By Philip Newman
State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) has asked a state agency to revoke Astoria Energy’s authorization to build a power plant that residents fear would pose a health risk to their community.
Gianaris joined the New York Institute of Legal Research in petitioning the state Board on Electric Generation Siting in a complaint stating that the utility has a permit for a project different from what it now plans to construct.
“Astoria Energy has been playing a shell game with our community for years,” Gianaris said. “The truth is that the company received approval for one type of project but is planning a completely different one that is not authorized.”
The project Astoria Energy plans to build at 17-19 Steinway St. at the northern end of Astoria is part of a generator complex that U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) said produces 50 percent of New York City’s energy.
Astoria Energy has modified its plans since it got state permission for a 1,000-megawatt generator. The utility’s plans now call for constructing two generators, which together would produce 500 megawatts with the possibility of building another 500-megawatt generator in a second phase of construction.
Gianaris said the redesign of the project would change the environmental effects anticipated from the original design, which state authorities had reviewed in the initial permit process.
He said it was important to revoke Astoria Energy’s construction permit so environmental, economic and public safety concerns could be re-examined in light of the changes in the design.
Gianaris said separating the project into multiple parts might harm air quality because of added emissions along with a possible increase in emissions from multiple generators. He said there were also environmental and health concerns along with considerations over added noise and traffic during the added construction.
“I have always maintained that this project causes more harm than it does good,” Gianaris said. “Astoria Energy has consistently shown a lack of regard for residents of western Queens that will not be tolerated.”
Gianaris said he was also planning to file a lawsuit to prevent the use of possibly illegal use of Sept. 11 federal assistance in the form of Liberty Bonds to pay for the Astoria Energy project.
Maloney said recently the Astoria Energy project is “way off the mark of what Congress intended for use of Liberty Bonds.”
The congresswoman said the bonds were meant to help revitalize areas most devastated by the Sept. 11 attacks “not to finance yet another polluting power plant in the already overburdened neighborhoods of western Queens.”
Residents of the area have complained and protested for years about noise and pollution and the state Assembly recently approved legislation giving more clout to residents in communities where power plans are planned. Under the legislation, residents of such areas can take part in the process to decide where energy projects are located.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at email@example.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.