Randy Hurst Testimony
Town of Wawayanda Planning Board
Members of the Wawayanda Planning Board:
As many of you know, my family and I are environmentally conscious people. We care about our town and its residents as well as the larger global community. I believe it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to advocate for the protection and preservation of the environment; our habitat and I am pleased that our national government is finally trying to make some positive changes. I would hope, in your capacity, you will follow their example even though you may be of a different political persuasion.
I have read and listened to much of what the representatives of the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) and our Town Board Members have to say about the natural gas powered, diesel fuel back-up electric generating power plant planned to be built in our town, and, when I was able to access the DEIS on the Town website, I looked it over as well. CPV and town board members I have spoken to claim this project will benefit our town. Of course, it is not elaborated on in the DEIS but I suspect CPV expects this to be a lucrative venture as well. It is, nevertheless, unclear just who else will benefit and how.
At the Open House meeting on the project, I did not read or hear any discussion about the adverse environmental, or other negative impacts and drawbacks of the proposed project and that is of concern. I am left with more questions than information that I feel I can comment on. I understand it is the job of CPV representatives to tell us that there is a need to build more fossil fuel electric generation plants and building their power plant in our community will be a good thing. But is the picture they paint accurate? And, can the taxpayers and residents affected by this project expect our town officials and planning board to possess the resources or, indeed, the will to fairly and earnestly represent the interests of the residents of the Town of Wawayanda, and serve as better stewards of our future well-being than what we have seen in the news of so many corporate CEO’s, politicians, and others in whom we placed our trust only to be betrayed?
CPV literature tells us there is a need generate more electricity for the Lower Hudson Valley, which seems a really vague and nebulous assertion. They claim this new power plant will produce electricity for more than 600,000 homes. Does it logically follow that their project is the only solution to satisfying this reported need? And, why the Town of Wawayanda is the best or most suitable location for the construction of this facility is not clearly established either. Will this plant replace a less efficient facility that is currently contributing more pollution to our regional atmosphere; my understanding is that it will not. Will it serve existing homes now served by such a power source, or are all of these 600,000 homes to be considered new customers? And, if so, where will these new homes be located? Is it Wawayanda’s responsibility to shoulder the burden of providing electricity for a generic power grid, which will only marginally serve homes in our municipality, if it does so at all? Will any of us see a reduction in our electric bills? I found no assurance or indication that we will. Will it reduce our tax burden; probably not.
Also relative to the question of need, is the diesel fuel back-up generating component to the proposal absolutely necessary or are there alternative, less toxic, considerations that could be substituted in its place? Since this plant, as the others in our region that provide electricity to the main power grid, will go off line from time to time, can other plants on the grid manage the power needs during those periods, as I understand is the case with Indian Point, which is a much larger facility? This would considerably reduce CPV’s project cost, eliminate the need for diesel fuel storage and consequent effects and hazards, ensure greater compliance with EPA regulatory standards; reduce the probability of fines and the greater atmospheric toxicity caused by diesel fuel emissions. It might even expedite favorable EPA consideration of the project. But most importantly, it would mean a much cleaner facility.
This leads to another important consideration, which is; can the Wawayanda Planning Board adequately and fairly fulfill the role of Lead Agency for the review and analysis of CPV’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement? Why was an outside independent entity not chosen for this purpose considering the importance and magnitude of this project? Is it possible to include an independent entity with a larger or more regional perspective to provide some semblance of checks and balances with the Planning Board? What role will the Federal EPA play in the review of this project and how significant is their opinion. Is their approval required for development?
While these questions are quintessential, I would be remiss if I did not ask if the Wawayanda Town Supervisor, Board Members or Planning Board Appointees have or will require CPV to present a plan to ensure their proposed project achieve a “climate or carbon neutral” balance, and/or, to the extent that it will not, that CPV be held accountable to provide mitigation, which benefits the Town of Wawayanda and its residents, to sufficiently offset any and all adverse impacts of the planned power plant on our town, its residents and greater environs? Further, will Town Officials and CPV covenant that any “offsets” that might pertain to this project not involve any long distance trading or brokering, but apply solely to this local and/or region?
This would seem only fair and reasonable. In the DEIS, it is noted that, while the proposed power plant is one of the least polluting facilities of its kind, it will still generate approximately 95 tons of particulate matter, or the microscopic soot largely emitted by fossil fuel electric generating plants like the one proposed, on an annual basis, and this when added to Orange County’s already poor air quality will exacerbate the growing contamination of the air we all breath posing a increasing health hazard to the region. It will also add greenhouse gases that will accelerate the looming threat of catastrophe from global warming. The question then is not only can CPV offset this assault on our environment, but, to what extent can they do so and how? Clearly it would require a group of people with specialized training in this area to consider the question fairly, but my wife and I would like to offer some suggestions that could at least be a starting place. For instance, could CPV pay for and/or work with state and federal government agencies to secure funds to provide solar heat, hot water and electricity for the Minisink school buildings, town facilities and museums to the extent feasible, thereby offsetting at least a portion of the annual carbon emissions from the proposed power plant? Could they convert the school buses so the buses have the capacity to run cleaner on bio-fuel? Could they subsidize local farms to produce bio-fuel? I realize these suggestions are not a solution to the harm this project threatens to bring to our community and beyond, but they are a something; a place to start.
