For Immediate Release: November 9, 2018
Tompkins County Legislature Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee (PDEQ) votes 4:1 in favor of strongly worded resolution opposing repowering of Cayuga Power Plant with fracked gas.
Resolution to be considered by the full Legislature on Tuesday, November 20
Ithaca, NY – In a stunning 4:1 decision in a standing-room-only chamber, the PDEQ committee of the Tompkins County Legislature voted today to move forward to the full Legislature the stronger of two resolutions on the issue of the proposed repowering of the Cayuga Power Plant with fracked gas.
More 70 local residents attended the special two-hour meeting, which took place on the morning of a work day. They included scientists, elected officials, college students, mothers, and grandmothers (one testifying with grandchildren on her lap). Thirty community members spoke, all of them, with the single exception of Tompkins County Legislator, Mike Sigler, urged the Legislature to make a clear, strong, unequivocal statement in opposition to Cayuga’s proposal. After 1 hour and 45 minutes of public comment, the committee deliberated and voted to move forward with the stronger resolution calling on the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) to deny Cayuga’s permit application on its face as well as conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) with scoping.
Heorot Power Holdings LLC, a Blackstone Group subsidiary, seeks to convert one of the two coal-fired units at its Cayuga Lake power plant to burn methane gas, delivered in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG), by truck. The company indicates that as many as 60 trucks a day (120 truck trips) would deliver fuel to the newly installed gas unit driving through residential neighborhoods, near schools, homes, and day-care facilities. Heorot indicates that they plan to apply for a pipeline permit at a future date depending on market conditions.
In his public testimony, Cornell University climate scientist Robert Howarth, PhD, said, “The science is clear. Methane is a major culprit of climate change. Atmospheric methane is going up rapidly and is now responsible for 20 percent of the warming we’ve experienced in the last half dozen years. The number one cause of this global methane increase is shale gas fracking in the United States, and the leading source is the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, which is where the gas that would feed the Cayuga Power Plant would come from. If we are serious about climate change, we can’t be using fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale.”
“Cayuga’s proposal to convert to burning fracked gas is in clear conflict with Tompkins County’s and the State’s energy policies and the urgent global imperative to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next ten years to avoid catastrophic, irreversible global warming,” said Irene Weiser, Town of Caroline Councilmember and coordinator of Fossil Free Tompkins. “I appreciate the PDEQ committee’s thoughtful deliberation and passage of a resolution that clearly states that Cayuga’s proposal is incompatible with State and County energy policies and asks the DEC to give full consideration to the significant environmental impacts Cayuga’s plan would create. I urge swift passage of the PDEQ resolution by the full County Legislature.”
Danby residents Nora Brown and her mother Brynn Schmitt, members of the local Mothers Out Front community organizing team, spoke poignantly about how human connection. Referencing their experiences as fracking refugees who moved to Danby, NY from their family land near Mansfield, PA, Brynn said, “A gas well came in less than a quarter of a mile from our house . . . without our consent or approval, our rural communities became industrial zones. It broke our hearts to leave our land and our community. “We moved to Tompkins county because we wanted to feel and be safe . . . but there is no safe to move to escape the impacts of climate change.”
“Students at SUNY Cortland are deeply concerned about the Cayuga Power Plant proposal. NYPIRG’s SUNY Cortland chapter is strongly opposed to running a power plant off of fracked gas, when there are clearly more environmentally friendly options. Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity, and expanding fossil fuel infrastructure only contributes to that threat. We need to to get New York off of fossil fuels, and move to a 100% clean, green renewable energy future.” said Ethan Gormley, NYPIRG Project Coordinator at SUNY Cortland.
Several residents expressed their concern about the hundred or more additional tractor trailers a day, noting that CNG trucks will ply winding state highways, including roads already known for elevated crash rates. Legislators were urged to consider the impacts to the people living and working along the fuel delivery route. Lansing resident Kristin Bartholomew said, “We moved to Lansing for the schools and for the lake. If I had known of this proposal and that these gas trucks would be coming in these numbers down the road where my two boys walk and ride their bikes to school, I might not have bought this house. My husband is a first responder, a volunteer firefighter. I don’t want him called out to face a gas truck rollover.”
Biologist and Trumansburg resident Sandra Steingraber, PhD, said, “The Tompkins County Legislature played a heroic, transformational role when it issued a resolution in opposition to fracking and again when it resolved to oppose gas storage at Seneca Lake. In both these cases, it became clear that our governor listens to the voice of municipal governments. I urge this committee to send to the full legislature a resolution drafted with the strongest possible language that is the legislative equivalent of ‘Are you kidding me?’ We want no fracked gas burned here.”
After counting 70 people in the packed chamber with standing room only, Anna Kelles, PDEQ Committee thanked “people who have come today who have never come before to speak. It really does make a difference because we represent you.” She added, “the statements here have been very thoughtful and very impactful….I hear my constituents. I’m standing with the community.”
A finalized version of the resolution will be considered by the full Legislature on Tuesday, November 20th.