Climate Week brought political and corporate leaders to New York, furthering bolstering Governor Andrew Cuomo’s credentials as a national leader on climate and energy issues. But at the same time, a new community-led coalition in Albany launched a campaign to stop a fracked gas plant that would power buildings in the state capitol.
That’s right—the governor who banned fracking in New York state is evidently on board with a plan to power the capital with fracked gas.
On September 19, we were proud to join the Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy for its launch event in Albany. The coalition released a letter to Governor Cuomo calling for a full environmental review, including an Environmental Impact Statement, of the Empire State Plaza Microgrid Project. And they are calling on Cuomo to explore clean energy alternatives for the capital’s microgrid. In just about one week, over 100 groups and elected leaders in the state signed onto the letter.
Like many environmental justice battles, the communities most affected have already dealt with a legacy of pollution in their neighborhood. Sheridan Hollow was the site of the ANSWERS Plant, a garbage incinerator built in the 1980s that pumped hazardous toxins into the neighborhood. After a long campaign to shut it down, it was closed in 1994. The pair of gas-fired plants are planned for the former site of the incinerator.
"I live less than eight city blocks from the proposed microgrid," said Merton D. Simpson, Albany County Legislator for the 2nd District. "We do not want to be poisoned more slowly, we want to eliminate the poison. We don't need a slightly more efficient horse and buggy, we want to join the rest of the major countries in the world and have genuine sustainable energy use and eliminate obsolete fossil fuels."
Gwen Pope, president of Albany NAACP, explained her group’s participation in the coalition: "Sheridan Hollow is an economically disadvantaged community that is still living with the toxic health impacts of the ANSWERS plant. Lower income communities and communities of color have been targeted for sighting the most environmental dangerous projects. This practice must stop. Sheridan Hollow must not be a toxic dumping ground."
State officials caution that it is still early in the process, and that community outreach is forthcoming. The coalition will make sure that community voices are heard loud and clear. And if Governor Cuomo wants to be a climate leader, he can start by making his own capital a clean energy model.