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Gianaris law promotes cleaner power plants

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Days after Gov. George Pataki signed state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris’ (D-Astoria) bill that encourages power producers to clean up old plants, the New York Power Authority announced it is appealing a court ruling on new turbines for Queens and environs.

Gianaris’ Clean Energy law provides incentives for companies to repower existing plants, which involves modernizing them to reduce their emissions and increase their generating capacity.

“If understandably we need new energy production to meet new demand, the way we need to meet that is by modernizing old plants,” said Gianaris, whose district includes at least four aging facilities.

The approval process for power plants, which generally lasts up to a year, would be reduced to six months for repowering proposals that lead to a reduction in emissions of 75 percent or more, according to the law signed Friday by Gov. Pataki.

Under the new law only one of five proposals for new or expanded power plants currently on the table — a repowering proposal for the Orion plant along the East River in Astoria — would be subject to the expedited approval process.

Meanwhile, the NYPA said it planned to appeal the decision of a four-judge panel that would force the state power agency to conduct environmental reviews for turbines it installed this year in Queens and around the city.

A Brooklyn appellate court ruled in July on a suit brought by Silvercup Studios in Long Island City and a similar case by the New York Public Interest Research Group, which claimed NYPA acted illegally in placing 10 turbines around the city.

Gianaris was part of a coalition of community groups led by Silvercup Studios that filed suit earlier this year to prevent the New York Power Authority from placing two generators on a waterfront site on Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City. NYPA contended those and eight other turbines built earlier this year were necessary to prevent a power crisis this summer.

Although the turbines were installed by June and are currently operating, the court’s decision in both cases will force NYPA to conduct environmental reviews by January 2002 to determine if the sites they chose for the generators are appropriate.

But Luis Rodriguez, a regional public affairs director for NYPA, announced Tuesday the agency was appealing the court’s decision in the NYPIRG case.

“We believe that we exceeded or met all regulatory requirements in an environmentally responsible manner,” Rodriguez said, and that the court “added regulatory burdens outside the law” to NYPA’s process of siting the turbines.

NYPA did not appeal the Silvercup decision because it is currently negotiating with the studio to possibly remove the generators within three or four years, Rodriguez said. Silvercup, which produces such television programs as “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos,” owns property next to the turbines and has long eyed the site for development.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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