Cuomo administration opens public comment period for Astoria NRG proposal

replacement project rendering (2)
NRG Energy received draft permits for its Astoria Generation Station proposal. (Courtesy NRG Energy)

NRG Energy’s controversial proposal to replace an existing peaker plant in Astoria is moving forward after the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) approved draft permits and opened a 60-day public comment period.

More than 40 city and state elected officials and numerous environmental organizations have aligned in opposition to the Astoria Replacement Project which would replace and upgrade existing generators at the 50-year-old Astoria Generation Station with natural gas-fired power.

“This is an important step in securing an affordable and reliable future electric system for New York City. As the last few days demonstrated, the need for reliable power is as great as ever and will continue for years to come,” NRG Energy spokesman Dave Schrader said. “Our plan to modernize the Astoria Generating station with state-of-the-art technology ensures that schools, hospitals and homes are powered more efficiently and with dramatically lower emissions. NRG looks forward to receiving input during the public comment period and working with the DEC to ensure the project is consistent with New York state’s aggressive climate goals. Once the permits are finalized, NRG expects to immediately begin construction of the project bringing more than 500 new jobs to Queens. We remain grateful for the ongoing support of our neighbors, labor and trade unions, business leaders and community groups.”

The No Astoria NRG Plant Coalition, which is organized by the NYC DSA, Food & Water Watch, Sane Energy Project, Queens Climate Project, NYPIRG, Sierra Club, New York Communities for Change and 350Brooklyn welcomed the opportunity to call on the Cuomo administration to use it authority to stop both dirty fossil fuel infrastructure schemes which threaten the ability to meet New York’s climate goals.

“We are heartened to see the DEC question how a dirty fracked gas power plant can comply with state climate law. It’s a sign that the people-led movement against new fossil fuel infrastructure here in New York City and across the state is winning,” the coalition said in a statement. “Hundreds of Astoria residents took to the street last summer against the power plant and will no doubt show up again in big numbers at any public hearing and submit thousands of public comments. We are seeing the devastating consequences of climate change today, and any new fracked gas project being proposed or approved in 2021, when we have viable alternatives, including transmission upgrades that eliminate any reliability needed for a new Astoria plant, is a dangerous exercise in climate denial. We renew our call on Governor Cuomo and the DEC to stop this dangerous proposal.”

Public comments on the NRG Astoria Gas Turbines are due on August 29 and can be submitted to the DEC here comment.nrgastoriagas@dec.ny.gov.

“The DEC stated that NRG’s proposal is incompatible with our climate laws,” Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani said. “Thousands of Astorians and NYers across the state have been demanding this proposal be rejected because we know that new fossil fuel plants come at the cost of the planet and our lives. NYS cannot allow companies like NRG to disregard our laws and our neighbors by building a fracked gas peaker plant in 2021. DEC must reject the new NRG plant.”

Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani has led numerous protests and rallies calling for the state to reject the proposal. (Photo by Dean Moses)

State Senator Jessica Ramos has opposed the NRG Astoria project as well as the Danskammer project in the Hudson Valley.

“For far too long communities like Astoria and Newburgh have suffered due to air pollution and illness from the fossil fuel burning plants,” Ramos said. “After a year of hundreds of community activists and residents raising their voices, those closest to the pain are finally being heard. The fight is far from over, and I commend Commissioner Segos and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for taking a second look at these proposals and a stand for our planet and our communities.”

State Senator Michael Gianaris, who has fought against the power plants that have caused western Queens to be known as “Asthma Alley” for its high rates of respiratory ailments for years, will continue to campaign against the NRG Astoria proposal.

“Given the severity of the climate crisis, no new fossil fuel plants should be getting built, period,” Gianaris said. “I  will continue working with my community to fight against this ill-conceived project until it is finally dead.”