By Alberto Gilman
Residents of the greater Newburgh area joined together at the Newburgh Free Library on Thursday, August 11 for a community discussion on the proposed Danskammer fracked gas plant. The Danskammer Plant currently rests along the Hudson River in the Town of Newburgh.
Members of the community listened and asked questions to Hayley Carlock, Director of Environmental Advocacy and Legal Affairs for Scenic Hudson and Maddie Feaster, Outreach Organizer for Scenic Hudson, who led the discussion during the course of the evening.
This event was co-sponsored by Orange RAPP, Riverkeeper, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Inc, the Newburgh Clean Water Project, Communities for Local Power and the Sierra Club.
“In 1885, it [the Dankskammer site] was built up, a lighthouse was built, Danskammer Point Lighthouse and then in 1951, that’s when Central Hudson took over and they built the coal powered generating stations. That lasted for about 50 years,” Feaster said. “2001, it was sold to Dynegy, another energy generating corporation as part of energy deregulation. But they only had it till about 2012.”
During 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York State and flooded out the plant. Two years later, Danskammer reopened as a natural gas peaker plant under the ownership of Mercuria Energy. Four years later, Danskammer Energy LLC, the current owners of the site, pursued to build a larger facility that would operate nonstop.
The current gas plant, according to Carlock, is known as a peaker plant, which means that it addresses peak demand periods and does not operate all the time. The facility currently still operates as a natural gas fired plant and the proposed Danskammer fracked gas plant would look to operate nonstop if built.
When the plant expansion was first announced in 2019, the Stop Danskammer Coalition, a non-partisan alliance of local and regional elected officials, community groups, residents, business owners, stakeholders and other individuals, was formed in opposition to the announcement.
“The new one is proposed to run so much more often. In Danskammer’s own filings with the New York State Siting Board, they clearly state that they expect there’ll be more air pollution coming from the new plant,” Carlock said. “Every time you’re adding any pollution source - and natural gas plants are very much a pollution source that is known to cause respiratory issues in surrounding areas, like the City of Newburgh - this is only going to exacerbate these problems.”
In October of 2021, it was reported that the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation [NYSDEC] denied Danskammer’s Title V air permit for a fracked gas power plant.
A few months later in December of 2021, Danskammer appealed the NYSDEC’s decision on their air permit. From there, Danskammer requested a hearing on the denial of the air permit.
The following year in June 2022, the Orange County Supreme Court had rejected Danskammer’s effort to overturn the denial of its permit under new climate law; and now into the summer of 2022, the public opposition has remained strong while the formal decision process is currently underway.
While the coalition has been able to celebrate these victories, labor unions are in support of the building as it would lead to more job opportunities. One major supporter that Carlock identified was the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council.
Carlock presented several alternative concepts to the group for the Danskammer site that included energy storage facilities, public parks and sites, boat launching sites and possible waterfront development. This presentation has come before Danskammer Energy LLC, who did not appear to be interested according to Carlock.