Hundreds of New Yorkers, including local Hudson Valley residents and others from Manhattan and Brooklyn, expressed their opposition to the Danskammer Power Plant in a two-part public hearing comment period on Wednesday, March 31 held by The New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, also known as the “Siting Board.” Each session, the first beginning at 1 p.m. and the second at 6 p.m. (both hours long), gave the opportunity for community members to share their thoughts on the potential growth of the power plant during a three minute time slot.
The speakers ranged from a 6-year-old calling for a better future for the next generations to come to grandparents hoping for the same. Others were state and local officials, from assemblymen to council members. Concerned citizens spoke against the power plant, noting the effect it has on climate change, the altering health effects especially for those with asthma, it not being in alignment with New York State’s green energy plans, and how what is happening could be considered environmental racism considering Newburgh’s population is majority Black and Brown people.
“Newburgh already struggles with numerous environmental and racial justice issues…. from PFOS and PFOA in our drinking water, lead paint in our homes and bomb trains traveling through our community,” said Orange County Legislator Kevindaryán Luján in expressing his opposition. “We were also amongst the hardest hit in the region by COVID-19 and the lingering health risks this pandemic will leave behind.”
The Danskammer Power Plant is located in the Town of Newburgh and made an application at the end of 2019 to repower the Danskammer facility on a more frequent basis. Currently, the facility operates “as a natural gas fired peaking facility with a capacity of up to 532 megawatt,” and is in operation less than five percent of the time. The repowered facility “would be a natural gas fired combined cycle facility with a capacity of up to 600 megawatt and limited provisions to burn ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel as a backup fuel with approximately five days of on-site fuel oil storage,” said the New York State Siting Board in the notice for the public hearing.
“New York has just 19 years to transition into an emissions-free grid, and the Danskammer Power Plant is a significant obstacle in doing so,” said New York State Assemblymember Robert Carroll of Brooklyn.
Former New York State Senator Jen Metzger also spoke at the hearing, following up in a Tweet saying she can sum up her comments about the proposal in two words: “wrong direction.”
Others made emotional appeals and statistical appeals as well. One speaker, a 17-year-old from Cornwall, described the effect it would have on the Stonykill Education Farm and its animals, located just two miles from Danskammer.
The opposition isn’t new by any means. Organizations like Stop the Plant have been putting out guidance about Danskammer for a while now. Online, at stoptheplant.org, it has shared the issues it sees with Danskammer including the fact it would emit over 25 times more particulate matter, more than 25 times more volatile organic compounds and over 40 times more climate-warming greenhouse gases annually.
Despite a majority in opposition, a handful of speakers did express their support as well, saying the proposal does in fact have its merits and would help the Town of Marlborough and the Marlboro and Newburgh school districts, give the community a property tax boost, and that the new plant is an improvement.
“To know we have this tax base for the next 20 years will help Marlboro families,” said Alphonso Lanzetta, Town of Marlborough supervisor.
However, Donette Smith, candidate for the Town of Newburgh town board, said (in a post-public hearing interview) these things can’t possibly outweigh the negative effects.
“I believe in jobs and I support union workers but these building jobs are going to be temporary and the remaining ‘new’ ones will be about 20 jobs as Danskammer notes themselves on their initial application,” said Smith. “If Danskammer believes that we really need more energy and they want to provide it then nothing is stopping them from doing in a green energy manner instead.”
The public hearing wasn’t the last opportunity for community members to share their concerns, especially considering it had to be cut at 10:30 p.m. with speakers still left to go. Comments can be submitted throughout the pendency of the case, and for timely consideration the Siting Board recommends sending them by August 31. Community members are welcome to send comments through the New York State website at dps.ny.gov and search by the case number 18-F-0325.