Senate Majority Leader speaks out against controversial fracked gas power plant in Astoria

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer joined Queens elected officials to oppose the proposed upgrade to NRG’s Astoria peaker plant. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Gianaris’ office)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he opposes the plan to upgrade the Astoria NRG fracked gas power plant at a press conference on Friday, July 9.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently approved draft permits for NRG Energy’s controversial proposal to replace and update the 50-year-old peaker plant in Astoria with natural gas-fired power.

The opposition from Senator Schumer follows the announcement made by the DEC last week that there will be a 60-day public comment period for the proposed fracked gas power plant.

Dozens of New York elected officials have come out in opposition to the Astoria Replacement Project. Today, at Katch Astoria, New Yorkers came out to once again express their disapproval of the plan. 

“For too long, the people of western Queens have borne the brunt of the consequences of being home to far too many of New York’s pollution-belching power plants — that needs to stop today,” Schumer said. “A rebuilt NRG plant that will keep a fossil fuel-dependent power plant in Astoria for years to come would directly undermine the urgently needed goals laid out in New York’s groundbreaking climate law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).”

NRG Spokesperson David Schrader said maintains that the Astoria Replacement Project is following the CLCPA, contrary to what Schumer said at the rally.

“It actually results in large reductions in statewide greenhouse gas emissions — the equivalent of taking more than 94,000 cars off the road each year,” Schrader said. “In addition, the plant will be fully convertible to green hydrogen in the future.”

Astoria lawmakers at a rally in opposition of NRG’s peaker plant. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Gianaris’ office)
(Photo courtesy of Sen. Gianaris’ office)
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer joined Queens elected officials to oppose the proposed upgrade to NRG’s Astoria peaker plant. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Gianaris’ office)

The state Legislature passed CLCPA in 2019, a bill that was championed by Schumer and other elected officials. The bill looks to mitigate the effects of climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, relying on renewable sources of energy and creating green jobs. 

Schumer was joined by New York State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani and Tiffany Cabán, lead candidate for City Council in Astoria. Several climate justice community groups and organizers were in attendance as well.

“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. I’m glad we are joined in this fight by Leader Schumer because failure is not an option.”

At the rally, Schumer noted that Astoria is known as “Asthma Alley,” because it’s home to multiple power-generating facilities. The U.S. Senate’s majority leader said NRG’s proposal would continue to make the fight against asthma increasingly difficult, and it would cause irreversible environmental damage.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer joined Queens elected officials and climate justice advocates to oppose the proposed upgrade to NRG’s Astoria peaker plant. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Gianaris’ office)

The No Astoria NRG Plant Coalition, a group of several community organizations, also gathered in opposition of the power plant. 

“We thank Senator Schumer for opposing the NRG fracked gas power plant and standing with the thousands of New Yorkers who are calling on Governor Cuomo and the DEC to stop this dirty fossil fuel project from being built in their communities during a climate crisis,” NRG Plan Coalition said in a statement. “Now, with opposition from New York City Council members all the way to the U.S. Senate majority leader, it’s clear that this unnecessary fracked gas power plant is wrong for New York and momentum to stop it is growing. It’s obvious: We need renewables, not more pollution.” 

In response to many of Schumer’s comments, NRG’s spokesperson said they also wish to ensure New York has the infrastructure in place to provide cleaner and more reliable power. 

NRG is funding the replacement of 50-year-old generators with state-of-the-art technology at our Astoria facility to ensure cleaner air for New Yorkers now — at no cost to ratepayers or taxpayers,” Schrader said. “Given unprecedented heatwaves already experienced this summer, New York cannot afford to gamble with the reliability of electric supply to the city. “

Additionally, Schrader said this project brings necessary jobs to New York City, a claim that lawmakers and advocates have disputed in the past.

“The $350+ million investment into the Astoria facility will also bring hundreds of jobs and significant economic benefits to Queens, as well as lower-cost electricity to NYC,” Schrader said.