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September 16, 2022

NRG Files Petition to Sell Land Under Astoria, Queens Peaker Plant to Beacon Wind

Victory: The sale would facilitate the site’s electrical interconnection to the Beacon Wind Project and away from fossil fuels

Contacts

Erin Gaffney, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

Phoebe Galt, Food & Water Watch

Bianca Sanchez, Sierra Club

Nydia Gutiérrez, Earthjustice

New York, NY

NRG-owned Astoria Gas Turbine Power and Beacon Wind filed a joint petition with the New York State Public Service Commission yesterday seeking approval of a sale transferring ownership of the land under the existing gas-powered peaker plant to Beacon Wind for electrical interconnection to their 1,230 MW wind project. Approval of this sale would result in NRG’s withdrawal of its proposed gas power plant, which New York denied the permits for in 2021, and end its appeal of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Title V air permit rejection.

The existing peaking units at the Astoria site spew harmful climate and air pollution at levels that exceed the DEC’s nitrogen oxide regulation, which requires facilities to comply with emissions limits or shut down by May 1, 2023. As a result, the peaker plant is required to shut down, ending a legacy of pollution that has contributed to Astoria’s nickname of “Asthma Alley.”

This action is the culmination of years of advocacy from community members, environmental justice and climate organizations in the No Astoria NRG Coalition and the PEAK Coalition, along with public officials and community leaders who oppose the polluting and unnecessary development of a new gas-fired power plant in Astoria, Queens.

“This victory is for Astoria and all other environmental justice communities that have long maintained enough is enough. Fossil fuel power plants and the disproportionate impact they have on the environment and public health must be eliminated as soon as possible. New York is at an impetus where a just transition is no longer just a permitting requirement but an economic reality for a clean future. We remain steadfast in our fight for an emissions-free future for Asthma Alley residents and all New Yorkers in line with New York's climate goals,” said Daniel Chu, NYC-EJA Energy planner on behalf of the PEAK Coalition-UPROSE, THE POINT CDC, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA), New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), and Clean Energy Group (CEG).

“It turns out the fossil fuel executives were wrong and the socialists were right,” said Stylianos Karolidis, organizer with the NYC Democratic Socialists of America. “When we organized against the NRG fracked gas power plant proposal, we were told the alternative was an older, more polluting fracked gas power plant. We were told there were no other options besides burning fossil fuels, and that we were making a mistake. Now NRGs fracked gas plants will be replaced by wind energy infrastructure. We are proud of New Yorkers who knew we could build a better future than NRG offered, and we look forward to new energy projects being publicly owned once we pass the Build Public Renewables Act.”

“The announcement to transfer ownership of the land under the existing gas-powered peaker plant to Beacon Wind for electrical interconnection to their 1,230 MW wind project is an exciting step forward to renewable energy and environmental justice in New York,” says Sonal Jessel, director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “After years of advocacy from so many to shut down the gas-fired power plant in Astoria’s asthma alley, this announcement shows that environmental justice communities are always right — that there is no need for dirty fossil fuel power plants in New York City, and that healthier alternatives exist today.”

“We are encouraged by NRG’s announcement. Frontline communities like Astoria and the South Bronx have borne the brunt of the fossil fuel economy in the form of disproportionate pollution. And we have paid for that with our health and lives — our rates of asthma and other pollution-related illnesses are alarmingly and unacceptably high and our quality of life has been diminished. A transition to renewables will begin to address this injustice.” said Arif Ullah, executive director of South Bronx Unite. “However, we must make sure that this transition is truly just and that communities like ours are centered in any and all discussions and decisions on clean energy. For now, we celebrate this development as a victory brought about by fearless and tireless advocacy.

“NRG’s announcement that it is abandoning its push for a new fossil fuel power plant and instead seeking to use its site to advance New York’s renewable energy future is a win for the community and the climate,” said Rachel Spector, senior attorney at Earthjustice. “Frontline communities have fought for strong enforcement of New York’s climate law, and this shift in NRG’s strategy is the result of that fight, and the outcome the climate law requires.”

“Today is a day to celebrate in Astoria, Queens and across New York. NRG wanted to continue a history of fossil fuel pollution in Asthma Alley but the community said no. Now the site can be part of an exciting, just transition to renewable energy showing the whole state what is possible if we put the health and safety of our communities and the climate before fossil fuel profit.” said Lee Ziesche, SANE Energy Project.

