The Department of Environmental Conservation recently passed a measure that will reduce air pollution by regulating emissions from peak-use power plants, including the E.F. Barrett Generation Station in Island Park.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this month that the state’s DEC adopted the final regulations as a way to improve public health. The measure will substantially reduce emissions from power plants that operate on the hottest days and emit the most air pollution across the state.
The governor said that the edict was in keeping with his Green New Deal, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and to provide 100 percent clean electricity by 2040.
“. . . New York is once again taking aggressive action to protect public health and combat climate change,” Cuomo said in a statement. “These restrictions on dirty and inefficient power plants will improve air quality in overburdened communities, and spur investments in the clean energy economy.”
The regulation establishes lower thresholds for emissions of nitrogen oxides, which contribute harmful levels of ozone, or smog, on hot summer days. Dozens of plants across the state, including Barrett, are approaching or over 50 years old, and emit at least 30 times more nitrogen oxide than newer facilities. When the plants are operating at peak use, they combine to account for more than a third of the state’s daily power plant nitrogen oxide emissions, while producing less electricity for consumers than cleaner sources, according to Cuomo.
Calls requesting comment on the new regulations from the Long Island Power Authority, which operates the Barrett plant, were not returned at press time.
In 2017, LIPA released the findings of a three-year study completed by PSEG Long Island amid a push to overhaul the plant, in which it revealed that it would not be economically feasible. Though repowering the plant — replacing steam turbines with newer equipment at its current site — would have increased efficiency and environmental friendliness, the study found that it would have cost more than $1.1 billion in its first 10 years of service, an average additional cost of $536 for each residential LIPA customer.
The Barrett plant, on a 127-acre property south of Daly Boulevard and west of the Barnum Island bridge, comprises two steam units primarily fueled by natural gas that began operating in 1956 and 1963, as well as 11 combustion turbines. In 2017, LIPA Chief Executive Officer Tom Falcone told the Herald that the Barrett plant operated under emissions limits and, though repowering it would lower carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions per unit, a more efficient plant would run more frequently, increasing local emissions. He added that emissions would decrease by 77 percent by 2030 without repowering the plant, and that LIPA implemented changes in accordance with the Federal Clean Water Act.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who serves as the chairman of the state’s Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation, said he supported Cuomo’s measure, and added that he hoped National Grid and LIPA would work to upgrade the facility to make it cleaner.
“Long Islanders, like those in Island Park, have been subjected to air pollution caused by Barrett, and other aging power plants, for far too long,” Kaminsky said. “In furtherance of the state’s clean energy goals enshrined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, I stand with Governor Cuomo in advancement of these initiatives and call on National Grid and LIPA to immediately formulate a plan to transition the Barrett Power Plant and ensure it has a green future. New York must lead the way in the new, green economy.”
The regulations will phase in control requirements from 2023 to 2025, which will allow time for a transition to cleaner sources of electricity. Additionally, it will give plant owners time to meet the new standards through the installation of emission-free renewable energy or energy storage. Storage can reduce the operation of the sparingly used power sources by dispatching energy when and where it is most needed and reducing nitrogen oxide emissions when air quality could be compromised.
“With these regulations, New Yorkers will breathe easier knowing that some of the oldest and dirtiest power plants are transitioning to cleaner technologies,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement.
Ben Strack contributed to this story.