Comments on the Greenidge Power Plant

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Nov 072015

WASL comments for PSC re Greenidge (PDF)


The Honorable Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary

Public Service Commission

Three Empire State Plaza

Albany, New York 12223-1350



November 8, 2015


RE:      Case 15-E-0516 – Greenidge Generation, LLC

Case 15-G-0571 – Greenidge Pipeline, LLC and Greenidge Pipeline Properties Corporation

Case 15-T-0586 – Greenidge Pipeline, LLC, and Greenidge Pipeline Properties Corporation


Dear Secretary Burgess,

We Are Seneca Lake is writing to request that you deny the Petitions of Greenidge Generation LLC for an Original Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and Lightened Regulation; of Greenidge Pipeline LLC and Greenidge Pipeline Properties Corporation for an Expedited Original Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and for Incidental or Lightened Regulation; and of Greenidge Pipeline LLC; Greenidge Pipeline Properties Corporation to Construct a Fuel Gas Transmission Line, Containing Approximately 24,318 Feet of 8” Steel Pipeline, Located in the Towns of Milo and Torrey, Yates County. The Applicants have not demonstrated adequate need for the return to service of this power plant and construction of its associated pipeline.

We Are Seneca Lake is a coalition of individuals opposed to the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the Finger Lakes region, particularly the Crestwood methane and LPG storage facility in Reading, NY. We oppose the Greenidge plant on the basis of creating a significant demand for natural gas in the region. Despite assurances from Mr. Irwin that the Greenidge facility does not plan on purchasing natural gas from Crestwood’s storage facility we are well aware that with the construction of the proposed pipeline it will be physically possible to do so, via connections of both facilities with the bi-directional Empire Connector and Millennium Pipelines. Whether or not gas is purchased from a given supplier depends on a variety of factors at a given moment, including the price and availability of natural gas and the current pricing offered for electric power generation. While perhaps not probable, it is possible that gas purchased by the Greenidge plant may come from an intermediary that has stored gas at the Crestwood facility. We acknowledge that the well-documented dangers the Crestwood storage facility poses to Seneca Lake and its tourism economy are not directly at issue in this matter, but they remain at the forefront of our minds.


Developing or repowering additional natural gas power plants is not good energy policy at this time.

Increased use of natural gas poses serious risks to our climate and reliability of our energy system. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates methane to have 86 times more impact on the climate than carbon dioxide over a twenty-year timeframe.[1] This is the exact timeframe in which we must significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Methane emissions from natural gas production, processing, transmission and distribution have been historically underestimated by ground-level studies.[2] Atmospheric level studies document substantial leakage from natural gas drilling operations.[3] Creating additional demand for natural gas at this time is irresponsible and contrary to the United States and New York State meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Further, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) raises concerns about overdependence on natural gas in its 2015 Power Trends report:

The increasing dependence upon natural gas to produce power raises concerns regarding the potential impacts of gas availability on electric system reliability and power costs. Disruptions in natural gas supply and/or delivery can affect the ability of gas-fueled generation to provide power, which could impact electric system reliability. Likewise, power costs will be increasingly subject to volatility associated with natural gas prices.[4]

Natural gas currently accounts for 56% of New York’s generating capacity.[5]


The Greenidge Power Plant does not adequately demonstrate need in their petition for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and Lightened Regulation.

The Rules and Regulations of the Public Service Commission require that the applicant demonstrate the public need for the proposed service including, but not limited to:

(1) the adequacy of the existing service to meet the reasonable needs of the public in the territory involved;

(2) the ability and willingness of the present operator(s) to provide such reasonably adequate service; and

(3) the degree of competition desirable or required by the public interest.[6]

