to 500 construction jobs.
Diorio said he has met with nearly 50 elected officials, with Scenic Hudson and Food and River Watch about the proposed plant, which he feels is far better than the old existing plant.
“We’ve been just about everywhere because what’s happening out there right now is that misinformation being put out by some of these groups. I and my kids live in this town (Marlborough) and if I really thought it was harmful I wouldn’t put jobs over my family’s health,” he said.
Diorio said people may not realize what will happen once Indian Point closes down in a few years.
“We need a way to still get electric to our homes, once way or another and heat our houses,” he said. “Not a lot of people believe the goals set by the Governor for 2030, 2040 and 2050 are really going to happen and we still need the megawatts to power the area. We’re not going to get that with wind, we’re not going to get that with solar in the time period the Governor wants to get to.”
Diorio said if a new plant is not built, the old plant will run perhaps 50% to 60% of the time.
“Do the math on the carbon emissions that’s going to happen; it’s not a good thing,” he said. “Right now, I believe this (proposed) plant serves the need till we get to that point where we can rely fully on renewables. If you could tell me tomorrow you were going to build solar plants and there was going to be a big wind project (so) we wouldn’t need this power plant, I would say I get it we have a way and we don’t need fossil fuels anymore.”
Gil Piaquadio, is Supervisor of the Town of Newburgh where the plant is located, supports the project. He said approval of a plant of this size and capacity is done by the Public Service Commission and not by his Town Board.
“We really have no vote on it but of course you could always come out with a resolution one way or another opposing it, but I chose not to because I want to see a more efficient plant go in rather than an old one run more often,” he said. “I don’t think anyone on my board has come out against it.”