You are reading

Operators of Ravenswood Generating Station Face Harsh Criticism, Although CEO Promises Renewable Solutions

The Ravenswood Generating Station located at 38-54 Vernon Blvd. in Long Island City (Photo: Ta’Leah Van Sistine/Queens Post)

Feb. 7, 2022 By Christian Murray

The operators of the Ravenswood Generating Station—home to the infamous red-and-white “Big Allis” smokestack in Long Island City—came under fire yet again last week.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney held a press conference outside the Ravenswood power plant on Vernon Boulevard Jan. 31, as part of her quest to have the fossil-fuel generating facility shut down—along with many power plants like it.

She announced that she is introducing a bill called the Justice in Power Plant Permitting Act, a bill that would prevent the issuance of new permits to fossil-fuel energy providers that pollute communities. The bill aims to advance the transition to clean energy.

The event was held outside the Ravenswood Generating Station, Maloney said, since it is the largest and most toxic power plant in New York City. Ravenswood is one of several power plants located along the Astoria/Long Island City waterfront, which has led to elevated pollution levels and its nickname “Asthma Alley.”

“We are in a climate emergency,” Maloney said. “To combat it, we must recognize that two generations of residents right here in Asthma Alley have been subjected to unending toxic pollution. The air pollution coming from Ravenswood has inflicted asthma, heart disease, and cancer on this community! This is a crisis of environmental justice, and it must be stopped.”

Ravenswood Generating Station is owned by Rise Light & Power, which took over the plant in 2017. The 27-acre plant is located across the street from Queensbridge Houses, the largest NYCHA development in North America with 3,142 apartments. It is also near Ravenswood Houses, a NYCHA complex that includes 2,167 units, and Astoria Houses, a NYCHA development with 1,102 apartments.

Rise Light & Power, in response to the criticism, says that it also wants to transition away from fossil fuels and plans to turn its facility into a renewable energy hub.

Clint Plummer, CEO of Rise Light & Power, said that since the company took control of the plant it has taken steps to reduce its carbon footprint. It has closed 16 of its 17 peaker plants, with a plan to close its 17th at the beginning of 2023. Peaker plants, experts say, are notoriously toxic and are used when demand for power is high.

Plummer said that the company will have reduced its capacity from 2,500 megawatts to 2,000 megawatts upon closing its final peaker plant. It also plans to install 300 megawatts of battery storage, he added.

The company has four main generators at the Ravenswood station producing the 2,000 megawatts, with Big Allis generating about half of those megawatts. The power at the Ravenswood plant is primarily generated by natural gas supplied by Con Edison—although oil is used as a backup when the system is stretched during peak demand.

There are two large tanks that contain oil on site, and there are barges on the East River that are used to supply them. The plant does not use coal.

Plummer said that the company released a plan in 2021 that would have seen 1,200 megawatts of electricity generated by renewable energy sources. The plan, called the Catskills Renewable Connector, would have brought solar and wind power through an underwater cable from upstate New York through to the plant.

More than 1,000 NYCHA residents at Queensbridge, Ravenswood and Astoria Houses signed a petition in support of the plan.

The project, one of seven evaluated by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority as part of a request for proposals to connect the five boroughs to renewable energy sources, lost to two other projects—the Champlain Hudson Power Express and Clean Path New York.

Plummer said that Rise Light & Power is now working on coming up with other plans that rely on renewable energy.

“Our plan is to work with the city and the state to over time transition this site to become a hub for clean energy. And to do that, we need support for projects like Catskills that will allow us to bring new sources of energy into the site. Catskills was the first of those that we had proposed. However, there are several other exciting projects in the works that we will be bringing forward publicly in coming months.”

The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will be incremental and take time, Plummer said.

“There’s not a single project out there that is going to—in one fell swoop—transition Ravenwood [Generating Station] from what it is today into a clean energy hub. It will take a lot of work over a number of years.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney holds a press conference outside Big Allis on Jan. 31 to announce her Justice in Power Plant Permitting Act (Photo:@RepMaloney)

Maloney, however, wants it shut now—given the pollution levels. She has been campaigned for years to close the fossil fuel plants along the waterfront, describing it as a matter of environmental justice.

Maloney’s bill, if passed, would also stop the permitting of fossil fuel-fired plants within one mile of a major pollution source if the combined effects would cause harm to the health and well-being of local communities.

The legislation would also establish a Just Energy Transition Fund for clean energy projects that support workers and environmental justice.

The bill also calls on the federal government to work with the energy sector to ensure that all power generation is renewable—and air pollution-free— by 2030.

Plummer did not comment on Maloney’s legislation, other than saying, “We are still reviewing it.”

Maloney’s federal legislation comes at a time when New York State is clamping down on fossil fuel plants. The state has placed strict pollution limits on peaker plants, which will result in many having to close in 2023.

Additionally, the 2019 passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires the state to supply 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030—and 100 percent by 2040.

Plummer said the state has a long way to go to meet these targets. Currently, he said, around 80 percent of New York City’s electricity needs are still generated by fossil fuels.

Plummer said Rise Light & Power supports the movement away from fossil fuels and that the company is committed to the transition.

“We see the effects of climate change on a frighteningly frequent basis now,” Plummer said. “It’s very clear that we have to do something, and the technology is there.”

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Op-Ed: This Year’s State Budget Must Prioritize Climate, Jobs, and Justice for New York

Op-Ed, Jan. 30, By Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas

In a time of rampant economic inequality and environmental injustice, it is easy to feel defeated.  Here in Queens and across New York State, however, communities are organizing for a better future. New Yorkers from different backgrounds and with different lived experiences are proving that we can build community, organize, and create a future that reflects our shared values.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Raga sworn in as first-ever Filipino American elected to the state Legislature

More than 300 community members attended the historic inauguration of Assemblyman Steven Raga as the first Filipino American elected to office in New York state.

Many who attended the swearing-in event at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park wore traditional and cultural attire to the event at the building that once housed the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations from 1946 to 1950 until its current home in Manhattan became available for the world body.

These Queens eateries are participating in the upcoming NYC Restaurant Week

NYC Restaurant Week is underway, so nix that skillet and bring family and friends to your favorite neighborhood spot, or get inspired and break bread somewhere new and different. During this special citywide culinary event, food-lovers will enjoy curated menus and prix-fixe prices that are easy on the wallet.

Bookings began on Jan. 17 and are available until Feb. 12, and you can reserve a table at 30 participating Queens restaurants, along with hundreds more across the five boroughs.

Man dies in East Elmhurst house fire that left 10 others injured: FDNY

A man was killed in a fire that broke out inside an East Elmhurst home that also left 10 others injured late Friday night, according to the FDNY.

The FDNY received a call regarding the two-alarm fire that broke out just after 11 p.m. in a three-story residential home at 24-37 89th St. on Friday, Jan. 20. FDNY sent 25 units consisting of 106 firefighters and EMS workers to the scene. Additionally, officers from the 115th Precinct responded to the scene.