By Chris McKenna
August 3, 2018
WAWAYANDA — State officials have dealt a setback to Competitive Power Ventures as it prepared to begin operating its Orange County power plant, denying a renewal of the plant’s air permit and notifying its operators they must first get a federal permit.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced its decision in a letter to CPV officials on Wednesday, one day after the air permit DEC granted in 2013 expired. A department official explained that a change in federal regulations required CPV to get a so-called Title V permit from the Environmental Protection Agency before starting up the plant, something the company had not done.
“As a result of this denial and the lack of a Title V permit, CPV may not lawfully operate the facility,” wrote Kelly Turturro, a DEC regional director.
It was not immediately clear if CPV, which had planned to begin operating the $900 million power plant in Wawayanda this month, will contest the decision, or comply with it by applying for a Title V permit. It also was unclear how long it would take to obtain such a permit and what obstacles the company could face. The DEC letter said the permit application requires a public comment period and a 45-day review period for the EPA.
Tom Rumsey, CPV’s senior vice president for external affairs, said in a statement that the company “has worked collaboratively with regulators at every level of government” throughout the planning and construction of the plant.
“We remain committed to operating within all applicable operating permit requirements and look forward to working with the DEC to address any concerns they may have,” Rumsey said.
Rumsey did not indicate how the DEC decision will affect the timetable for the plant’s commercial operation.
Environmental groups that have opposed the plant cheered the DEC’s decision. “I applaud Governor Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos for standing up for the health of all New Yorkers and for protecting the environment of New York State,” Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, said in a statement. “This is the kind of leadership we need as we march toward our renewable energy future.”
Opponents and some elected officials urged the DEC to revoke or suspend CPV’s air permit after a former top Cuomo aide was convicted in March of soliciting bribes from the company — a corruption case that opponents said had cast a pall over the permitting process. The action taken this week was different than what they had asked, and made no reference to the conviction of former aide Joe Percoco.
Pramilla Malick, chairwoman of Protect Orange County and leading opponent of the plant, sent the DEC a list of reasons on Tuesday to deny the permit renewal, including the recent convictions of Percoco and former CPV executive Braith Kelly, concerns about air pollution and recent noise violations.
Assemblyman James Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat who had called for a permit suspension, said on Friday: “This is a huge victory for Orange County. I thank the DEC for responding to the outcry from local residents in their decision to deny a renewal of CPV’s air permit.”
DEC officials said in a statement about their decision: “Facilities of this size and nature must be subject to the most rigorous air pollution controls to ensure the public is protected, and Title V permits provide for greater transparency and community input prior to authorization.”