By NICK ABADJIAN
Although the borough generates half of the citys electricity,
some in Queens are feeling pretty powerless about when it comes to powerhouses going up in
"We feel were getting dumped on. Queens doesnt have to
be the repository for most of the citys power needs," said Hugh Weinberg,
counsel to Borough President Claire Shulman who has said she is against how some of the
power plants are able to evade environmental issues.
While state power officials contend that New York faces
a potential energy crisis like California, which could create skyrocketing bills or
rolling brownouts and blackouts, the issue of power has consumed the people of western
Queens who feel their neighborhoods are already oversaturated with power plants.
Plans to extend or
create new power plants in Queens have some local activists up in arms.
Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen
Maureen Helmer, of the Public Service
Commission (PSC), warned of an impending crisis.
"Today, with our increased dependence
on electricity from everyday items such as toasters and air conditioning to high-end
computer systems for the financial markets, brokerage and credit card operations and
communications systems, the cost of such a loss of service would likely be
astronomical," she said.
The PSC has determined that there is a
shortfall of 397 megawatts (MW) for this year, and fully supports the 10 small NYPA
generators to meet the demand.
"While 397 MW would meet the same
basic minimum reliability criteria used elsewhere in the country, we must strive to exceed
that level if we are to avoid the consequences of a massive power outage in New York
City," Helmer said.
But Rosemarie Poveramo who heads the United
Communities Civic Association, is concerned about what she believes is a toxic blanket
hanging over western Queens.
"We realize additional power is
needed. We are questioning the location because theyll all be in our backyard with
Queens already home to huge dinosaur plants," she said.
According to the Borough
Presidents office, Queens currently generates 3,875 MW of electricity which
is 49 percent of the citys "in-city" generation.
And if some of the proposed boosts in power
come through, Queens would provide 6,349 MW, 52 percent of the citys power.
The most recent sparks to
fly over power in Queens came following the announcement of the New York Power
Authoritys (NYPA) plans to build a power plant on a Long Island City waterfront
NYPAs power plant plans have met
significant opposition by local officials, businesses, and the community.
The result was a three-month battle in the
Queens Supreme Court, which ended in the judges decision to stop construction of the
site on the grounds that NYPA had not conducted a sufficient environmental impact review.
All 10 of NYPAs generators were being
challenged in another lawsuit at Brooklyn Supreme Court. The case was dismissed on the
grounds that NYPA did not violate laws in selecting their sites.
The proposed LIC plant, which seeks to add
79.9 MW to the city, pales in comparison to the proposed 2,474 MW that will be generated
in Queens in the next three years.
State law requires the city
to produce 80 percent of its power to meet its peak load demands.
Generators are therefore needed physically
within the citys boundaries to take away the dependency on heavily loaded
The whole issue of electricity has become
more complicated as the market became deregulated, turning electricity into a commodity.
The laws of supply and demand determine the
price of electricity.
In a report last month, by the New York
Independent System Operator, a not-for-profit corporation that administers the
states wholesale energy market, if the disparity between electricity demands and
supply continue, electricity prices would increase 14 percent by 2005.
State power officials contend that the NYPA
was in its right to rush and get 400 MW of generators online in order to meet summer
demand and avoid a crisis.
Ashok Gupta, an economist at
the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), a conservation group, has a different take on
the citys power needs.
Gupta explained that the PSC never took
into account three generator units in the city that are going online by this summer.
A rendering of the two generators the New York Power Authority is hoping to construct by
the Queensboro Bridge.
These units will add 275 MW.
Therefore, Gupta counted that the city is
only short of 122 MW, which can easily be matched by conservation measures.
Nevertheless, in the next three years,
Queens could get a huge boost if proposals for new generating units in western Queens are
The proposals come in the form of a new
power plant and new generating units added to existing plants.
Plants must first go through Article X, a
siting law process for plants that produce over 80 MW.
Gupta said that newer plants, "can be
a good thing, as long as they are subtracting more than they are adding."
According to the NRDC, electric power
plants are the countrys largest source of pollutants that cause acid rain, mercury
poisoning in lakes and rivers, and global warming.
Many of the older plants in New York are
exempt from the environmental standards implemented by the Clean Air Act of 1970 simply
because they existed before the laws were introduced.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, in a letter
to Governor George Pataki, wrote, "Thirty years later, we find many of these older
plants continue to spew their pollution in the atmosphere. Several companies are now
attempting to exploit the Clean Air Act loophole by building new plants right next to the
super-polluting, old plants before any new application are approved."
NYPA is looking to give its
Charles Poletti power plant in Astoria a make over by 2004 by giving it a boost of 500 MW.
The plant, which resides on the 318-acre
old Consolidated Edison site has a capability of producing 825 MW by burning gas and oil.
NYPA officials have said they want to add
an adjacent combined cycle plant of 500 MW, which would run more efficiently and cleaner.
Keyspans Ravenswood plant sits idly
by the Queensboro Bridge and the Queensbridge Houses, the largest housing development in
the country with 15,000 people.
The smoking monolith has the capacity to
provide the city 25 percent of its power at 1,800 MW.
It houses New Yorks biggest
generator, nicknamed Big Allis, and produces 1,000 MW alone.
Currently, Keyspan has plans to add an
extra 250 MW to the facility by March 2003.
SCS Energy filed an application the Astoria
Energy Project, a 1,000 MW plant to take over the 26 acres of the Castle Oil site in
Steinway off the Bowery Bay.
Orion has plans for regenerating its
Astoria site, which is nestled on the 318 acre Con Ed site that has been around since the
late nineteenth century.
Orion wants to add 600 MW to its 1,253 MW
plant in two phases ending in 2005 and at the same time decrease overall emissions, except
for particulate matter.
"That substance in the toxic cocktail
mix is minute, filthy and sticky. It impregnates the deepest part of the lungs and causes
In addition to the proposals stated by the
Boroughs President Office, the Tribune has learned that the 614 MW Astoria
Gas Turbines located in the back of the Astoria Power Plant and owned by NRG Energy
incorporated is looking to expand.
Peter Vallone Jr., counsel to CHOKE, said
that NRG is seeking to propose a 360 MW expansion.
"They are filthiest. They are equivalent to a
jet-engine turned on its side," said Vallone.
Analysis Of Proposal Power Plants
|Power Plant Location:
||Proposed Operating Power Capacity:
||Existing Operating Power Capacity (Proposal plus Existing Output):
||Geographic Area Served:
||Main Fuel Source:
||Projected Plant Completion Date:
|Astoria; on Castle Oil
||New Power Plant (1,000 MW total)
||Summer of 2003
|Long Island City, abutting
||Addtn'l 250 MW
||1,800 MW (2,050 MW total)
|Astoria; on Poletti site
||500 MW (existing output to be
stepped-down by same amount)
||825 MW (825 MW total)
|Government Building in NYC;
No residential properties
|Astoria; Astoria Generating
||Phase I: Addtn'l
Phase II: Addtn'l 200 MW
|1,250 MW (1,850 MW total)
||Phase I: 2004
Phase II: 2005
Information courtesy of
the Queens Borough Presidents Office