2010-02-03 / Front Page

Poletti Plant Closes

BY JASON D. ANTOS

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr, and his father, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., congratulate each other on the closing of the Charles Poletti power plant in Astoria. The closing comes about after more than 30 years of effort on the part of both Vallones. City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr, and his father, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., congratulate each other on the closing of the Charles Poletti power plant in Astoria. The closing comes about after more than 30 years of effort on the part of both Vallones. The New York Power Authority (NYPA) permanently ceased operations at the Charles Poletti Power Project in Astoria. The end came at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, January 31 when the 885- megawatt generating unit was shut down for the last time.

This action was done in accordance with an agreement reached in September 2002, which recognized the benefits of replacing older power generating plants with new, more efficient generating capacity that will improve air quality while continuing to meet energy needs.

“This is an important day for Astoria, the environment and all of New York City,” former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. said. “The people of Western Queens will breathe better as a result of the victory that we’ve accomplished.” Vallone Sr. organized protests during the early 1970s that led to the replacement of coal with oil and eventually natural gas at the Poletti power plant.

(L. to r.): City Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, 36th AD), NYPA President and CEO Richard M. Kessel, Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., New York City Economic Development Corporation Senior Vice President for Energy Policy James Gallagher, N.R.D.C. Director of Energy Policy Ashok Gupta, and CALDC President and Community Board 1 Vice Chair George Stamatiades mark the final shutdown of the Poletti power plant in Astoria. Photo Jason D. Antos (L. to r.): City Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, 36th AD), NYPA President and CEO Richard M. Kessel, Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., New York City Economic Development Corporation Senior Vice President for Energy Policy James Gallagher, N.R.D.C. Director of Energy Policy Ashok Gupta, and CALDC President and Community Board 1 Vice Chair George Stamatiades mark the final shutdown of the Poletti power plant in Astoria. Photo Jason D. Antos The victory comes eight years after Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and members of the environmental group Citizens Helping to Organize for a Kleaner Environment (C.H.O.K.E.) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (N.R.D.C.) initiated a lawsuit against NYPA to shut down the city’s most polluted power plant, resulting in a settlement that included the agreement to close down the Poletti Power Project upon the completion of a new, more efficient 500- megawatt natural gas-fired power plant.

“This news comes as a breath of fresh air,” Vallone Jr. said. “This is a major victory, not only for Western Queens, which has been oversaturated with power plants for many years, but for the entire city.”

“So many of us have waited years for this day to arrive,” Borough President Helen M. Marshall said. “We look forward now to working with Governor [David] Paterson, local elected officials and community groups to continue to reduce air pollution and improve the quality of life for all our residents.”

The new state-of-the-art plant, which began commercial operation in December 2005 and shares the 47-acre Poletti site, is one of the cleanest, most efficient energy generating facilities in New York City. Under the 2002 joint agreement, NYPA reduced the proportion of oil used in favor of natural gas, a cleaner fossil fuel. That was in addition to limiting the project’s electricity production to approximately one-third its maximum output.

The agreement also requires NYPA to invest an additional $50 million over a five-year period in energy efficiency and clean energy projects in New York City. NYPA also spent $2 million on local clean-air projects in Queens, including investments in solar power technology, zero-emission electric vehicles, advanced emission-control technologies and green-roof systems.

“I’d like to publicly thank the NYPA employees who have operated and maintained the Poletti plant over the last 33 years,” NYPA President and CEO Richard M. Kessel said. “Collectively they have shown great dedication and professionalism and deserve our recognition and thanks for a job well done.”

Not one worker will be laid off as a result of the plant being demolished.

According to a recent Environmental Protection Agency report, the Poletti plant accounted for more emissions than all sources in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island and The Bronx combined.

“The closing of one of the biggest polluters in New York City marks a major achievement in our long struggle to improve air quality,” Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, 36th AD) said. “This closure will also help reduce asthma and emphysema cases in our area.”

“The pollution is so bad here that no birds will nest here,” George Stamatiades, president of the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition (CALDC) and vice chair of Community Board 1, said.

The supply of electricity to the city will not be jeopardized as a result of the closure of the plant. In addition to NYPA’s new plant, additional sources of electricity from the open market will be acquired while the privately owned Astoria Energy Project, a new clean combined-cycle facility, is being built not far from the Poletti plant.

NYPA purchased the Poletti site, then known as Astoria 6, from Consolidated Edison in 1974 when the unit was under construction. The project was converted to dual-fuel capability in 1980, allowing it to use natural gas as well as oil. It was named after New York Governor Charles Poletti who also served as a NYPA trustee. The natural gas and oil fueled generating unit became operational in March 1977.

Since the late 1980s, NYPA has completed energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives, such as fuel cells and solar power installations, at more than 1,900 public facilities in New York City at a cost of $763 million.

Astoria bears the burden of pollution and noise from existing facilities and provides more than 80 percent of the city’s entire power.

“We produce the majority of the city’s energy,” Vallone Sr. said. “It is insane to put all our energy plants in one place.”

Vallone Jr. wrote the first bill to limit carbon dioxide emissions in a major city, setting the basis for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a seven-state effort to reduce dangerous emissions. Most recently, he introduced a resolution calling on Albany to amend the State Public Service Law in order to block new electric generating facilities from building new plants in communities such as Astoria, which are already filled to capacity.

“The closing of this power plant paved the way for the construction of a new, much more efficient plant that came into service in late 2005, which brings Astoria and the rest of the City one step closer to achieving the ambitious goals in PlaNYC, our long-term vision for a greener, greater New York,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the NYPA to improve the air quality of our city’s neighborhoods, provide a reliable source of electricity to support our city’s economy and supply city government with electricity at a price that taxpayers can afford.”

NYPA is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of New York state and more than 1,400 circuit miles of transmission lines. About 75 percent of the electricity it produces is clean, renewable hydropower. Its lower-cost power production and electricity purchases support hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state.

Ashok Gupta, director of energy policy for the N.R.D.C., summarized the legacy of the Poletti project and what will hopefully be the future of energy production. “I challenge us all to make a change and build plants that are both environmentally safe and energy efficient,” he declared

For more information, visit www.nypa.gov.

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