© 2022 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Power plant opponents say link to federal probe more reason to stop construction

Karen DeWitt
Actor James Cromwell is among the opponents of an Orange County power plant who are asking the state to halt construction in light of links to a federal probe.

Opponents of a planned fracked gas power plant in the Hudson Valley say they are hoping the U.S. attorney will investigate decisions made in the permitting process for the plan, now that it’s been revealed that the wife of a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo took payments from the lead engineering firm in the project, and that her husband is the subject of a federal probe.

The activists, who include actor James Cromwell, say they’ve witnessed the years- long process to approve the power plan with growing unease and bewilderment. And they say their concerns about potential pollution, overreliance on fracked gas and encroachment of historic sites and endangered species’ habitats, have been ignored by Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation and other state and federal agencies.

So they say their interest was piqued when it became public through state financial disclosure forms that the wife of Joe Percoco, Cuomo’s former close associate, and a former middle school teacher, received between $75,000 and $100,000 from a consultant to Competitive Power Ventures. The company, also known as CPV, is building the power plant. CPV confirmed to Newsday that it has been subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney and is cooperating fully with the probe. Competitive Power Ventures is a major donor to Cuomo, giving his campaign $75,000 in recent years.

Pramilla Malick, with Protect Orange County, says the group is posting over 10,000 documents it’s collected during its fight on it’s website, and handing them over to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

“[We’re] urging him to cast his net deep and wide,” Malick said.

Cromwell and five others were arrested last December for trying to stop the plant. The actor in numerous films and television series including Babe and the Green Mile says building the plant commits the U.S. and the rest of the world to yet 40 years of dependence on fossil fuels. 

“This is a completely crackpot and insane idea of how we should move off of fossil fuels to a non-polluting resource,” Cromwell said.

The group says they also want to hand over their documents to the investigator that Cuomo appointed to review the questions raised by the federal probe. They say all work on the power plant should be halted while the investigation continues. They say they asked for a meeting with Cuomo weeks ago, and were told the governor would see them, but so far that gathering has not occurred.

The governor’s office released a letter from Cuomo’s top counsel to the heads of the state power authority, Department of Environmental Conservation, and Public Service Commission, telling them to cut off all contact with Competitive Power Ventures, while the probe continues, saying there’s reason to believe that there was improper lobbying and undisclosed conflicts of interest.

A spokesman for the governor says the power authority still needs to give permission for the plant to connect with a major power line in order for it to go forward, and that process is currently on hold.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.