Greenidge fails to demonstrate any of these points in their petition. They simply argue that the SRIS Study performed by the NYISO concluded that the repowering of the Greenidge plant “will not adversely impact the reliability of the New York State Transmission System,” and point to the benefit of providing service on a merchant basis and not requesting public funding, and creating 10 local jobs.[7] While no one can argue that Dresden, NY was not economically harmed by the closure of the Greenidge power plant in 2011, and could benefit from local job development, the Public Service Commission is tasked with considering the needs of ratepayers rather than the economic development of a region as part of the calculation of need. Jobs can come from many sources, including the redevelopment of the facility to produce renewable energy. They further point to the pending approval of air permits by the NYSDEC and plans to keep within those permits as support of the plant being within the public interest. However, at this time the plant has zero emissions; while permitted, the proposed emissions do negatively impact the public both locally and globally and cannot be considered a benefit.


Existing service without the Greenidge power plant is adequate to meet the reasonable needs of the public in the territory involved, and therefore there is no need for this facility. (Addressing NYCRR 16 § 21.3(g)(1))

NYISO reports that in New York state, “year-to-year growth in the overall usage of electric energy from the bulk electric system is forecasted to be flat over the next decade” and while peak demand is expected to grow, “Energy efficiency programs and distributed energy resources (solar photovoltaics and other “behind-the-meter” systems) in New York are expected to reduce the growth of peak demand on the bulk power system by more than 2,700 megawatts from projected levels by 2025. They are also expected to lower annual energy usage served by the bulk power system by more than 14,000 gigawatt-hours in 2025.” [8]

Greenidge purports to serve the entirety of New York State. As of 2015, power resources available to serve New York State totaled 41,610 megawatts. “Total capacity remains well above the projected peak demand of 33,567 megawatts plus the reserve requirement, which totals 39,273 megawatts.”[9] The greatest demand for power in New York comes from NYC and Long Island and other areas downstate. Capacity of the Greenidge facility to service these areas is limited by the capacity and inefficencies of the transmission lines. The Greenidge facility is located within NYISO Zone C. Within this zone, there is a clear overabundance of capacity versus demand. See Figure 1. Even the closure of the Fitzpatrick Nuclear facility (800 MW) does not significantly reduce the excess capacity available, more and more generation is coming online from wind and solar, and NY’s significant hydroelectric production more than makes up for any loss of solar capacity during the night.

Supply in Zone C is twice that of demand

Figure 1: Zonal capacity and loads. Prepared by Irene Weiser from data contained in NYISO’s 2015 “Gold Book”



The competition in the energy grid desired by the public interest is for clean renewable energy, not antiquated and polluting fossil fuels. (Addressing NYCRR 16 § 21.3(g)(3)).

Regarding competition, the Greenidge facility proposes to add no more power to the grid (106.3 MW) than a number of proposed individual proposed wind projects in Zone C. These include NextEra Energy Resources’s Watkins Glen Wind project at 122.4 MW and Baron Winds’ 300 MW project, among other smaller wind projects.[10] The Greenidge facility is dependent on the availability and price of natural gas and its competitiveness must be questioned. Additionally, at this time this plant has zero emissions. Bringing it back online will, while within air permit requirements, add in excess of 100 tons per year to the air of each of the following: particulate matter smaller than 10 microns (PM-10), total particulates (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOX), and carbon monoxide (CO), subject to various permit conditions, in addition to carbon dioxide (CO2).[11] The addition of pollutants to the air, no matter how well within air permit limits, is not in the public interest.


Repowering the Greenidge plant is contrary to the goals and methods of the Public Service Commission’s Reforming our Energy Vision initiative.

The Public Service Commission is currently working to re-tool New York’s energy market through the “Reforming our Energy Vision” (REV) process, with an eye to meeting New York’s renewable energy goals and reducing peak power consumption. New York State aims to have 50% of its electricity generation come from renewable resources, and achieve a 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030.[12] To bring a fossil fuel plant back online at this time is contrary to this goal.

