City Comptroller Aims to Stop Astoria Fuel-Powered Peaker Plant

Image Credit: Office of the Comptroller

Comptroller Stringer sent the letter in opposition to the Astoria Replacement Project because of the project’s reliance on fracked gas. On September 4, 2020, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer sent a letter to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Division of Environmental Permits urging the DEC to review the NRG Energy’s Astoria Replacement Project. Comptroller Stringer raised concerns about the project due to the wellbeing and of Astoria residents and the project’s environmental impact.

The NRG purchased the 15-acre Astoria Gas Turbine site from Con Edison in 1999. The 15-acre plot is situated within a larger 600+ acre complex and is located in Astoria, Queens on the East River near Rikers Island. Since the 1890s, the complex has been providing electrical generation, transmission, distribution, and associated energy activities to New York City.

In 2010, the Astoria Replacement Project was approved to replace the existing generation at the site with four new combined-cycle units, increasing the power generated to 1040 MW. However, the project was not completed as planned in 2010 due to market conditions. Currently, the NRG plans to replace the oil-burning infrastructure at the Astoria plant with gas-burning equipment to generate power. This would replace the existing generators with a single peaking unit. The Astoria plant is a ‘peaker’ plant, meaning the Astoria plant is used to generate electricity when electricity usage peaks in New York City, such as during a heat wave. The completed project would:

– Decrease the size of the Astoria Power Plant by 58 percent.

– Modernize the technology at the plant.

– Reduce air emissions.

– Incorporate Battery Energy Storage into the plant.

– Minimize the environmental footprint of the project.

– Create the ability to convert to carbon-free hydrogen fuel by 2040.

– Add over 500 jobs and $156 million in economic benefits to New York State during construction.

– Add over 70 jobs and $170 million in economic benefits to New York State from operation and maintenance through 2040.

– Reduce the cost of electricity for New Yorkers through energy and cost savings.

In his letter, Comptroller Stringer recommends the project undergo a new environmental review. In the 10 years since the Astoria Replacement plan was first approved, the State and City have enacted new climate legislation such as the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires New York to generate 70 percent of its electricity renewably by using sources such as wind and solar power by 2030.

Comptroller Stringer also raised concerns that the project has not undergone adequate public health reviews. Exposure to air pollution claims the lives of 3,000 New Yorkers a year, dramatically increases the possibility of dying if infected with COVID-19, and can impact mental health, childhood development, and worker productivity. Stringer calls for the Department of Environmental Conservation to require the project to undergo a full Article 10 review to properly assess the project’s environmental impact to ensure the project meets the mandates of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and other laws and regulations.

By: Lynsey Smith (Lynsey is the Citylaw Intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)


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