Ocasio-Cortez, 8 NYC Members Express Concerns About Astoria NRG Plant

expressing concerns about NRG Energy’s Astoria Replacement Project.
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Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and eight other members of the New York City delegation sent a letter to Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, expressing concerns about NRG Energy’s Astoria Replacement Project.

NRG is currently seeking to update the 50-year-old turbine at their Astoria-area power plant with new natural gas-fired power.

“Moving forward with the implementation of new natural gas-fired power creates nuisances and real health hazards, which the community has vocally opposed. Frontline and diverse communities, like the ones we represent, stand to be disproportionately exposed. A gas-fired power plant would further degrade air quality in neighborhoods already ridden with toxic fossil fuel power plants and elevated levels of asthma,” reads the letter.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez sent the letter after hearing from constituents with concerns about the project, including the ‘No Astoria NRG Plant Coalition.’

“New York must move off dirty fossil fuels,” said No Astoria NRG Plant Coalition Organizer, Laura Shindell. “Since passing a fracking ban in 2015, energy companies have twisted themselves into knots trying to expand fracked gas infrastructure in our state despite the ban. We’re proud to stand with legislators in calling for the end to fracked gas plants and their dangerous expansion aims.”

The full letter is available below.

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor of New York State

New York State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224

Re: Astoria Power Plant

Dear Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,

We are writing regarding NRG Energy’s (NRG) Astoria Replacement Project (Project) in New York City. NRG is seeking to update the 50-year-old turbine with a new natural gas-fired power plant. Unfortunately, this replacement project still maintains our reliance on fossil fuel power generation and undermines the progress towards a more sustainable future. The environmental and health hazards that local, frontline communities have outlined are cause for serious consideration.

As you are aware, the aim of the Project is to replace 50-year-old turbines with new natural gas-fired power. Unfortunately, gas-powered energy and the process of extraction is not clean energy as some have touted. In fact, extracting fracked gas releases methane, a greenhouse gas that traps more than 86 times the heat of carbon dioxide in the short-term. Moreover, the entire process is prone to a high degree of leakage, undermining any potential gains that may be touted. Even if every coal plant were replaced by fracked gas electricity by 2030, emissions would remain on track to grow through 2050 due in part to pervasive methane leaks that make fracked gas as dangerous as coal.

Moving forward with the implementation of new natural gas-fired power creates nuisances and real health hazards, which the community has vocally opposed. Frontline and diverse communities, like the ones we represent, stand to be disproportionately exposed. A gas-fired power plant would further degrade air quality in neighborhoods already ridden with toxic fossil fuel power plants and elevated levels of asthma.

As you know, in 2020, New York City was one of the hardest hit areas in the country by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those suffering from respiratory illnesses were some of the most susceptible to COVID-19. We already know that burning fracked gas and other fossil fuels causes poor health outcomes for those living near plants. But COVID-19 exacerbated these geographic health disparities in frontline and communities of color. Studies show a higher rate of COVID-19 severity and mortality in communities like ours that have suffered from historically high particulate matter. At a time when our focus should be on increasing public health outcomes, the addition of a new fossil fuel burning plant does the exact opposite.

The climate crisis represents a national emergency to the future stability, prosperity, and general welfare of the United States and a growing body of scientific research has demonstrated that leakage, venting, and flaring of methane and other greenhouse gases in the course of oil and gas production and transmission significantly contributes to increased climate change. Further, any expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure is incompatible with our climate goals, at the City, State, and Federal level. Simply put, natural gas is not a bridge fuel. Instead, we believe all levels of government must make meaningful efforts to transition to green infrastructure, which has a history of creating well-paid jobs.

If you have any questions, please contact Daniel Bonthius at (202) 450-0152 or by email at Daniel.Bonthius@mail.house.gov. Thank you for your close consideration of this letter.

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