Cornell Calls Foul: Rockland Legislator Speaks Out Against Proposed Power Plant

Rockland County Legislator Harriet Cornell is leading the call for additional hearing dates after some citizens were not provided with the opportunity to speak during a state hearing on a proposal by Danskammer Energy LLC to build a new power plant on the shore of the Hudson River. The utility company is currently applying for a permit to construct a new 600-megawatt natural gas-fired plant next to its established 70-year-old 532-megawatt plant in Newburgh.

Legislator Cornell did get the chance to testify during the day-long hearing conducted by the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, popularly referred to as the Siting Board.

Legislator Cornell, chairwoman of both the Rockland County Legislature’s Environmental Committee and the Rockland County Task Force on Water Resources Management, told the Siting Board that it would be a mistake to approve such a short-sighted project – a proposal that she noted engenders more than local concern because it will affect communities up and down the Hudson River.

If approved, the new 600-megawatt plant would replace the older site, which would be converted to house batteries to store energy for the power grid.

New York State has made strides in transitioning to renewable energy and clean alternatives,” Legislator Cornell said. “To allow Danskammer to go from operating its Newburgh plant at less than 5 percent a year during peak periods to a new plant that would run 70 percent of the time year-round would result in far more air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, including highly potent methane, and known carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde and radon.” 

Legislator Cornell stated that Danskammer’s project is “antithetical” to the goals of New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act “and harmful to our economy, our health and the environment.” New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) calls for 70 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources – wind, hydropower, solar – by 2030, with a shift to 100 percent carbon-free power by 2040.  

Cornell also noted that there is no proven need for a new power plant and that a 2018 New York State Independent Systems Operator (NYISO) needs assessment found no statewide gap in power generation or transmission capacity in the next decade, even in the wake of the closure of the Indian Point power plant. Cornell further argued that it would be “extremely irresponsible” to establish a power plant at the proposed location, which is notorious for flooding.

Further, she stated that it was extremely irresponsible to site the new plant in a flood prone area where flooding had occurred during Hurricane Sandy. With sea level rise and storm surges, the negative effects would be widespread. 

Climate change is not ‘fake news,’” Legislator Cornell said. “It’s real; it’s happening, and it requires immediate action to stop incrementally expanding fossil fuel energy generation – and to make smart choices in the face of narrow, short-term interests. I strongly urge the Public Service Commission to reject the Danskammer proposal and further… to support strategic smart-growth priorities that are sustainable, cost-effective, climate friendly and conserving of both energy and natural resources.” 

Danskammer’s application was deemed complete by the sitting board on March 1. That action launched a formal Article 10 permitting process, which could take anywhere from a year to 18 months to be completed. The Article 10 process allows for evidentiary hearings and public comment. Cornell is encouraging concerned residents to email comments to the Secretary to the Siting Board at secretary@dps.ny.gov.