The City of Newburgh is joining the conversation on the Danskammer Energy Plant in the Town of Newburgh. A resolution opposing the plant was put on the agenda at the City Council meeting on January 28.
After a presentation by Howard Taylor, Chief Operating Officer of Danskammer Energy, and a large outpouring of support from laborers and businesses in the region, the council voted to table the resolution for further consideration. The vote was split four to one with Councilman Anthony Grice voting against the resolution.
The resolution predicts serious environmental impacts if the project were passed. The resolution predicts the proposed plant will burn more fossil fuels and produce more air pollutants than the current plant.
“Children, the elderly and anyone with pre-existing health conditions affecting their lungs such as asthma or emphysema is especially harmful, whereas air quality in the Hudson Valley already violates federal air quality standards on some days,” read the resolution. “Everyone has the right to clean air and a safe and healthy environment.”
Passing this resolution would put the City of Newburgh in opposition of the plant, and encourages neighboring municipalities to do the same. The city would send a proposal to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to put the plant before the Power Plant Sitting Board, where Danskammer Energy’s application will be reconsidered.
“The thing I want to leave you with tonight is that what we are looking at is no new infrastructure,” said Howard. “It provides security, many benefits, more importantly we want to look at what can we do environmentally to benefit the existing plant. Also on our new facility we look at making this the most environmentally efficient site in New York.”
The facility sits on the Hudson River in the Town of Newburgh adjacent to the city. The plant was previously used for coal burning until 2014 when converted to natural gas. According to Taylor, the new facility will be more energy efficient than the current facility.
Councilmembers Ramona Monteverde and Karen Mejia were unconvinced in the environmental efficiency of the plant, they agreed to table the resolution but remained committed to voting in favor when brought up again. Grice voted agaist tabling the resolution.
“I was the one who initiated the resolution to be brought forth first as an item of discussion,” said Mejia. “The water we drink, the air that we breathe is of concern. In terms of being informed I want folks to know that when I bring items up for discussion I do my research. I am not an uninformed individual that is sitting here behind the counter, so some of the things you guys say when you come and have these conversations, right now in the previous iteration there were zero contribution in the taxes, the same impact for our school district. Those are the things we toy with when you bring up our economic impact. This is coming from our residents saying enough is enough. That’s why the resolution is brought forth.”
The decision to push the vote back another week, came after dozens of laborers and members of the industry came to the microphone speaking on behalf of Danskammer and the jobs it will create.
“A lot of people here are from local 17, despite what people might think there are a lot of City of Newburgh residents here, we do have a quite a few of city residents,” said Todd Diorio, Business Manager of Local 17. “I should note that Danskammer is committed, we met with them about using local labor and we are more than willing as the trades department and to work with the city as we’ve done in the past to bring more members in. Maybe we can work with Danskammer to get something going to get some of the City of Newburgh residents in with transportation. You read through this resolution there are a lot of things here that we don’t know are facts. All we ask as building trades is for you guys to take the time to read through it, if you don’t feel it’s what’s right for the city of Newburgh then you have to do what you have to do, but I think you only heard from one side.”
According to Howard the project will create 400 construction jobs for more than 30 months. Around 35 full time managerial and skilled labor positions are promised. It will cost $400 million in construction costs with $100 million spent locally.
A concern of council members was the amount that will go directly to the city. Taylor was unable to say the impact on the City of Newburgh solely, he could only predict the impact for the mid hudson valley community as a whole.