The Mid-Hudson Valley Danskammer coal plant could come back into operation following a Public Service Commission (PSC) filing by the plant’s new owner, Helios Power Capital late on Tuesday. The company is seeking authorization to reopen the plant that has been closed since October 2012 due to both environmental and financial woes.
Danskammer was previously under fire for emitting harmful levels of air pollution, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that that cause asthma attacks, respiratory illness, heart disease and lead to haze that obstructs views of national parks and landmarks. However, the new owners have asked to be exempt from the State Environmental Quality Review Act which serves to protect communities from pollution.
“It is unacceptable that Governor Cuomo would allow New York to move back into the 19th century at a time when we could be leading the way forward with cleaner, healthier energy sources. New Yorkers don’t want more coal – we want wind and solar,” said Lisa Dix, Senior New York Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Governor Cuomo is the only leader in the Northeast advancing agreements to burn more coal, which means more pollution, more asthma attacks, and more dirty water.”
“The Danskammer plant is an aging clunker that, as its previous owner recognized, belongs in a salvage heap,” said Shannon Fisk, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Coal Program. “Rather than restarting a dirty coal plant, we should be focusing on creating jobs and protecting customers through the pursuit of wind, solar, and energy efficiency.
The decision comes at a time when New York electricity customers are facing at least $150 million in higher bills following a backroom deal orchestrated by Governor Cuomo that would allow the uneconomical Dunkirk coal plant in Western New York to continue burning coal. That announcement conflicted with recent statements by the Governor that it would no long burn the dirty fuel source. A similar proposal is in the works for the uneconomical Cayuga coal plant near Ithaca, which customers are already subsidizing at the rate of $155 million through the middle of 2017.
Meanwhile, nearby states like Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are retiring similarly outdated and uneconomical plants while increasing investments in clean solutions like offshore wind, solar and energy efficiency.