2016 Construction of the CPV Gas-Fired Power Plant Project, Orange County, NY. Retrieved from: http://www.cpvvalley.com/gallery.html

Disclosure of Environmental Justice Issues at the proposed CPV power plant project, Orange County, NY

This is a classic ‘Tale of Two Cities’ — actually of a town and a city — with disastrous impacts for environmental justice communities that now live in close proximity to a proposed, massive gas-fired power plant now under construction. This undisclosed, under-reported debacle is happening as we speak in the city of Middletown, New York due to the irresponsible and negligent actions of many players, none of whom have effectively considered the ramifications of their decisions upon low-income and minority communities, the very communities that constitute environmental justice (EJ) geographies. As defined by the EPA, environmental justice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

It is a story of how a small, mostly rural, low-density, majority-white town utilized the neglect and ‘stale’ data of state and federal agencies to site and approve a massive, gas-fired power plant in extremely, close proximity to EJ communities in a neighboring high-density, low-income, minority city. This town is now the sole beneficiary of operating taxes that will flow from the power plant to its coffers while the city will receive no positive benefits, only severe environmental and health impacts.

The town is the Town of Wawayanda located approximately 70 miles north of New York City and directly south of the City of Middletown.

Based on 2010 census data, the population of the Town of Wawayanda was approximately 7,500, more than 80% white and dispersed with a relatively low-density of approximately 180 persons per sq. mile. Conversely, the City of Middletown possesses an approximate population of 28,000, 36% white living in a relatively high-density urban environment of 5,000 persons per sq. mile.

While the siting process of this power plant known as the CPV Valley Energy Center was atypical, convoluted and contentious, nonetheless it was permitted in 2012 with the sign-on of state and federal agencies with the town as lead agency- an unorthodox responsibility for a town of 7,500 to assume given the massive scale of this plant. During this process, EJ impacts were indeed considered BUT they were typified by stale, out-of-date, 2000 Census Data misaligned with significant demographic changes that took place in the United States not only from 2000 to 2010, but to now, 2016.

Independent demographic and spatial analysis has now been undertaken to ascertain the difference between the EJ analysis conducted to approve the project against actual, lived conditions as represented by much more current 2014 American Community Survey data from the US Census. The results are nothing less than shocking.


2014 EJ Tracts compared to 2000 EJ Tracts in close proximity to CPV Gas-Fired Power Plant.

This interactive slider compares the original 2000 census EJ tracts (green) used to site the project (black) to the real increase in 2014 EJ tracts (red). As is evident, this is not a negligible difference.

This interactive map explores regional change in EJ populations within a 30-mile radius of the CPV power plant project site which have increased in number by approximately 10% from 2000 to 2014.

As seen in the mapped data above, specifics of the increase in EJ communities in extreme proximity to the proposed power plant can also be summarized generally as follows:

Whereas in the original analysis, only 1 EJ tract was found to be of concern for analysis within 2 miles of the project, there are now 10 intersecting tracts housing approximately 16,000 individuals, 55% to 78% of whom are minorities. Further, 4 EJ tracts are now in extreme close proximity to the power plant with a total population of approximately 7,000, 55% to 60% which are minorities.

It is important to note that while State and Federal agencies have washed their hands of these material facts based on their assertions that “it’s already been permitted” and “public housing developers knew the risk of adjacent land categorized as industrial” these same agencies are now — in 2016 — deliberating a completely interdependent project known as the Valley Lateral Connect which is utilizing the SAME, STALE, out-of-date 2000 census data to typify EJ impacts. The Valley Lateral Connect project is now in its final permitting stages with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); and it is needed to transport the fracked gas necessary for the CPV power plant to operate. The “VLC” project will have significant infrastructure on the SAME site as the CPV power plant, and therefore will further compound the health and environmental risks faced by these same impacted, but unacknowledged, EJ communities.

This environmental injustice can still be corrected but only if it is deliberated in the public domain using accurate and up-to-date data in direct disclosure to, and in partnership with, the affected EJ communities.


Originally published at gist.github.com.