Many in attendance contended the PSC had abused the neighborhood and its residents by failing to force the other power companies, including the New York Power Authority and Keyspan, to repower their plants in a move that would clean up existing, less environmentally cleaner generators.
The Public Service Commission organized the hearing to give residents a public forum to question Orion's application process and plans to upgrade its facility.
Tony Gigantiello, president and co-founder of the Coalition Helping To Organize a Kleaner Environment, began the questioning by asking what the PSC is doing for his neighborhood.
"What is the job of the Public Service Commission?" Gigantiello asked. "If the Public Service Commission is asking for comments, why then aren't you regulating the other plants? Aren't you supposed to be regulating the other plants? While Orion's repowering, the other plants are not repowering. They're expanding."
Orion Power said it is committed to repowering its Astoria facility by building six cleaner and more efficient plants. The company plans to retire its four older, less efficient boilers at the existing Astoria Generating Station and replace them with six modern gas turbines assemblies that produce more electricity while emitting less pollution, officials said. They also promised to use less water from the East River.
Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, said she supported Orion's plan to construct the six new plants in Astoria, but warned against increased pollution if the other power companies refused to upgrade their facilities.
"What is happening here is a disgraceful abuse of power?" she said. "We the people of western Queens offer kudos to Orion, but what about Keyspan and the New York Power Authority? City Hall and the governor dropped the ball on this one."
Last year, the state dismantled electric-utility monopolies so customers could choose their own energy providers. New York state is now using a system in which other utilities buy power from private electrical power generators. In the past, Con Ed produced and supplied much of the city's electricity, but the companies will now deliver the energy to New York through Con Ed's distribution system. Keyspan was formed when the former Brooklyn Union Gas and the Long Island Lighting Company merged.
Two months ago, as a result of Orion's efforts, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) introduced legislation to require all energy companies to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions.
Mary Ellen Persad, who lives just a block away from the turbines, said she is worried about the health of her family, which has a history of cancer.
"No matter what we do or what we say, it feels like a gigantic tidal wave coming down on this community," Persad said. "You people are very nice, but I pray to God you don't get your permit."
Assemblyman-elect Michael Gianaris (D-Long Island City) urged the PSC to do a study that will look at the effects of all the power plants in the region.
"The bottom line is that we don't have any control over what is passed and there has been no study on saturation," Gianaris said.
"I am so sick and tired of hearing all this from all these scientists and engineers," Poveromo said. "You don't live here. Please go elsewhere. We don't want to walk around with gas masks on our faces."
©2000 Community News Group
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