A better energy future for Astoria can’t
include NRG’s proposed power plant
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TIMESLEDGER | QNS.COM | MARCH 5-MARCH 11, 2021 13
BY SEBASTIAN BAEZ
Growing up in Astoria, I, like many
of my neighbors, suffered from childhood
asthma. Many of us in Astoria used
to play sports on the fields next to energy
company NRG’s power plant. Generations
of kids, seniors and everyone
in between breathe poisoned air, yet we
live in an age of readily deployable zeroemission
technology. It is unacceptable
to have to breathe any pollutants from
energy production whatsoever.
Sadly, yet predictably, NRG wants to
continue profiting off Astoria residents.
For decades, Astoria has powered much
of NYC’s peak energy demand and paid
the price in elevated air pollution and
health complications. Fortunately, the
current NRG Astoria plant must shut
down because it’s too dirty for New
York’s emissions standards, meaning we
have a once-in-a-lifetime choice in determining
NRG can choose not to replace the
plant and we could avoid deaths, hospital
visits and the significant human and economic
toll of polluted air. NRG’s proposal
wouldn’t eliminate carbon emissions
and air pollutants; it would contribute to
preventable aggravated asthma, strokes,
premature death and other respiratory
ailments. What’s worse, a recent study
found an association between long-term
air pollution and COVID-19 mortality.
We don’t want chokeholds around our
necks made only a little looser with this
proposal — we want to truly breathe.
We are facing a climate emergency.
We only have 10 years left to transform
our energy infrastructure and avoid the
worst of climate change according to
top scientists, yet NRG’s proposal would
contribute to life-threatening heatwaves
and flooding in our communities. And
despite NRG’s supposed support of clean
energy, their record is filthy. NRG has:
sneakily submitted their proposal during
the pandemic’s darkest days last
April; spent over $600,000 on lobbying
to shove this proposal down our throats;
snuck $450 million — just from their Astoria
plant — straight from New Yorkers’
utility bills despite operating under 1
percent of capacity since 2010; and pocketed
$218 million in tax credits only to
close two plants and lay off 136 workers
We can’t hurt our health and bank accounts
with this unnecessary proposal.
We must invest in renewable energy, truly
better health and plentiful, long-term
jobs right now. We can hire new workers
and retrain those impacted by plant
closures to install and maintain rooftop
solar and battery storage throughout
Astoria. Phasing out peaker plants while
keeping the lights on with long-duration
battery storage is already underway in
Even better human and financial
health would come from Public Power.
This would guarantee democratic control
of battery storage and affordable,
zero-emissions electricity and affirm the
rights of energy workers with prevailing
wages, project labor agreements and a
true seat at utility boards. This is what
a healthy, working-class-centered recovery
for Astoria and Queens looks like.
Ultimately, this is an issue of justice.
It’s justice if the next generation
of Astorians has a chance at breathing
truly clean air. It’s justice if our seniors
and medically vulnerable live to see a
genuine improvement after suffering for
years. And it’s justice if the people who
seek work in our community right now
get to build this truly better neighborhood
With grassroots groups and every local
legislator opposing NRG’s proposal,
it’s clear that NRG isn’t welcome here
in Astoria and New York City. We need
— and demand — a much better way of
producing our energy.
Tell Governor Cuomo and the Department
of Environmental Conservation
to reject NRG’s proposal by leaving
a public comment at bit.ly/noNRGplant.
If you’re an Astorian and have questions
about the plant or want to get involved,
visit the link to connect with neighbors
organizing against NRG.
Sebastian Baez is a lifelong Astoria
resident and member of the No Astoria
NRG Fracked Gas Plant Coalition.
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