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Danskammer withdraws permit application for Newburgh generation facility

 Danskammer Energy in Newburgh, New York
Photo courtesy Riverkeeper
Danskammer Energy in Newburgh, New York

A proposed gas-fired power plant in the Hudson Valley has withdrawn its application for a state air permit, and environmental advocates are cheering the move that appears to end a six-year saga.

The Danskammer Energy Center project to build a new gas-fired power plant in Newburgh launched six years ago and has faced hurdles in the permitting process and widespread community opposition.

The Danskammer plant was closed in 2012 after it was damaged during Superstorm Sandy. It was sold in 2013 to a private equity firm.

In 2018, Danskammer officials held their first public forum on their proposal. Danskammer CEO William Reid spoke with WAMC at the time and pitched the gas-fired power plant as more reliable than renewable sources.

“Renewables, as you know, are much more intermittent. And so you need new technology gas turbines to respond when the sun goes down and the wind doesn’t blow,” said Reid. “We will be one of those facilities that will help support renewable development going forward. We don’t need more transmission to do so and we use much less gas than existing facilities.”

The State Department of Environmental Conservation, under powers granted by New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, denied Danskammer’s air permit application. The company then went to court and attempted to appeal the decision. The New York Supreme Court in 2022 upheld DEC’s denial of the permit. Danskammer appealed again. In June 2023, a judge agreed to Danskammer’s request for a one-year pause.

On Monday, Danskammer withdrew its Title V air permit application that it had filed with the DEC.

The company says “repowering efforts will cease,” adding the existing plant will continue to operate as a “peaking resource.”

The move is being celebrated by environmental advocates.

Pete Lopez, a former EPA Regional Administrator and Scenic Hudson’s Executive Director of Policy, Advocacy and Science, said Danskammer’s decision comes as New York is working to phase out fossil fuels and renewable alternatives become more viable – particularly, solar.

“That has to weigh on the mind of a company like Danskammer that is pushing a technology that, again, as we would say, is obsolete. So, for them, for their investors to be swimming upstream – pushing against the state, pushing against the courts, pushing against regulatory agencies – had to weigh on them as they see all this other work in full display,” said Lopez.

Scenic Hudson hopes the withdrawal will energize and embolden Hudson Valley environmental advocates.

Environmental group Earthjustice represented the Sierra Club and local organization Orange RAPP during the six years of proceedings. Melissa Legge, a senior associate attorney at Earthjustice, called Danskammer’s withdrawal a “major victory” for New York’s climate law.

“The decision shows how the courts and the Department of Environmental Conservation are upholding that law and enforcing that law. New York does not need any more gas plants like Danskammer. What New York needs is renewables like solar and wind to come online and battery storage in order to reduce pollution and decarbonize the electric grid in the state,” said Legge.

DEC provided a statement to WAMC saying it “stands by its decision and subjects every permit application to all applicable federal and State standards to ensure the agency’s decisions are protective of public health and the environment.”

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.