In 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to be seen as the climate leader the country needs in the Trump era. And thanks to the presence of newly elected progressive Democrats in Albany and years of pressure from activists, the state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Under the new law, carbon emissions would be reduced by 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and New York would need to source 70 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030.
While there are shortcomings with the new law, one thing is absolutely clear: If New York really intends to meet these goals, it cannot build any new fossil fuel projects. The grassroots climate movement has been sending this message to the governor all along. Yet alarmingly, Cuomo is still allowing new fracked gas-fired power plants to be constructed.
One of the most intense battles over New York’s climate future is the Cricket Valley Energy Center, a massive fracked gas power plant being built in the town of Dover Plains, near the Connecticut border in Dutchess County. The $1.5 billion, 1,110 megawatt project has been opposed by local residents from the very start.
The plant would be a major new source of air pollution in the Harlem Valley, where hundreds of tons of nitrogen oxides and sulfuric acid would stay trapped. The plant, already nearing completion, towers over the Schaghticoke Indigenous Nation, local organic farms, the largest freshwater wetlands in New York, and three schools. Plus, it would emit six million tons of climate-destroying greenhouse gases every year — even though it’s abundantly clear that building any new fossil fuel projects is completely incompatible with the climate goals that Governor Cuomo claims to support.
Cuomo Agrees… Sort Of.
When she asked him about the need to stop gas-fired power plants, he said, “We’re not building any new ones.” When she brought up Cricket Valley specifically, the governor said, “It was approved, like, eight years ago. I have not approved any new ones, and I won’t.”
This is encouraging… and confusing. It was the Cuomo administration that gave Cricket Valley the green light.
Cricket Valley is scheduled to be finished by spring of 2020. But there is still time for Governor Cuomo to do the right thing. And grassroots activists are making sure he knows we are watching. On November 16, hundreds gathered at the site of the facility, blocking the entrance with a tractor and stopping construction for the entire day. 29 people who put their bodies on the line were arrested (You can donate to their legal fund here).
As Governor Cuomo told us last year on video, the “long term plan” is to close gas-fired plants. But when it comes to fighting the climate crisis, we don’t have decades to waste. Governor Cuomo claims that fracked gas plants are incompatible with climate action. Now he needs to match his rhetoric with his deeds.