State pulls plug on NRG project in Astoria

A request for permits to open a fracked gas plant in Astoria has been denied by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The plan to overhaul 50-year-old power generators by replacing the remaining 24 units with a new combustion turbine generator was turned down after the department said NRG’s proposed project would not be consistent with the statewide greenhouse gas emission limits as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
The proposal also did not include a specific plan to meet the Climate Act’s zero-emissions requirement by 2040, DEC said in their letter of denial to the project.
The proposal would have brought a natural gas power plant to an area of Northwest Queens that has already been dubbed “asthma alley.” Environmentalists and opponents to the plan argue the project would amplify those health concerns.
Under what is considered to be the most aggressive climate change legislation in the country, the Climate Act calls for an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 100 percent zero-emission electricity by 2040, and 70 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Tom Atkins, NRG vice president of Development, said the Houston-based energy company is reviewing the state’s decision, but called it “unfortunate” that the state didn’t take the opportunity to reduce pollution for its residents.
“NRG’s Astoria Replacement Project would have provided immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and would have been fully convertible to green hydrogen in the future,” Atkins said in a statement.
Atkins cited an October 25th Comprehensive Reliability Plan done by the New York Independent System Operator showing the impacts of extreme weather events could “result in deficiencies to serve demand in New York City” as early as 2023.
“New Yorkers deserve both cleaner air and reliable energy to ensure the lights stay on for our small businesses, homes, schools and hospitals when they need it most,” Atkins said. “While we’re deeply disappointed with this decision, NRG will continue to find ways to help New York achieve its emissions goals.”
According to NRG, the project was expected to lower emissions, raise air quality, create hundreds of local construction jobs, and provide sufficient energy to more than 375,000 homes.
Borough President Donovan Richards supported the decision to turn down the proposed plan, citing climate change as a key factor in his remarks.
“From Superstorm Sandy to Hurricane Ida, Queens knows all too well the catastrophic impacts climate change has had on our borough,” he said. “Time is of the essence, and today’s decision ensures Queens will continue to be a global leader in the fight for a more sustainable, resilient and healthy environment.”
State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, who represents Astoria, thanked community leaders who fought against the project.
“Our community drew a line in the sand against new fossil fuel infrastructure and won,” said Gianaris. “Let this be a statement of what our policy should be as we fight the ravages of the climate crisis.”

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