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New York regulators deny permits for two gas-fired power generation projects

Highlights

Projects inconsistent with climate laws: DEC

Law requires emissions-free power by 2040

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Oct. 27 denied applications for two proposed natural gas-fired power plants, finding that both would be inconsistent with the state's ambitious climate law and are not needed for power grid reliability.

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Specifically, the DEC denied approval of the required Title V air permits for the 536 net-MW Danskammer Energy Center in Newburgh, Orange County, and the 437-MW Astoria Gas Turbine Power facility in Astoria, Queens County, according to statements from the DEC.

The Astoria plant is owned by a subsidiary of NRG Energy and the Danskammer plant is privately owned by local resident Bill Reid.

"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," New York Governor Kathy Hochul said in an e-mailed statement.

"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," Hochul said.

NRG proposed constructing the "Astoria Replacement Project," that would consist of a new simple-cycle dual-fuel fossil fuel-fired peaking combustion turbine generator and Danskammer sought authorization to build a new natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant at the current site of its existing 532-MW gas-fired power plant.

Originally built as a coal-fired power plant, Danskammer switched to gas in 2014, according to the company's website.

Not consistent with laws

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, effective Jan. 1, 2020, establishes economy-wide requirements to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions and requires a zero-emissions power system by 2040.

Article 75 of the Environmental Conservation Law establishes statewide GHG emission limits of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 85% below 1990 levels by 2050, according to the DEC's permit denial notices for the projects.

Regarding Danskammer, the DEC said its determination was based primarily on the fact that the project would be a new source of a substantial amount of GHG emissions, both direct and upstream, and the project would constitute a "new and long-term utilization of fossil fuels" to generate electricity without a specific plan in place to comply with the requirements of the CLCPA.

Additionally, "Danskammer's assertions of compliance" with the CLCPA were based on power sector modeling projections that are uncertain and that rely on potential reductions in GHG emissions at other facilities, the DEC said.

Danskammer did not respond to a request for comment.

The agency made similar conclusions regarding Astoria. Overall, the plan for compliance with the climate act's emission-free by 2040 generation requirement "is uncertain and speculative in nature" and Astoria has not established the feasibility of either renewable natural gas or hydrogen as a compliance pathway, the DEC said.

"NRG is reviewing the state's decision, but 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," Tom Atkins, vice president of development at NRG Energy, said in an email.

"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," Atkins said.

Environmental activists saw the decision as a victory.

"The Sierra Club applauds Governor Hochul and the DEC for denying the permits for the proposed Danskammer and Astoria NRG fracked gas power plants," Allison Considine, New York campaign representative with Sierra Club, said in a statement.

"Today, Governor Hochul and the DEC affirmed that New York is serious about preventing projects that will exacerbate the global climate crisis and worsen pollution in surrounding communities by denying permits to Danskammer and Astoria," Manna Jo Greene, environmental action director for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, said.

The companies can request an administrative adjudicatory hearing regarding the decisions within 30 days.

"While we're deeply disappointed with this decision, NRG will continue to find ways to help New York achieve its emissions goals," Atkins said, adding that in the meantime, "our current Astoria plant will continue to operate to help ensure the lights stay on in New York City, as that remains the most important thing."

"Contrary to the DEC's statements, the denial of these repowering permits is inconsistent with the progress needed to achieve the CLCPA's targets over the next 20 years," Independent Power Producers of New York CEO, Gavin Donohue, said in a statement.

"Projects such as Danskammer and Astoria displace significant emissions from existing resources while ensuring that New York City and the rest of the State can maintain reliability while the energy system transitions to a low carbon future," Donohue said.