In late October the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied air permits for two proposed fracked gas plants in the state. The proposed Danskammer and Astoria gas plants would have polluted the town of Newburgh in the Hudson Valley, and Astoria, Queens, respectively. The Sierra Club was part of a coalition of community, environmental justice and environmental groups who spent years organizing against the plants.
Together, these plants would have added nearly 1,000 megawatts of gas capacity to the state, said Allison Considine, New York campaign representative with the Sierra Club. The plants would have emitted millions of tons of carbon dioxide, methane, and other pollutants over the coming decades, both directly and as a result of upstream impacts.
These permit denials, and the arguments advanced in those denials by DEC, set a powerful precedent that no new gas plant projects will be approved in New York.
“[The state DEC] cited the plant proposal’s incompatibility with New York’s new climate law and the outpouring of stakeholder engagement in the denials,” said Considine. “The 536-megawatt Danskammer plant, proposed at the site of an existing gas plant set to retire in the next few years, was the first combined-cycle gas plant seeking permitting following the passage of the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) in 2019.
“The 437-megawatt Astoria plant was proposed to replace an existing gas peaking plant at the site, a plant that must now close by 2023 to comply with the state’s peaker plant emissions regulations.” Peaker power plants run with demand for electricity is high.
In Newburgh, residents submitted more than 4,500 comments against the Danskammer plan. The Sierra Club worked alongside local and state-based environmental and community organizations in the Hudson Valley as a member of the Stop Danskammer Coalition to educate, organize, and mobilize people against the proposed gas plant. Numerous rallies, online teach-ins, and even a flotilla on the Hudson River united neighbors in resisting the plant.
In Queens, a new NRG fracked gas plant would have brought more fossil fuels onto the grid, spurring on the climate crisis and intensifying the public health crisis in New York’s heavily-polluted “asthma alley.” Throughout the state permitting process, the local community and No Astoria NRG Coalition, as well as the PEAK Coalition, made it clear that they did not want more polluting infrastructure built in their neighborhood. New Yorkers flooded the DEC with more than 6,000 public comments filed against the plant. At public hearings on the project this summer, 143 New Yorkers testified against the project. Elected officials representing every level of government in Astoria, from Assemblymember Mamdani to Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Governor Kathy Hochul were staunch allies in uplifting organizers' calls for the permit to be denied.
“Hochul made clear that fracked gas power plants have no place in New York’s energy future, heeding the call of environmental justice and climate advocates and community members who organized tirelessly for this climate victory,” said Considine. “We are at a pivotal moment in the fight against the fossil fuel industry, and New York is showing true leadership in rejecting dirty energy and committing to the clean, renewable energy system all people deserve.”
Coalition members echoed the precedent statement. “We believe that the rejection of the Astoria and Danskammer plants will send a signal to the fossil fuel industry that New York State is no place for fracked gas and fossil fuel plants,” said Elaine O’Brien, a member of Queens Climate Project. “New Yorkers are ready for renewables, and halting these dirty plants is the first step.”