WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES MARCH 4, 2021 13
A better energy future for Astoria can’t include NRG’s proposed power plant
BY SEBASTIAN BAEZ
Growing up in Astoria, I, like many
of my neighbors, suff ered from
childhood asthma. Many of us in
Astoria used to play sports on the fi elds
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
zero-emission technology. It
is unacceptable to have to breathe any
pollutants from energy production
Sadly, yet predictably, NRG wants to
continue profi ting 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 what follows.
NRG can choose not to replace the
plant and we could avoid deaths, hospital
visits and the signifi cant 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 fl ooding in our communities.
And despite NRG’s supposed
support of clean energy, their record
is fi lthy. NRG has:
• sneakily submitted their proposal
during the pandemic’s darkest days
• spent over $600,000 on lobbying
to shove this proposal down our
• 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 in 2016.
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 rooft op 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 fi nancial
health would come from Public Power.
This would guarantee democratic control
of battery storage and aff ordable,
zero-emissions electricity and affi rm
the rights of energy workers with
prevailing wages, project labor agreements
and a true seat at utility boards.
This is what a healthy, working-classcentered
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 aft er suff ering
for years. And it’s justice if the people
who seek work in our community
right now get to build this truly better
neighborhood for tomorrow.
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
Sebastian Baez is a lifelong Astoria
resident and member of the No Astoria
NRG Fracked Gas Plant Coalition.
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