News > News > Stop Polluters > Power Plant Cases > Riverkeeper Files Lawsuit Challenging State’s Approval to Reactivate Danskammer Power Plant Without Required Environmental Review

Riverkeeper Files Lawsuit Challenging State’s Approval to Reactivate Danskammer Power Plant Without Required Environmental Review

Tina Posterli, Riverkeeper, 516-526-9371, [email protected]

Public Service Commission Greenlighted Danskammer Operation Without Considering Impacts to Hudson River Water Quality and Regional Air Quality

ALBANY – October 29, 2014 – Riverkeeper has filed a lawsuit challenging the state Public Service Commission’s (PSC) decision to authorize, without any environmental review, the reactivation of the outdated and environmentally damaging Danskammer power plant in the Town of Newburgh. The petition filed in Albany Supreme Court seeks a preliminary halt to resumption of operations, pending the outcome of the suit, and states that the PSC violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) because it failed to require a full environmental review prior to authorizing the reactivation of Danskammer. The PSC made a fundamental mistake when it compared the impacts of Danskammer operating as a coal plant versus operating with natural gas, instead of comparing future operation with natural gas to the plant not operating. Danskammer was shut down after being damaged in Hurricane Sandy two years ago today on October 29, 2012, and has not operated since.

“The law and good sense require a full environmental review before Danskammer is allowed to reactivate operations, given this plant’s proven track record of environmental damage to the Hudson River,” said Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director at Riverkeeper. “The need to comply with the law here is more than just form over substance – the proper review must be done in an open public process that results in avoiding or minimizing significant adverse environmental impacts.”

Riverkeeper has been fighting the operation of once-through cooling power plants on the Hudson River, including Danskammer, since its inception nearly fifty years ago, primarily because the facility’s once-through cooling system causes the same types of impacts to the Hudson as the Indian Point nuclear power plant; at Danskammer, large numbers of fish larvae, young and adult fish are killed when they are sucked through the plant’s cooling system, crushed against the water intake screens or subjected to heated, discharged water. Danskammer uses 450 million gallons of water a day when operating – less than Indian Point, but very harmful because of its location on the upper Hudson, near spawning grounds for endangered Atlantic sturgeon, American Shad and river herring, all key fish species that are struggling to survive. Danskammer also discharges a massive plume of heated water into the river which creates fatal temperature conditions for Hudson River fish species such as river herring (alewife), American shad and Atlantic tomcod and impacts the populations of these and other fish species.

In previous comments to the PSC, Riverkeeper pressed the state regulator to perform an environmental impact statement – required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) – which would assess the impacts of operation, ways to avoid or reduce them and alternatives which could include a full “repowering” to a much more efficient and environmentally friendly combined cycle gas operation. A complete environmental review could also result in banning the future burning of oil as a backup fuel.

The New York Attorney General’s office also weighed in on Danskammer’s reactivation, and agreed with many of Riverkeeper’s concerns, including the need for full SEQRA review to assess the impacts to the Hudson River and a full range of alternatives.

Article 78 Petition
Memorandum of Law
Standing Affidavit of John Mylod


The Danskammer Electric Generating Station began operating in the 1950s as a coal burning plant, and consists of four generating units that would be configured to burn natural gas, with oil as a backup source of fuel.

Owner Dynegy Danskammer sold the plant in 2013 to Helios, a company that typically buys, demolishes and scraps old power plants, and also notified the PSC of its intention to retire the plant permanently. In April 2014 Helios reversed course and sought permission from the PSC to restart the plant, with the intent of operating as a “peaker” – providing backup supply during peak electricity demand periods – prompted by a new federally imposed capacity zone that has led to increased electricity prices and the likelihood of increased revenues for power generators in the zone.

In considering the related water and air permits, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) prohibited the burning of coal at the plant but allowed the use of oil and natural gas. Riverkeeper commented on those permits in October 2014, and as of today final permits have not been issued


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