Simotas Named Chair Of Smart Power NY
By JASON PAFUNDI
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) was named the chair of Smart Power NY, a coalition of business, labor and environmental groups, as well as local and state elected officials just launched to advance a clean energy agenda for New York.
The new coalition is advocating for access to safe and reliable sources of power, a reduction of carbon emissions, job creation and policies that will help New Yorkers save on their power bills.
In its first action, Smart Power NY sent an open letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week calling for him to support the Astoria Repowering Project, which would update an old power plant in Astoria with new, environmentally efficient equipment.
“The Astoria Repowering Project is the environmental equivalent of replacing an old diesel-powered truck with a Prius,” Simotas said. “This is exactly the kind of project that Gov. Cuomo’s Energy Highway Task Force has called for. We need to put New Yorkers to work, dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and offer a significant source of reliable replacement power for New York State.”
Cuomo’s stated energy policy, which encourages job growth and innovation to revitalize the state’s economy, is being endorsed by Smart Power NY, specifically his effort to repower existing power plants.
“As a longstanding advocate of clean energy, I support repowering projects because they create jobs, reduce pollution and decrease ratepayers’ bills,” said State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), also a member of the coalition. “We must see more initiatives that produce green energy throughout the state.”
The Astoria Repowering Project has been stalled for years despite the wide-range of support from business, labor, environmental groups, local and state elected officials and the community. The Public Service Commission and Dept. of Environmental Conservation have already granted permits for the repowering plan.
According to the plans, the project will create 500 construction jobs for a 30-month period, displace less efficient units and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons each year — which is the equivalent of removing 185,000 cars from city roadways — and reduce emissions by 98 percent on peak days and by 76 percent annually as compared to current emissions from the site.
The coalition, in addition to Simotas and Gianaris, includes Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and the Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Environment (CHOKE). Simotas said that the focus of the coalition right now is to get the governor to support the Astoria project, though she added that the group hopes that project acts as a model for other projects around the state.
Anthony Gigantiello, the president of CHOKE and an Astoria resident, said that Astoria community has one of the nation’s highest rates of asthma, in part because of the pollution generated by power plants.
“Pollution does not discriminate - it travels,” Gigantiello said. “Cleaner energy benefits the entire population.”
Simotas said that cleaner energy will do more than just save on energy costs. The cleaner air would, theoretically, reduce the amount of asthma cases in the community, thus saving residents on medical bills, prescription drugs and various ailments associated with having asthma.
The Smart Power NY coalition believes that the creation of jobs, the cleaner energy and the reduction of energy costs to residents of the community, make this project a no-brainer, but there are still some things that need to happen before the Astoria Repowering Project can begin again.
“With the governor’s blessing, we believe it will make it easier for the project to get the Power Purchasing Agreement with the state that is needed as collateral to finance the project,” Simotas said.
Reach Reporter Jason Pafundi at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, or email@example.com.