“News that NRG’s dirty fracked gas plans in Astoria will be replaced with infrastructure to support clean wind energy is a win for our climate and health, and a testament to the fierce organizing of the people of Queens,” said Food & Water Watch Senior New York Organizer Laura Shindell, who lives 300 feet from NRG’s proposed fracked gas plant. “The climate movement won a hard-fought victory last year to keep fossil fuels out of Astoria. Now, Asthma Alley can become a clean energy hub for New York, bringing good new jobs, not increased pollution. Governor Hochul has the authority to do what she did in Astoria statewide — fracked gas plants are no way to power New York’s future.”

“This is a prime example of how feasible it is to replace existing fossil fuel infrastructure with clean, green, renewable energy sources,” said Eric Wood, NYPIRG regional coordinator. “This should set an example for other polluting fracked gas power plants that are struggling to stay alive in New York, like the Danskammer fracked gas plant in the Town of Newburgh.”

“Queens Climate Project applauds the defeat of fossil fuel giant NRG, and the development of offshore wind on the former Astoria Gas Turbines site,” said Elaine O’Brien, co-founder and steering committee member of Queens Climate Project. “For decades, the residents of Astoria have suffered from poor air quality due to multiple fracked gas peaker plants in their neighborhood. Community groups fought hard to shut down the repowering of the NRG plant, and it is because of their effort that Astoria is entering a new era of clean energy. It’s time for all fossil fuel corporations to observe NRG’s failure and abandon any hope of extending the life of their polluting fossil fuel projects.”

“Today’s announcement from NRG and Beacon Wind is an ideal outcome for the Astoria site,” said Allison Considine, NY representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Community members, the No Astoria NRG Coalition, public leaders and environmental & climate justice advocates have worked tirelessly to ensure that New York’s future is rooted in clean renewable energy, not more fracked gas projects. New Yorkers fought to pass the CLCPA, oppose the Astoria repowering, and bring offshore wind to New York. We’ve long called for this type of solution to replace dirty gas plants, and today’s news shows how these efforts come together to deliver a healthier, more climate friendly future for our communities.”

“The groundswell of community opposition to the NRG fracked gas plant has reached an incredible end. We mobilized hundreds of residents of asthma alley to participate in the kind of robust community engagement process a project of this magnitude demands. In the end, not only did we beat back an irresponsible energy project, but we find ourselves welcoming renewable power in its stead. This needs to be the playbook moving forward. We can codify this community engagement process, and accept nothing less than a clean, renewable, union-built future,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, chair of the Senate Labor committee.

“Throughout our opposition to NRG’s proposed fracked-gas power plant in our neighborhood, NRG told us that the plant was both necessary for the reliability of our electric grid and more environmentally friendly than the alternative. On October 27th, the people of Astoria defeated NRG’s proposal when the DEC denied the permit, asserting that it was not needed for grid reliability. And today, we have defeated their narrative, as the very site that would have polluted our neighbor’s lungs will now be an interconnection site for off-shore wind,” said New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani. “Not only did we organize to stop the development of additional fossil fuel infrastructure in Astoria and defeat NRG’s $600,000+ in lobbying – we laid the foundation for a renewable investment that will benefit our neighbors, our state, and the environment as a whole. I’m immensely proud of our neighborhood, our organizing, and the work of the DSA Ecosocialist Working Group in leading this fight. We have demonstrated the false choice of fossil fuels and that a better world is possible when we act together.”

“District 22 residents know all too well the hazards of living right next to dirty fuel-fired energy infrastructure,” said New York City Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “That’s why I’m extremely glad that NRG is shutting down its Astoria Gas Turbines site and converting to offshore wind, one of the leading sources of good green union jobs in New York’s energy economy. I hope this victory provides a big boost to the efforts of everyone fighting to get the entirety of the Astoria energy campus — and all energy infrastructure — to move from dirty to clean energy. Let’s win the Build Public Renewables Act in Albany, let’s finally decarcerate and demolish District 22’s worst hellhole and finally truly build a Renewable Rikers, and let’s make this neighborhood and city a bastion of ecological justice and sustainability for generations of New Yorkers to come.”

“Building renewable row requires an energy transition away from fossil fuel infrastructure and building of connectivity to renewables. The announcement that NRG is selling their fossil fuel plant in Astoria to Beacon Wind is an exciting development for the Astoria community. We welcome Beacon Wind’s renewable investment and look forward to a day where fossil fuel plants no longer pollute our air and stacks litter our landscape here in Western Queens,” said former NYC council member and chair of Environmental Protection Committee Costa Constantinides.

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