State to hold public hearings on NRG power plant upgrade in Astoria beginning tomorrow

Rendering of NRG’s Astoria Replacement Project (Photo credit: NRG)

Community members will get a chance to comment virtually on the controversial proposed upgrade to the NRG power plant in Astoria on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will hold the first public hearing on the proposal on Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. The second hearing will be held on Thursday, Aug. 26, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The proposal has garnered staunch disapproval from dozens of local elected officials, Mayor Bill de Blasio and community climate advocates as well as support from local business advocates and union reps.

NRG, a large Houston-based energy and fossil fuel company, is seeking the state’s approval for their Astoria Replacement Project, a plan they say will replace and upgrade existing generators at their Astoria peaker plant — located in the Con Edison-owned station at 31-01 20th Ave. — with natural gas-fired power. Peaker plants operate when there’s a high demand in electricity by burning fossil fuels that emit harmful air pollutants into the air.

NRG wants the plant to remain a peaking facility, but say they’ll add new technology to provide “immediate clean air benefits.”

Tom Atkins, vice president of development at NRG, said that the Astoria Replacement Project will “dramatically reduce” greenhouse gas emissions statewide and can be “converted to use carbon-free green hydrogen in the future.” Plus, he said it would “lower electricity costs” in the city by more than $1.5 billion, improve reliability and create more than 500 new jobs.

“Nevertheless, despite clear evidence, opponents continue to demand New Yorkers make a false choice between modern backup electricity plants like Astoria and more renewable energy. New York needs both,” Atkins previously told QNS. “All credible third-party studies show highly efficient projects using lower-emitting fuels like natural gas are a critical component to reliably transition New York to a greener grid.”

The plan, however, has received the opposition of many local and state lawmakers for nearly a year since being introduced, with the most recent being Senator Chuck Schumer.

“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 at a rally on July 9. “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).”

All upcoming hearing sessions will be conducted electronically via the Webex Events electronic webinar platform. To register for the 1 p.m. hearing on Aug. 24, click here, and for the 6 p.m., click here.

The DEC is also collecting comments, with all written comments regarding the permit applications, proposed draft permits, fact sheets and SDEIS to be submitted to comment.nrg.astoriagas@dec.ny.gov or postmarked  by Sept. 13. The public comment period, which began in July, has been extended for another 15 days.

For more information on the second hearing or how to submit a comment, visit dec.ny.gov.