Gov. Kathy Hochul sides with AOC to kill natural gas power projects


Siding with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the environmental left, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday killed two proposed natural gas-powered projects in Queens and upstate Newburgh.

State Department of Environmental Commissioner Basil Seggos said both proposals failed to comply with the state’s “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act” to reduce carbon emissions.

Power company NRG said the project would retrofit its 50-year-old natural gas-burning plant near the Robert Kennedy/Triborough Bridge and claimed it would cut polluting carbon emissions.

The Astoria plant is called a “peaker” facility because it provides needed additional power to the electric grid during peak usage, such as during summer heat waves when millions of New Yorkers blast their air conditioners.

“Our review determined the proposed project does not demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The proposed project would be inconsistent with or would interfere with the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits established in the Climate Act,” Seggos said in a statement denying the permit.

“Astoria NRG failed to demonstrate the need or justification for the proposed project notwithstanding this inconsistency.”

Seggos rejected the Danskammer Energy Center’s proposed natural-gas powered project in Newburgh on identicial grounds.

Hochul hailed the action taken by her environmental agency.

“I applaud the Department of Environmental Conservation’s decisions to deny the Title V Permits for the Danskammer Energy Center and Astoria Gas Turbine Power, LLC in the context of our state’s clean energy transition. Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, and we owe it to future generations to meet our nation-leading climate and emissions reduction goals,” the governor said in a statement.

The proposed project is in the district of Ocasio-Cortez and state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) — opponents of the project .

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Gov. Kathy Hochul sided with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the environmental left.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Ocasio-Cortez, a proponent of the Green New Deal to phase out carbon-spewing fossil fuels, rallied against the Astoria power plant, which would burn natural gas produced by fracking, during an Earth Day celebration in April.

“We’re not going to allow our water to be compromised. We’re not going to allow our air to be compromised,” the congresswoman said.

Gianaris said Wednesday, “Our community drew a line in the sand against new fossil fuel infrastructure and won. Let this be a statement of what our policy should be as we fight the ravages of the climate crisis. No more fossil fuel plants should get approved, period!,” Gianaris said.

“Deepest thanks to the organizers and community leaders who fought so hard for this victory.”

Environmental activists hailed Hochul’s rulings and urged her to block other proposed fossil burning power plants.

“Gov. Hochul’s decision strikes a critical blow to the fossil fuel industry, providing a huge victory for New York’s climate movement. She is showing the nation what real climate leadership looks like. The next step is for Governor Hochul to commit to halting all fossil fuel infrastructure, including the North Brooklyn pipeline and the Gowanus power plant,” said Food & Water Watch Northeast Region director Alex Beauchamp.

New York State Senator Michael Gianaris
Both Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and state Sen. Michael Gianaris are opponents of the project.
Paul Martinka

The action by team Hochul is reminiscent of ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision in 2014 to reject permits for fracking of natural gas in New York, in the upstate southern tier that borders Pennsylvania as well as phase out the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester.

But the deep extraction or fracking of natural gas is allowed on the Pennsylvania side of the Marcellus shale region.

NRG, in a statement, called Hochul’s decision a mistake, saying there are “not enough renewable resources” to “keep the lights on in New York City today.”

“It’s unfortunate that New York is turning down an opportunity to dramatically reduce pollution and strengthen reliable power for millions of New Yorkers at such a critical time,” said Tom Atkins, NRG’s vice president of development.

“NRG’s Astoria Replacement Project would have provided immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and would have been fully convertible to green hydrogen in the future.

The NRG veep added, “Clearly there are not enough renewable resources available to keep the lights on in New York City today, which is why we think the decision by the DEC is so short sighted. More concerning is the latest analysis by the NYISO [New York Independent Service Operator] showing that the impacts of extreme weather events could ‘result in deficiencies to serve demand in New York City’ as early as 2023.

Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul hailed the action taken by her environmental agency.

“We said from the beginning that the Astoria Replacement Project would help New York transition to a zero-carbon grid and once there were enough renewables, our plant would either convert to green hydrogen or cease operation.

“New Yorkers deserve both cleaner air and reliable energy to ensure the lights stay on for our small businesses, homes, schools and hospitals when they need it most. That’s what this project would have delivered and that’s what NRG had been fighting for along with labor leaders, the small business community and local Queens residents. We appreciate their support during this difficult process.”

The American Gas Association on Tuesday also insists it’s part of the solution to reduce greenhouse emissions.

“We expect that a colder winter will cause customers to use more natural gas, but despite increased use customers will still be saving money and lowering their carbon footprint due to the economic and environmental benefits of this fuel compared to other sources of energy,” said Richard Meyer, AGA’s Vice President, Energy Markets, Analysis and Standards.

“The American Gas Association is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through smart innovation, new and modernized infrastructure, and advanced technologies that maintain reliable, resilient, and affordable energy service choices for consumers.”

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