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editorial

CPV power plant construction should stop


September 28, 2016

The revelation that the company building the Competitive Ventures Power (CPV) natural gas power plant on I-84 in Orange County has paid $287,000 to a former right-hand man to Gov. Andrew Cuomo sheds new light on the project that has been bitterly opposed by some members of the community for years.

According to the indictment from federal prosecutor Phreet Bharara, Peter Galbraith Kelly, a former executive at CPV, arranged for the payments to Joseph Percoco while Percoco was serving as executive deputy secretary to the governor, and also created a $90,000-a-year position at CPV for Percoco’s wife that required little work.

In exchange, Percoco was to use his influence to grease the wheels regarding the construction of the 650-megawatt power plant. The indictment says that Percoco was successful in persuading the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to change its decision and allow the company to purchase emission credits that would aid in the construction of another power plant in New Jersey.

Percoco was not successful in obtaining a power purchase agreement with the state, which would have guaranteed that the state would purchase all of the power the plant would generate for many years to come, but he tried.

Some of this may have come to light after another player, Todd Howe, a former consultant to CPV and a former aide to Cuomo, pled guilty to charges related to the case earlier this year and has been cooperating with federal prosecutors.

It’s not yet clear if other decisions in the permitting process were impacted by this alleged corruption, but there are many areas of concern, as detailed on the Protect Orange County website.

First, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) allowed the Town of Wawayanda to become lead agency for the review of this project, which is quite large and will spew a substantial quantity of toxic emissions into the air. There are other hazards as well. According to the website, “They plan to build a 650MW power plant in the Town of Wawayanda on a 122-acre site, which will include: two 275-ft. smoke stacks, electrical interconnects, a near-million-gallon diesel tank, a 15,000 gallon ammonia tank, a GIS building, and a seven-mile lateral pipeline that will connect to the Millennium Pipeline in Minisink—all highly volatile and toxic facilities prone to leaks and explosions.”

In the wake of the announcement of the bribery charges, it is impossible to know which of the many permits needed to build and operate the plant may have been compromised.