Choke Hold On Astoria
Arguing that Astoria already has its share of power plants and polluted air, the area's elected officials and community organizations joined last Saturday to strongly protest construction of a new, 500- megawatt plant in this community which, they charged, will add more smog to the atmosphere.
Leading the protest at 31st Street and 20th Avenue, City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. and Assemblymember Michael Gianaris called on state officials to investigate the placement of another power plant in this area, where five other plants already exist.
The protesters also called on the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to reconsider the awarding of the 20-year contract to Astoria Energy LLC to build and operate the plant to supply energy to governmental customers.
The project has the support of Governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental organization.
In registering his approval of the new plant, which will replace the aged Charles Poletti Power Plant in Astoria, the mayor stated: "Clean, reliable and affordable energy supplies are crucial for New York City's long-term needs. We're gratified to be partnering with the New York Power Authority on this initiative as part of a series of well planned measures that are consistant with PlaNYC, the city's blue print for a sustainable energy future."
Vallone, however, said it was "a gross injustice to add more smog to [the area's already polluted air", and Marshall concurred.
Gianaris (D- Astoria) denounced NYPA's award of the contract to Astoria Energy as "wrong headed... and a disgrace".
Gianaris charged: "The Power Authority should be ashamed of itself. It will now be directly responsible for increased rates of asthma and lung disease affecting this overburdened community. By rejecting other offers that would be better for the environment and sticking Astoria residents with another power plant, the Power Authority showed total disregard for the health of Western Queens residents and threw fairness out the window."
Officials of Coalition Helping Organize a [K]leaner Environment (C.H.O.K.E.), a clean air and environmental advocacy group supported these sentiments.
A NYPA spokesman responded that nine prospective power suppliers submitted about 30 proposals, reflecting various pricing and deal structures, in response to a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued last November for new generating capacity to help offset the closing, of the Poletti plant, by January 2010 and to meet increased power demand.
The NYPA spokesman added that the Astoria Energy proposal "ranked highest as the best option of the competing proposals for meeting the objectives of the Power Authority and the New York City government customers for new, clean, reliable and economical generating capacity."
Paterson identified some of the governmental customers as schools, hospitals, subways and commuter trains, public housing and other essential services in the city. Specifically, customers include the city of New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York City Housing Authority and the New York State Office of General Services.
The NYPA spokesman said the new generating facility will be among the cleanest natural gasfueled power plants in the country, featuring stateof the-art technologies that will improve air quality, since the plant's operation will displace power generation from older, dirtier and less efficient generating facilities.
The spokesman said these conclusions were reflected in the licensing approval Astoria Energy had previously obtained from the New York State Siting Board, which issued a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the new power generation.
The new plant, which is expected to be in service by the summer of 2011, will help to ensure clean, economical and reliable power supplies for such essential public services as schools, hospitals, street lights and subways and commuter trains.
The approval of the 500-megawatt power plant announced last Tuesday by NYPA is the second phase of construction of a 1,000-megawatt generating capacity by Astoria Energy on a 23-acre site in Astoria. The NYPA trustees authorized the new supply contract, pending completion of final negotiations with Astoria Energy.
In 2001, the state Siting Board approved the first phase of construction, which was completed in May 2006 when Astoria Energy placed in service a 500-megawatt combined cycle facility for providing power to Con Edison.
The new facility to be built will produce not only cleaner energy, but also cheaper energy. This will result from a combined-cycle technology for producing the energy in which hot exhaust gas normally lost in the combustion process is captured by heat-recovery steam generators to proments duce additional electricity. In doing so, the new facility will consume 30 percent less fuel per unit of electricity than a conventional power plant.
The benefits of this new process were noted by Ashok Gupta, air and energy program director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Gupta stated: "This new state-of-the-art, natural gas-fueled power plant will improve New York City's air quality by displacing electricity production from older, dirtier and less efficient generating capacity.
"When combined with aggressive energy efficiency programs like the state's '15 by 15 Plan', the result will be improvement in public health, reduction in global warming pollution and the lowering of electricity bills."
Chris McGrath, Astoria Energy LLC community representative, said that Astoria Energy was pleased to have been selected by the Power Authority to provide it with up to 500 megawatts of new, cleaner and "greener" electricity from a state of the art plant to be built on the site of its existing plant. "This new plant will allow governmental and charitable agencies to continue to meet the needs of Queens organizations and residents with the cleanest electric energy available, thus meeting the mandates that elected officials have placed on the Power Authority," McGrath said. "Astoria Energy is proud to be part of this process as it is proud to continue its participation in the many community activities in which we play a significant role going forward."