The new fracked-gas power plant plant that Texas-based energy company NRG proposed for Astoria has received significant backlash from local politicians and community activists since its inception.
Over the past few weeks, those critics have been able to submit public testimony regarding the project to the Department of Environmental Conservation during a series of four hearings.
“This proposed plant would run on natural gas, a fossil fuel,” State Senator Michael Gianaris said during the hearing. “The argument that natural gas is cleaner than prior sources rings hollow. It is still a fossil fuel, it is non-renewable, and still emits toxins into the air.
“The operator’s promise to convert the plant to a hydrogen facility ‘someday’ does not carry water, either, as that technology is questionable and years away from use in any event,” he added.
Gianaris represents Astoria and other parts of Western Queens that are collectively referred to as “Asthma Alley” due to the concentration of industrial and energy facilities. Opponents argue that projects like the NRG plant would only exacerbate the issue.
NRG’s new plant would replace old electric turbines with newer models that run on natural gas. The energy provider argues that their output would supplement the city’s supply during times of high demand.
“The need for reliable power is as great as ever,” said NRG spokesperson Dave Schrader said during the hearing. “NRG’s plan to upgrade its Astoria plant with state-of-the-art technology is fully consistent with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, as it will immediately result in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and supports the expansion of renewable energy resources throughout the state.”
For many however, the fracked gas used to fuel the plant undoes any potential benefits.
“The climate science on fracked gas is clear,” Lee Ziesche, an organizer with the grassroots organization Sane Energy Project. “Governor Hochul has the chance to start off her administration with bold climate leadership by listening to the community and the science, and rejecting this dirty fracked gas project.”
Senator Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez attended a rally in July stating their opposition to the NRG plant.
“We do not need and cannot afford anymore coal, oil or gas being burnt and sending poisonous carbon into our atmosphere,” Senator Schumer said. “I will be using all the muscle I can and my persuasive powers to get them to stop this plant.”
The Department of Environmental Conservation is collecting written testimony regarding the project, which can be submitted on the DEC website until September 13.