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Queens Chronicle

Power station to build new unit

Fears that Astoria plant’s total emissions could increase

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Posted: Thursday, September 1, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:25 pm, Thu Sep 8, 2011.

U.S. Power Generating Co. plans to expand its Astoria station by building a new 500-MW unit some 2,400 feet away from its existing site in northwest Queens. The plan, called the Luyster Creek Energy Project, has raised fears that total emissions from the station could rise.

The project involves retiring one of four old units at the station in addition to building the new one, and is undergoing a formal community review period until Dec. 9, as required by the Department of Environmental Conservation, according to John Reese, senior vice president of U.S. Power Generating.

Even though the plan involves retiring an older generator, state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) are concerned that new power caps placed on each unit would actually mean the company could exceed the plant’s current emissions.

“I won’t support this plan unless they close two generators,” said Vallone.

But Reese pointed out that there are no existing caps on any of the units and said that the station needs as much “capacity flexibility” as possible.

If one unit were to go offline — as one did last July 27 because of an explosion, for example — the station’s other generators would need to operate at increased capacities to make up the difference, Reese said.

“We are committed to having lower emissions,” he said, adding that the company would be willing to sign an agreement promising not to increase emissions.

In response to the idea of retiring a total of two units, Reese answered: “Our plans currently do not include two retirements.”

The unit slated for retirement is not the one that exploded.

Gianaris was skeptical, however, of what might happen under the new plan. If it goes through, the station will have “much more new capacity than they’re taking offline,” he said.

“Most of these units are decades old,” said Gianaris of the station’s existing set-up.

The new plan “does not guarantee us an emissions reduction ... and therefore we can’t support it,” he said.

The new plan points to a host of broader issues regarding power in Queens, Vallone said. For one, the borough carries the burden of providing too much electricity for the rest of the city.

“Whether or not we need the power, we don’t need all the plants in one area,” he said. “We provide here in northwestern Queens 85 percent of the power to the city.”

Vallone also favored repowering the entire Astoria station, instead of just tacking on a new unit and retiring an old one. He cited age as a possible reason for the generator explosion in July.

Repowering, which would require totally shutting down the station, was too expensive an option for U.S. Power Generating Co., Reese said.

Welcome to the discussion.