2016-12-14 / Front Page

Constantinides On Lower Carbon Emissions

By Richard Gentilviso

Currently, the quantity of carbon emissions burned into the city’s atmosphere by power plants is anybody’s guess. Last month, Council Member Costa Constantinides invited city agencies, environmental and civic groups, and public utilities to a hearing on power plant emissions, what type of fuel is burned to produce them, and what public utilities are doing to lower emissions.  

While the City of New York and several environmental advocacy and civic groups appeared, the public utilities did not.

“I find it deeply disappointing that none of the power generating companies are here today to testify or provide any testimony whatsoever,” said Constantinides during the November 28 hearing, the first-ever comprehensive oversight hearing in the City Council on power plant generation within New York City.

“Today New York City’s electrical grid serves more than three million customers, including more than 8.3 million people,” said Constantinides, Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee in the Committee Hearing Room across from City Hall.

Three of the city’s power plants, producing more than 80 percent of the city’s power, are burning the dirtiest fuel oil – No. 6 and most of the city’s power plants are over 40 years old and equipped with technology that has a lower efficiency with larger air impact on emissions.

In Constantinides’ 22nd Council District, that is especially true, where 70 percent of the city’s power is generated from plants located in Astoria and Long Island City.

“In Western Queens, we have ‘Big Allis’ which I think we should call ‘Big Dirty’,” said Constantinides at the hearing, noting 15 million gallons of No. 6 oil were burned at the 2,480-megawatt power plant formally known as Ravenswood No. 3, more than a two-year period. Factoring in the Astoria Generating plant on 20th Street and the 74th Street plant across the river in Manhattan, 30 million gallons of No. 6 oil were burned over two years he said.

“I represent a community that has many of these power plants (and) we’ve long been frustrated,” Constantinides said. “We’ve heard a lot of promises from them about repowering, only to see them go by the wayside.”

City agency representatives, including Susanne DesRoches, Deputy Director of Infrastructure Policy in the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resilience, Anthony Fiore, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, Geraldine Kelpin, Director of air and Noise Policy Enforcement at the Justice Department of Environmental Protection, and Iyed Kheirbek, Director of Air Quality Programs at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene testified in support.

Also testifying in support were Claudia Guglielmo, director for the Asthma Coalition of Queens; Michael Seilback, Vice President of Public Policy for the American Lung Association; Claudia Coger of the Astoria Houses Residents Association; Ling Tsou of United For Action; and Katherine Shopick of the People’s Climate Movement.

Constantinides extended a continuing invitation to power companies to appear and “go on the record” as to how they plan to comply with phasing out Nos. 4 and 6 oil and what their plans are for repowering to ensure “our communities, especially in (environmentally) vulnerable areas, are being addressed the right way.”

Time is available, he said, at the end of any Environmental Protection committee hearing, “for the next year.”

Constantinides closed with a quote from President Barack Obama, via Twitter on September 14, 2014, “We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”

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