DEC receives comments for Greenidge
DRESDEN--Five area groups jointly filed comments Friday, Sept. 11, to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regarding the reopening of the Greenidge Power Plant. These groups include the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, Gas Free Seneca, the Starkey Citizens for a Clean and Healthy Environment, the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association and Neighbors United for the Finger Lakes, Inc. The coalition is asking the state to conduct further analysis on the potential environmental impacts of bringing the plant back online before issuing the permits it needs to restart.
Greenidge was a coal-fired plant in the town of Dresden on the western shore of Seneca Lake that has been closed since March of 2011. The new owners, Connecticut-based Atlas Holdings, plan to convert all generating operations to use natural gas as the primary fuel. The groups also requested a 90-day extension of the comment period associated with this project.
"The reopening of the plant raises very significant issues regarding environmental impacts on this entire region, and public hearings are necessary in order to fully present and debate the issues involved," President of Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes Peter Gamba stated in a letter to the DEC.
The groups' comments to the DEC state, "[The] DEC has failed to make determinations and impose permit conditions that would be required if the applications were properly treated as applications for new permits. .... [The] DEC has also failed to comply with the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, ECL Article 8 ('SEQRA'), and has failed to require that a full EIS (environmental impact statement) be prepared."
The coalition's comments also claim the DEC cannot lawfully approve the Greenidge Water Withdrawal Permit Application without further review and analysis.
"The application provides no meaningful analysis of the potential adverse environmental impacts of the proposed water withdrawal," according to the coalition. "The application fails to mention the potential adverse effects of impingement and entrainment of aquatic life in the Seneca Lake intake structures, or the potential adverse effects of thermal discharges on aquatic habitat in the lake .... [The] DEC's SEQRA regulations provide that 'a project or action that would use ground or surface water in excess of 2,000,000 gallons per day' is a Type I action. Greenidge seeks a permit for 80 times that amount -- for 159,897,000 gallons per day."
The groups also cite concerns about discharges of hot water from the open cooling system, which could discharge 30 million more gallons per day than they are withdrawing from the lake, as well as leachate from the ash landfill containing arsenic, boron, chloride, iron, magnesium, managanese, selenium, sodium and sulfate.
The groups highlight potential negative impacts to air quality, claiming Greenidge will be allowed to discharge up to 100 tons per year of each of particulate matter smaller than 10 microns (PM-10), total particulates (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOX) and carbon monoxide (CO). The groups are asking the DEC to treat the reopening as a new source of air pollutants for purposes of Clean Air Act New Source Review, as the plant had no emissions in the years it was not operating. Instead, the groups claim the DEC's proposed Title V permit and related analyses treat the Greenidge facility as an existing source of air pollution.
"We are opposed to reopening a gas fired power plant along Seneca Lake's shores for the same reasons that we are opposed to industrialized gas storage and transport in the heart of Finger Lakes Wine Country," said Yvonne Taylor, co-founder and vice president of Gas Free Seneca. "We need to focus on sustainable business that is compatible with the successful agri-tourism industry in the region."
Taylor states there is a growing movement toward using alternative energy and moving away from fossil fuels, adding "the need for such a facility is highly questionable."
"We are working hard to help Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo lead the way toward achieving the goals of his energy plan, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions and double renewable energy sources in just 15 years," Taylor said. "This ambitious timetable would require some of New York's fossil fuel-burning plants to close, not to reopen."