After months of often-tense public response over a proposed 20-megawatt electric-generating power plant, the Ulster Town Board last month adopted a scoping document detailing plans for an environmental review of the project.
At April 19’s town board meeting, Supervisor James Quigley III and councilmen voted unanimously to accept the scoping document for the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a project developed by Lincoln Park DG LLC and sponsored by GlidePath, an energy concern based in the Midwest.
The power plant would operate on a small parcel of a 121-acre site currently owned by Kingston Landing LLC off Frank Sottile Boulevard. According to the developer’s plans, a building housing the equipment would stand between 30-40 feet in height and an exhaust stack would rise above the structure. Developers were initially determined to keep the stack below the 100-foot height limit for the area; several weeks ago they said they’d scaled back the proposed height to around 80 feet and hoped to get the stack lower than the tree line along the property, which is roughly 70 feet high. The project would include a 20 MW lithium ion battery array and natural gas-powered reciprocating engine generators which would switch to onsite low-sulfur diesel stored in a tank if the gas supply is disrupted.
Some of the public issues raised during a series of GlidePath presentations and town board meetings were still at the fore prior to councilmen adopting the plan as some details in the document continued to rankle. Dan Furman, a neighbor of the proposed project site, said questions about what the plant might sound like in the middle of the night would not be adequately addressed by the testing requirements in the scoping document.
“I was up here several times over the last couple months saying I want to know what this thing sounds like at 4 a.m. on a December night with no leaves on the trees,” said Furman. “Let me ask you guys: Is that an unreasonable request? We asked for when the trees are bare and during the hours of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., meaning the overnight, and somebody, whoever wrote this final scope, did read some of the comments, because they added the word ‘evening’ in the draft scope. If you ask the lawyer when we should test in the evening, they’re going to say, ‘6 p.m. That’s the evening.’ That’s not good enough.”
Prior to adopting the environmental review plans, the board amended the section relating to testing to accommodate Furman’s concerns.
“The applicant has indicated to me that they have no problem proceeding with additional tests if they are asked for them,” said Quigley. “Give it to me in writing, I will give it to them and make a request.”
Area resident Robert Barton said the scoping document didn’t make it clear enough who put the whole thing together, asking for greater transparency as the process moves forward.
“I would like to see who wrote and generated this document,” said Barton. “I think it should be part of the document who wrote it, who it is.”
Quigley said that the document had been prepared according to state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) guidelines, adding that town officials had also reviewed the information.
“We had two independent consultants and the alternative town engineers wrote this using a standard industry template … which was what the SEQR requirements call for,” said Quigley. “It gets expanded or contracted based upon the facts and elements of the specific project. It has been expanded based upon the comments. We’ve had two consultants and the engineers go through it. I’ve gone through it twice. My comments are here.”
Laura Hartmann of the new group Town of Ulster Citizens.org said that plans for a larger 1,200-megawatt power plant in North Bergen, N.J. might render the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center unnecessary.
“I think that should be mentioned somehow to GlidePath,” said Hartmann. “If that does happen, the need for this up here is definitely reduced.”
Included in the developer’s response is identifying the benefits of the project along with whether it’s even necessary, and some critics have noted that the plant would be of more use to people downstate than in the Hudson Valley.
Other concerns the developer will need to address include the potential visual impact within the Hudson River National Landmark Historic District, along with a study of whether the project fits in with the state’s increasingly green energy plan, the potential impact on amphibians and bats and the need for precise study of the boundaries of nearby federal wetlands.
How the project would impact employment and local taxes will also have to be addressed, as will the addition of a spill prevention and emergency response plan for the diesel storage tanks and any other potentially hazardous materials kept on the site.
In a prepared statement, GlidePath Chief Development Officer Peter Rood touted the depth of the scoping document and expressed confidence that the developer will be able to address any issues in the plan.
“This is a very thorough scope that was created with input from the public and leadership by the Town of Ulster,” said Rood. “We look forward to completing the full environmental analysis of the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, providing detailed information to the public and ensuring that the project fully complies with all legal requirements for development.”