Sheridan Hollow: The Community on the Front Line of Cuomo’s Fracked Gas Hypocrisy
“He needs to put it in his neighborhood,” said Nancy Young when asked how she felt about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to build a fracked gas power plant in her community of Sheridan Hollow.
The proposed plan is to have two 7.9 megawatt fracked gas fired turbines power and heat Empire State Plaza, the massive 89-acre Albany capitol-building complex where the Governor and his administration work from daily.
“It remains a mystery to us why the Governor with all his lofty stated goals for minimizing greenhouse gases, why he would be willing to expose this community in particular, which is predominantly a community of color, to obvious toxins, ” said Sheridan Hollow resident and Albany County Legislator, Merton Simpson.
Simpson lives a few blocks from the proposed site and was here when it was the ANSWERS trash-burning plant. From 1981 until it was closed in 1994, the plant covered the local communities of Sheridan Hollow and Arbor Hill in soot and pollution.
“When the soot use to come down our parents use to make us come inside,” said Young reminiscing about playing basketball in the streets as a kid. “Nobody ever told us what it was until years and years and years later. Now we’re finding out it was toxic.”
The ANSWERS incinerator was closed when some of that soot fell on the snow in front of the Governor’s Mansion up the hill on Eagle Street. At the time, Andrew Cuomo’s father Mario was Governor.
“That was the event that made them finally decide to close,” said Simpson. “The fact that the community was being exposed to carcinogens for a long period of time wasn’t really important. But when it came literally to their own front yard that was the signal.”
The proposed fracked gas plant would expose a whole new generation of Sheridan Hollow residents to toxic pollution. Fracked gas infrastructure carries many of the same health risks that fracking does. It was those health risks that led Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking in New York State in 2014.
And in 2017 the Governor promised in his State of the State address to “double down by investing in the fight against dirty fossil fuels and fracked gas from neighboring states.”
But so far the Governor has failed to live up to that promise. The Sheridan Hollow fracked gas power plant is just one of dozens of fracked gas infrastructure projects communities are fighting across the state.
The CPV fracked gas power plant being built in Waywayanda, New York will be 40 times larger than the proposed Sheridan Hollow plant.
And the 1,100-megawatt Cricket Valley power plant and will be almost 70 times larger.
The plan for Sheridan Hollow may be much smaller than other proposed plants, but the significance of Governor Cuomo powering and heating his administration with a fracked gas power plant located in a low-income, community of color isn’t lost on anyone.
“The mere fact that we have this history of abuse in this community, it’s the essence of environmental injustice that they would even consider doing this,” said Simpson
In addition to exposing local communities to pollution these fracked gas plants will contribute to New York’s greenhouse gas emissions. For over a decade now the fossil fuel industry has tried to paint fracked gas as a climate friendlier fossil fuel than coal that will be the bridge to 100% renewable energy.
But just as science revealed that there is no way to protect water during the fracking process, climate science is telling us fracked gas is just as bad as coal and probably worse.
Over a 20-year time frame methane, the main competent of fracked gas, is 86–105 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon. If just 3% leaks throughout its lifecycle, fracked gas is worse than coal for our climate.
Dr. Robert Howarth of Cornell University estimates that over the total lifecycle of the fracked gas used at the CPV plant, from extraction to consumption, 10 -12% methane will leak.
Meaning the industry’s line about clean natural gas is a lie and so is Governor Cuomo’s claim to be a climate leader as long as he supports fracked gas infrastructure.
Simpson is the co-chair of SHARE, the Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy. In early February the group delivered information to Governor Cuomo detailing the flaws of the fracked gas power plant plan. Within a few hours of their press release going out, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) announced they would look into renewable alternatives.
SHARE is calling on Governor Cuomo and (NYPA) to do more than just look into it, they are requesting NYPA write a new request for proposal (rfp) for a 100% renewable plan to power Empire State Plaza.
“They’re trying to say something that would make you believe they’re committed to doing what’s right without actually committing to doing anything,” said Simpson. “It basically said they would listen, they would look and they would talk. They need to specifically commit to doing a request for proposal.”
On April 23rd, New Yorkers from across the state also fighting fracked gas infrastructure will be joining the Sheridan Hollow community in Albany to call on the Governor to walk the talk on climate. Their demands:
- Halt all fracked gas infrastructure.
- Move to 100% renewable energy.
- Make corporate polluters pay.