What about the loss of the “rural quality” of our town, which is still cherished by many people? Is there really someone here that would prefer to see the CPV power plant over the fields, hills, wetlands, and trees that grace our highways now – oh, ok, I can guess who might but they do not constitute a majority. Can we count on CPV to provide a plan to offset this loss? Some landscaping, some trees and a design that seeks to preserve as much as possible the character of the original viewshed would be good; perhaps some walking trails. If acid rain should develop to the extent that it damages landscapes and waterways across our region, will CPV be held liable for remediation? Is restoration even possible?
According to the DEIS, CPV plans to build a 1 million gallon oil tank sited between Rt.84 and Rt.6 to provide back-up fuel alternative to the natural gas pipeline . What will be the visual impact of this tank and what security measures will be taken to protect town residents in case of an accident or other catastrophe? What measures will be in place if the tank leaks into Middletown’s aquifer, which I understand is in close proximity? Likewise, with the 15,000 gallon tank for ammonia, what assurances can CPV offer not just to the people of our town but our neighbors in Middletown and elsewhere that they will be safe? And, if that assurance cannot be given, what can CPV offer to offset the anxiety that will further stress and already anxious population? Reflecting back on my earlier question; is this absolutely necessary in the first place?
Similarly, what will be the impact related to the new pipelines that will pass through our town? Specifically, what measures will ensure the security of the gas pipeline? And, will there be disaster plans and training programs developed to address any untoward incidents such as a gas line explosion and/or a gray water line rupture from the Middletown Sewage Plan? Will the fire truck CPV proposes to donate to the New Hampton Fire Department be the only offset? Will CPV be mandated to pay restoration for any damages, which may result from the operation of their facility?
As regards the grey water from the sewage plant that will be used for power plant cooling purposes, will the water ultimately discharged into the Wallkill River elevate the temperature and/or adversely affect it or the fish and wildlife that depend upon it? If so, what will be done to mitigate the problem? What can CPV do to offset any damage or harm their power plant causes to our waterways, habitats and ecosystems? What will the Town Board or Planning Board require and how will oversight be provided?
These questions may make some people uncomfortable but only the self-serving who want them to be ignored, or those who seek to advance their own interests at the expense of others who feel powerless and believe it is pointless to express their concerns, those folks too consumed with their own issues to be at this public hearing, or those who simply do not care.
Assuming this proposal will go forward at a rapid pace regardless of public sentiment, I want to remind the Board that residential roadways such as Post, Guinea Hill, and Ridgebury Roads, which are used as short cuts by construction and supply companies, were not designed to handle dump trucks, concrete trucks or tractor trailer trucks hauling heavy equipment such as bull dozers and backhoes. I would ask CPV and the Town Planning Board to offer some consideration and require these construction vehicles to use major county roads, such as Lower Road (County Route 12), Routes 17M and US 6, especially during the construction of all CPV facilities. Such vehicles are noisy and dangerous to children and pedestrians out for a walk or run and those who care enough about their community to pick up some of the trash littered along the roadsides. They are also dangerous to the passenger vehicles and commuters who regularly use on these roads. I view this as a common sense safety precaution and I hope the Planning Board, CPV and local contractor/suppliers agree. Will they?
Obviously, CPV plans to make a lot of money by this venture. The question on the minds of some taxpayers is whether CPV will be required to pay their “fair share”. I am aware that according to some town Board members, who support this project, allowing CPV to provide a Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, is the only “appropriate” way to tax an entity like a power plant; the concern being that were CPV to be taxed on the assessed value of their estimated $800 million facility, they would not locate in our town. Still, questions arise as to how a “fair or reasonable” PILOT is to be decided, by whom; and, will there be “transparency” and/or oversight of governmental negotiations? Is a 20 year PILOT the “norm” for similar projects elsewhere? How can the integrity of a PILOT be assessed?
This brings me back to the fundamental question of fairness to the people who live here, and whether CPV can and will be expected to be as “climate and/or carbon neutral” as possible? Stated plainly, will the Town of Wawayanda Supervisor, Board Members, the Planning Board and/or Zoning Board of Appeals, and CPV commit and contractually ensure that they will offset any and all adverse impacts of the proposed gas and diesel fueled electrical generating power plant on the people and environs of the Town of Wawayanda and neighboring communities not only during development but in the future? This is not about “compromise” and nothing our town officials decide now can legitimately give CPV or any other corporate enterprise the right to threaten or destroy our environment, our health, quality of life and our future. This is about determining what legacy you will leave as a testament to your character and your conduct as public servants; it is about keeping the public trust; it is about “stewardship”; it is about the lives of our children, future generations and our town’s well being. Please honor yourselves and our town; let the record show you chose the path of wisdom rather than power and greed.
Randolph Hurst Resident