GOSHEN — Orange County lawmakers will soon wade into the debate over a proposed replacement for the Danskammer power plant in the Town of Newburgh by taking up a resolution that would declare their support for the $400 million project.
The statement set to be introduced on Wednesday argues the new natural gas-fired plant would be beneficial because it would produce cleaner emissions than the existing plant and help fill a void that will be left when the Indian Point nuclear plant closes, among other reasons. If approved by the Rules, Enactments and Intergovernment Relations Committee, the resolution would go to the full, 21-member Legislature for a vote on Oct. 3.
The proposal follows a string of resolutions lodging concerns about the project by municipal boards on both sides of the river, and would serve as a sort of counter-argument from lawmakers in Danskammer's host county. Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia said it was drafted at the request of the Hudson Valley Building and Construction Trades Council, which supports the project for the bounty of construction jobs it would yield.
"We like the fact that it's going to be a lot more environmentally friendly than what was there previously," Bresica, a Montgomery Republican, said of the proposed plant.
But environmental activists oppose the plans, arguing the state must expand its renewable-energy sources to meet ambitious emission-reduction goals set this year, and should shun projects that prolong dependence on fossil fuels and the use of fracking to extract natural gas.
"We feel it's dangerous, it's unnecessary, it's a foolhardy investment, and it's dirty," Andrew Pezzullo, an organizer for Food and Water Watch, said on Monday.
The new plant would be built near the existing one off River Road and generate about 525 megawatts. The current plant also runs on natural gas and can produce nearly the same amount of power, but it runs only occasionally when electricity demand spikes in the summer and winter.
Michelle Hook, vice president of public affairs for Danskammer Energy, said Monday that the proposed plant would operate much more often than the current "peaker" plant, but it would produce 80 to 90 percent less harmful air emissions because it would use a cleaner turbine.
Pezzullo said seven municipalities so far passed resolutions listing concerns about the proposal: Beacon, Cold Spring, Phillipstown, Esopus, Rosendale and both the town and village of New Paltz. Activists urged the Newburgh City Council to take a similar stance during a lengthy public-comment session last week, while construction-trade workers spoke in support of the project. No resolution was brought to a vote.
Todd Diorio, president of the trades council, said his group asked for the county resolution to counteract the push against a project he said would create 450 construction jobs over more than two years. He said he supports renewable energy but believes the state isn't ready to pass up projects like Danskammer's.
County Legislator Leigh Benton, the Town of Newburgh Republican in whose district Danskammer is located, said he fully supports the proposed new plant, noting the property-tax revenue it will generate and the fact that it would no longer use Hudson River water for cooling, as the current plant does.
County Legislator Kevindaryan Lujan, a City of Newburgh Democrat, questioned the need for the plant and argued the resolution was premature, saying he'll urge his colleagues to table it until they get more information. Danskammer plans to submit its application and environmental studies to the state Public Service Commission around November, setting the stage for a review that could take up to a year.