April 19, 2021 By Christian Murray
Mayor Bill de Blasio has come out against NRG Energy’s proposal to overhaul its Astoria power plant, saying that the plan should be nixed since the plant would continue to rely on fossil fuels.
The mayor joins more than a dozen elected officials who have come out against the proposal over the past year arguing that the plant should tap into renewable energy sources.
NRG plans to replace its 50-year-old Astoria Generation Station with a natural gas-fired generator that it says would significantly reduce its carbon footprint at the site.
But the mayor, like many other elected officials, argues that the plant should rely on green energy.
“We must break our addiction to fossil fuels,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement. “The best way to do that is to champion projects that put us on a path to clean energy and stand against projects that reinforce our addiction.”
De Blasio also announced his opposition to the replacement of a power plant located in Gowanus, Brooklyn, operated by the Astoria Generating Company. That company plans to overhaul one of its two plants—which is powered by natural gas‐fired units. It will also close the plant that isn’t upgraded.
The mayor says that NRG and Astoria Generating Company should be building plants that don’t depend on “fracked gas.”
“Replacing the Astoria and Gowanus plants are the wrong projects. We need our partners to explore solutions that advance our transition to a green economy, because those are the solutions that ensure a healthy and safe future for all New Yorkers,” de Blasio said.
The Mayor, at his press briefing Monday morning, added that the plants “would take us backwards, not forwards.”
“They are plants that would unfortunately place us in the past,” he said, noting that it would continue “a fossil fuels dependency.”
“They should not be allowed to go forward,” he said.
Last month, nine members of New York’s congressional delegation expressed their opposition to NRG’s proposal, sending a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo panning the project.
NRG needs the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to approve its proposal—dubbed the Astoria Replacement Project—before it can move ahead with the plan.
There is no fixed date as to when that decision will be made—although it will come after another public hearing is held. The date of that hearing has yet to be announced.
Critics argue that the plant should be powered by renewable energy sources and that natural gas is not.
They note that natural gas-fired power is not clean energy, and that extracted fracked gas releases methane, a greenhouse gas, as dangerous as coal.
NRG says it aims to replace its 50-year-old old turbines at its plant by 2023, saying that its new “state-of-the-art” generator would reduce greenhouse emissions.
The company says the plan would reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by more than five million tons through 2035—the equivalent of taking 94,000 cars off the road every year.
The plant is what is known as a “peaker plant,” which provides power during peak demand to prevent blackouts, as well as to support the existing grid in case of emergencies.
The company says that the project is necessary “to keep the lights on” until more renewable energy sources are available.
“New Yorkers don’t need to choose between modern back-up electricity plants like our Astoria Replacement Project and renewable energy. New York needs both,” said Tom Atkins – NRG, Vice President of Development. “All credible third-party studies show highly efficient projects using lower-emitting fuels like natural gas are a critical component to reliably transition to a greener grid.”
Additionally, NRG says the plan is in compliance with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), a 2019 state law that sets the goal of reducing emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and then to 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris is a staunch critic of the NRG plan, saying that climate crisis is real.
“To support more fossil fuel plants is to deny climate change and its damaging consequences,” Gianaris said in a statement. “I am pleased Mayor de Blasio is joining the people of Queens in opposing the construction of this unsustainable and undesirable power plant.”
Meanwhile, State Sen. Jessica Ramos, an outspoken critic of the plan, said that the state should stop new fossil fuel plants from opening. She has introduced legislation that would block companies from operating new fossil fuel plants.
Ben Furnas, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability, said that there is no time to waste in terms of fighting the climate crisis.
“We need to be investing in the clean and renewable electricity of the future, not doubling down on the fossil fuel electricity of the past,” Furnas said.
“I’m proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mayor de Blasio and community leaders across the City and State in calling for a halt to these projects and an embrace of the cleaner, safer, healthier alternatives we need.”