ALBANY, NY— Leaders of local community organizations, backed up by environmental organizations throughout the state, released a letter on September 19, 2017; calling on Governor Cuomo and the Department of Environment Conservation (DEC) to undertake a full environmental review, including an Environmental Impact Statement on a 16-megawatt gas-fired power plant proposed in Sheridan Hollow, a low income, people of color, neighborhood near the State Capitol. The new coalition, Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy (SHARE), is calling on the state to evaluate alternative ways to address the energy needs of state facilities that utilize renewable energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal rather than by fossil fuels. The project is formally called the “Empire State Plaza Microgrid Project/Sheridan Avenue CHP Project, Albany, NY”. The plan calls for oil as a back up to gas.
According to Merton D. Simpson, Albany County Legislator for the 2nd District: “I live less than eight city blocks from the proposed microgrid, we do not want to be poisoned more slowly, we want to eliminate the poison. We don’t need a slightly more efficient horse and buggy, we want to join the rest of the major countries in the world and have genuine sustainable energy use and eliminate obsolete fossil fuels. In the wake of mega-storms Harvey and Irma our children deserve nothing less.”
“New York State exhibited global leadership in 2014, when it banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing,” said Sandy Steubing of People United For Safe Energy (PAUSE), speaking on behalf of the coalition. “However, this 16 megawatt power plant, as currently proposed, would run on the very fuel that the Governor explicitly banned -- fracked natural gas. In fact, it would make the Empire State Plaza and the City of Albany more dependent on fracked gas for electricity than today. New York can and should do better.”
Over 100 organizations and Capital District elected officials have already signed the letter, which has been in circulation for just over a week and more are signing on every day.
“While it recognizes the intent and many benefits of an integrated Micro Grid System, the Arbor Hill Development Corporation requests all actions to construct a micro grid plant in the residential neighborhood of Sheridan Hollow be stopped until the State performs its due diligence to conduct environmental, social and economic impact reviews and has fully engaged the affected communities of Sheridan Hollow, Arbor Hill and downtown businesses. This is a matter of Environmental, Social and Economic Justice,” said Arlene Way, Executive Director of the Arbor Hill Development Corporation.
Sheridan Hollow has seen more than its fair share of polluting power plants. The ANSWERS Plant, a trash-burning incinerator, pumped hazardous toxins into the Sheridan Hollow community for twelve years until it was finally closed in 1994. Now families who struggled with asthma and other health impacts are being asked to shoulder the burden of pollution again.
Gwen Pope, President of Albany NAACP explained: “Sheridan Hollow is an economically disadvantaged community that is still living with the toxic health impacts of the ANSWERS plant. Lower income communities and communities of color have been targeted for sighting the most environmental dangerous projects. This practice must stop. Sheridan Hollow must not be a toxic dumping ground.”
The SHARE letter calls on DEC to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement for the project and urges Governor Cuomo to issue Requests for Proposals for alternatives which could power the Empire State Plaza and other buildings in downtown Albany with renewables and energy inefficiency. The State of Michigan, for example, is planning to heat its capitol building with geothermal.
“If Governor Cuomo wants to be a climate leader, he can start with his own capitol. We need Cuomo’s leadership in moving New York from dirty fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy, and this project should be a model for the state and the nation,” said Laura Shindell, New York Organizer for Food & Water Watch.
“Only four months have been allocated to permitting, including for an Environmental Quality Review this is a very short timeline. Was the state not planning to consult the community? ” said Kim Fraczek, Director, Sane Energy Project.
SHARE and its partners emphasized that their goal is to work with Governor Cuomo and the state to meet the state’s energy and climate change goals, and are looking for a public process to address their concerns.