Though the project is currently going through an environmental review, the debate over a 20-megawatt electric generating power plant proposed for the Town of Ulster continues. Ulster County Executive Michael Hein last week released a statement of opposition to the project, along with a jab at “flawed” state and federal laws that allow similar projects to happen.
“Throughout my tenure as Ulster County executive, the careful balance of environmental and fiscal responsibility has been a central tenet of my administration,” stated Hein. “While I have great respect for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process and for local responsibility and autonomy in land use decisions, I cannot and will not be silent about the proposed Lincoln Park Project, which I feel threatens our citizens and our environment.”
The GlidePath-run power plant would operate on a small parcel of a 121-acre site off Frank Sottile Boulevard. According to developer Lincoln Park DG LLC’s plans, a building housing the equipment would stand for between 30-40 feet in height; an exhaust stack would rise above the structure, and though developers were initially determined to keep that below the 100-foot height limit for the area, though developers several weeks ago 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 the 20 MW lithium ion battery array, and natural gas-powered reciprocating engine generators which would also use on-site low-sulfur diesel stored in a tank if the gas supply is disrupted.
Hein’s statement, released on Friday, June 15, said he’d one day earlier sought aid from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) in suspending the project until policy changes could be enacted to “allow for a non-fossil fuel alternative, such as a battery-only or battery-with-renewable facility.”
“Current state and federal policy is severely flawed and is in stark contrast to Governor Cuomo’s stated environmental goals,” said Hein. “As a result of these policies, Ulster County is now faced with a fossil fuel project that includes gas engines, hundred foot smokestacks, and air pollution impacts. If this project is allowed to proceed, the result will be a lose-lose outcome that will negatively impact our quality of life and further entrench the fossil fuel industry as well as the market for ‘fracked’ gas.”
Hein said that the project in its current incarnation is designed to benefit downstate communities and investors rather than the local community in which it would sit, adding that more rigorous oversight could result in projects like the one proposed by Lincoln Park DG LLC becoming better for the environment, the economy and the local community.
“With the right state and federal policy changes, this project could be transformed into one that supports the growth of our local tax base while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and protecting our residents,” Hein said. “In Ulster County, we believe that what strengthens our environment also strengthens our community and our economy and by hosting the best and most advanced renewable energy and storage projects, we can do just that.”
Hein’s not the only one
The project has seen opposition from local residents since early on, with many of them turning up at public scoping meetings to share their displeasure on a wide range of matters, most of which were included in the scoping document that the developer will have to address as part of the SEQRA process that’s currently underway. And while approval of the project will ultimately be decided by Ulster town officials, many opposed to the proposed power plant this week applauded Hein’s efforts to move the matter further up the food chain.
“Ulster County Executive Mike Hein gets it right — both in opposing the GlidePath/Lincoln Park power plant and calling for alignment of federal and state policies regarding the siting of power plants in the region,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “We look forward to working with him, both on halting this project and promoting the development of clean, renewable energy, rather than new fossil-fuel plants, while conserving the region’s natural and scenic treasures.”
Laura Hartmann of local advocacy group Town of Ulster Citizens was also pleased to have Hein’s voice in the mix.
“The whole organization is thrilled with Mr. Hein’s statement,” said Hartmann. “Not only does he talk about the imminent danger to the Town of Ulster in the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, he addresses the bigger issue of why this came to be in the first place, which is the zoning capacity. That’s far more than we ever hoped to get. We couldn’t be more pleased with his statement and we support him fully.”
Ulster Town Supervisor James Quigley III addressed Hein’s statement and the SEQRA process as two separate issues, adding that the latter may well address issues brought up by the county executive and other opponents to the project.
“The SEQRA process is ongoing and will demonstrate the impacts on the community when it’s completed,” Quigley said. “SEQRA is an ongoing process. This is a project that the developer is dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ’t’ to make sure that there are no challenges to any of the technical work that they do. They’re going to take their time to get it right.”
Quigley added that he and Hein might be closer philosophically than it might appear, but that the law and current policy don’t necessarily align with their opinions.
“If you closely read his letter, what he’s advocating for is a policy change on the state level,” Quigley said. “And I don’t necessarily disagree with the policy change. And I acknowledge the fact that the natural gas generating engines and generator set has to be attached to the batteries because of the nature of the regulatory structure in the state of New York. And it’s way above my pay grade to even opine on that. … If his statement has any impact on the PSC and NYSERDA and other people in Albany who make regulatory authority, God bless them,” Quigley said.