New York Gas Plant Comes Online Despite Opposition

The Valley Energy Center in Orange County, New York, entered commercial operation on October 1 despite complaints from local officials and area residents about noise from the plant, among other concerns.

Community members spoke out against the plant at public hearings last week, saying they have felt sick when the plant has undergone test runs over the past several months. Orange County officials and local politicians said they support a decision by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) not to renew the air permit for the plant, though the plant is allowed to operate while a court decides the permit issue.

The DEC has said the plant needs a federal Title V air permit. Competitive Power Ventures (CPV), the plant’s operator, has argued it has one year to obtain the permit after beginning full-time operation.

The Valley Energy Center is a 675-MW gas-fired plant in Wawayanda. It was originally scheduled to begin commercial operation in February, but its opening was delayed because the DEC had not finished permitting Millennium Pipeline Co.’s Valley Lateral Pipeline, which supplies natural gas to the plant. The plant began tests of its two Siemens’ SGT6-5000F gas turbines and one Siemens’ SST-5000 steam turbine on July 9. The plant’s equipment includes three Siemens’ SGen-1000A generators.

“I’m proud to announce the commercial operation on natural gas of the CPV Valley Energy Center. After nearly 10 years of development and construction, we are providing significant value to the area and New York,” CPV CEO Gary Lambert said in a news release Monday. “This facility will enhance the reliability of the Lower Hudson Valley electric system, reduce annual electricity costs to New York consumers by a forecasted $700 million while reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 500,000 tons a year. We look forward to being an integral part of the community for decades to come.”

The plant, burning diesel fuel, operated on a test basis for a few days in February. Local residents complained of noise from the plant—the city of Wawayanda cited the plant for noise violations—and of feeling sick during its operation. Several groups have opposed the plant, including state lawmakers.

City officials who support the plant have touted the 3,000 union jobs involved in the plant’s construction. CPV has said the facility will contribute more than $1 billion to the local economy.

The DEC on August 1 told CPV the plant’s original state-issued air permit expired July 31 and would not be renewed. The agency told plant operators the facility needed a Title V air permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to operate. A Title V Clean Air Act permit requires a more-comprehensive application with more time for public input. It includes a requirement for an EPA review of at least 45 days.

CPV in August sued the DEC after the agency denied the air permit and asked for a hearing on the matter, seeking an injunction that would allow the plant to operate. The state Supreme Court in mid-August said the plant could resume startup tests pending a decision on the federal air permit.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).