Sept. 5, 2002 — Governor George E. Pataki Thursday announced that the New York Power Authority (NYPA) plans to shut down its 25-year-old Charles Poletti Power Project in Astoria, Queens as a result of an historic agreement among environmental groups, the Queens Borough President and the Power Authority.
The existing facility will be closed on Feb. 1, 2008, after a clean new 500-megawatt (mw) power plant proposed near the site has begun operation.
“This innovative agreement demonstrates that we can both protect our environment and provide reliable supplies of electricity,” Governor Pataki said. “By building new, cleaner sources of electricity and retiring older power plants, New York State will continue to improve the quality of our air and water resources. I commend the environmental groups and local officials who joined with NYPA to resolve a number of complex issues in ways that will significantly benefit the people of Queens and all of New York City.”
The Governor said the agreement, which has been approved by the Power Authority’s trustees, also calls for NYPA to impose operating restrictions at the existing Poletti project beginning in January 2003 and to increase its investments in energy efficiency and clean energy projects in Queens and throughout New York City by more than $50 million over five years. Both actions will improve the region’s air quality.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said, “While the need for electrical power is obvious, it cannot be generated by old, inefficient plants near schools and residential buildings. A recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed what we already knew, an unacceptable amount of toxic chemicals are released into the Queens environment – with the Poletti plant being the biggest offender. It is imperative that the State make certain that this closing becomes a reality by starting work on the new plant as soon as possible. We look forward to working with the Governor to reduce air pollution and improve the quality of life for all our residents.”
Senator George Onorato said, “I am very glad to see that the Poletti Power Plant, one of the most highly polluted plants in the nation, is closing down after 25 years. I am happy for my residents and I hope that if a new plant is erected in Poletti’s place that it is brought up to the Clean Air Act standards.”
Assemblyman Michael Gianaris said, “Recently’s announcement is a welcome one for all New Yorkers and I am thrilled to be a part of it. The closing of New York’s largest polluter will undoubtedly have a beneficial impact on air quality and public health. I am delighted that the pleas of western Queens residents in this regard were heard by the State.”
Those signing the accord have agreed to unconditionally support NYPA’s application to build the proposed 500-MW plant, which would be one of the cleanest and most efficient power plants in the City’s history; not to pursue litigation concerning the project; and to support construction and operation of the second new plant at the Poletti site if needed.
Environmental groups signing the agreement with NYPA are the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), and the Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Environment (CHOKE).
John H. Adams, President of the NRDC, said, “Thanks to Governor Pataki and NYPA, this settlement is a real “win-win” for air quality in New York City and for electric system reliability. The agreement allows NYPA’s proposed new plant to move forward while reducing emissions at the existing Poletti plant and increasing investments in energy efficiency and community clean air projects. By agreeing to operating restrictions at the existing plant, to the burning of more natural gas and to the eventual closing of its existing 25-year old Poletti power plant, NYPA will significantly reduce emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and other pollutants. We are optimistic that the next step will be a comprehensive program to reduce PM2.5 emissions in New York, including both power plants and diesel vehicles.”
Lisa Garcia, lead attorney for NYPIRG, said, “This settlement is truly representative of how government, environmental groups and communities can work together to create a healthier, cleaner environment while ensuring that our energy needs are met. The settlement clearly will lead to better air quality in Queens and the City with the use of clean natural gas and the eventual shutdown of an old dirty power plant.”
Tony Gigantiello, President of CHOKE, said, “On behalf of CHOKE, we are very pleased with the agreement, which satisfies our mission and goals of closing down the old polluting power plant and replacing it with the more efficient new technologies, which ultimately equals cleaner air.”
Power Authority Chairman Louis P. Ciminelli said. (This agreement is a tribute to Governor Pataki’s vision and persistence. He was fully committed to a settlement that would balance an array of energy and environmental concerns. Thanks to his leadership, we have met that objective.”
NYPA President and Chief Executive Officer Eugene W. Zeltmann said, “In addition to providing electricity from new, cleaner power plants, NYPA has more than doubled its investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies under Governor Pataki’s leadership. We look forward to further increasing our efforts as part of this agreement, which reflects the Governor’s commitment to reliable energy supplies and a clean environment for all New Yorkers.”
The Power Authority has applied to the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment for permission to build the 500-mw plant at the Poletti site. Two administrative law judges recommended approval of the plant last December after public hearings, but the Siting Board has not issued a decision pending the outcome of the settlement discussions between NYPA, the environmental groups and other interested parties.
The new plant would use combined-cycle technology, making it considerably cleaner and more efficient than older power plants in New York City. Natural gas would be burned to power two turbine-generators to produce electricity. The hot gases resulting from that process would then be used to create steam to spin another turbine-generator, providing additional electricity and reducing environmental impacts.
The new plant would also use a state-of-the-art air-cooled condenser to avoid the need for taking water from the East River and prevent disruption of the aquatic environment.
The agreement announced recently sets the stage for the closing of the existing Poletti project on Feb. 1, 2008, when its environmental permits expire.
A shutdown would require a finding by the New York State Independent System Operator (NYISO), which runs the State’s transmission system and wholesale power markets, that closing the plant would not cause remaining electric generating capacity in New York City to fall below 80 percent of the peak power demand projected for the city in the summer of 2008. This standard is based on local reliability rules for electric generation in New York City, which is severely limited in its ability to import power.
Regardless of circumstances, the agreement requires a shutdown of the existing Poletti project by Jan. 1, 2010. Also under the agreement:
o Beginning next January, NYPA will reduce emissions from the existing project by limiting the portion of power produced by burning fuel oil, proportionately increasing the amount of power generated by cleaner natural gas.
o When the new plant begins to supply electricity, NYPA will limit the existing Poletti project’s capacity factor to 30 percent on a three-year average, with no single year above 35 percent. (Capacity factor reflects the amount of electricity produced in a given period, compared with the maximum amount that could have been produced.)
o NYPA will invest an additional $50 million over five years in energy-efficiency and clean-energy projects in New York City. The Authority will also commit an additional $2 million for local clean-air projects in Queens. The Power Authority has already invested about $430 million in energy-efficiency projects at 845 public facilities in New York City. These projects cut peak use of electricity by nearly 79 mw, save taxpayers more than $46 million a year and reduce annual greenhouse-gas emissions by nearly 333,000 tons.
o NYPA will require contractors engaged in the construction of the new 500-mw plant to use Ultra Low Sulfur Fuel in their construction equipment and vehicles to minimize emissions and protect air quality.
The Power Authority purchased the Poletti project, then known as Astoria 6, from the Consolidated Edison Co. in 1974 when the plant was under construction. The project, which began operation in 1977, is named for Charles Poletti, the only person to serve both as Governor of New York and a Power Authority trustee. Poletti died on Aug. 8 at the age of 99 at his home in Marco Island, Florida.
Source: N.Y. State Governor Pataki’s office