Further, as the Greenidge plant aims to operate on the spot-pricing wholesale market, it is looking to service a peak demand market that REV is actively working to reduce through new technologies. As the Public Service Commission acknowledges, this new approach would facilitate the growth of demandside resources as the primary tool to manage distribution system flows, shape system load, and enable customers to choose cleaner, more resilient power options.[13]

It is unclear whether the operators and financiers behind the Greenidge power plant are taking into account these shifting regulatory and market dynamics, or if they are basing their judgment on their prior experience with how the market has worked in the past.


There is no need for the construction of a new natural gas pipeline and the PSC should deny the petitions in Case 15-G-0571 and Case 15-T-0586.

Greenidge Pipeline and Greenidge Properties likewise fail to demonstrate need for the pipeline. They again do not clearly or adequately cover the points in NYCRR 16 Part 21.3(g), again relying on local jobs and tax revenue as their major justification for the need for the pipeline. Again, no one is questioning the need for economic development in the area but the issue at hand is whether the ratepayers of New York need this facility. Greenidge argues that the pipeline is needed to serve the plant. However, having demonstrated the lack of need for the power plant itself as explained above, it is clear that there is no need for the development of the proposed 4.5 mile pipeline. Even if the plant is allowed to repower, it can also run on biomass and is not dependent on natural gas as a sole source of fuel. Pipelines require a commitment of natural resources that cannot be easily undone. The farmland, forests, and ravines affected will suffer permanent impacts on fertility and ecological integrity.


Greenidge Pipeline LLC and Greenidge Pipeline Properties Corporation do not qualify for an Expedited Original Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Case 15-G-0571) due to the concerns raised at the public hearing on November 4, 2015. At the very least, additional public hearings are needed.

According to Public Service Commission regulation, “If, at the hearings provided by subdivision (a) of this section, the commission finds that there is a substantive basis for opposition to the granting of the certificate, it shall order that the matter be set for further hearings.”[14] Significant opposition was heard at the public hearing in Dresden, NY on November 4, 2015 and the meeting ran so late that many people who had signed up to speak had to leave before speaking. An expedited process should not be granted, as this is a contested application.


We Are Seneca Lake respectfully requests that the Public Service Commission deny the three petitions related to the repowering of the Greenidge power plant and the related building of a 4.5 mile pipeline.



Lindsay Speer

Director, Creating Change Consulting

on behalf of We Are Seneca Lake


[1] IPCC. 2013. Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Available at (accessed 10 January 2014).

[2] Howard, T. (2015), University of Texas study underestimates national methane emissions at natural gas production sites due to instrument sensor failure. Energy Science & Engineering, 3: 443–455. doi: 10.1002/ese3.81

[3] Brandt, A. R., G. A. Heath, E. A. Kort, F. O’Sullivan, G. Pétron, S. M. Jordaan, et al. 2014. Methane leaks from North American natural gas systems. Science 343:733–735. doi: 10.1126/science.1247045

[4]NYISO. Power Trends 2015: Rightsizing the Grid. New York Independent System Operator. p. 41. Available at (accessed 7 November 2015).

[5] Id. at 6.

[6] NYCRR 16 Part 21.3(g)


[8] NYISO at 4.

[9] NYISO at 22.

[10] NYISO. 2015 Load & Capacity Data. New York Independent System Operator, Inc. P. 72. Available at (Accessed 7 November 2015).

[11] See the DEC’s August 12, 2015 Environmental Notice Bulletin,

[12] New York State. Reforming the Energy Vision: About the Initiative. Available at Accessed 7 November 2015.

[13] NYISO. 2015 Power Trends, at 54.

[14] NYCRR 16 § 21.10(c)

Charges Dismissed ‘In the Interest of Justice’ for 42 Seneca Lake Gas Storage Protesters

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Mar 192015


Charges Dismissed ‘In the Interests of Justice’ for 42 Seneca Lake Gas Storage Protesters
Mariah Plumlee | March 19, 2015 10:57 am | Comments

[Author’s Note: As this goes to press, Reverend Nancy Kasper’s charges were dismissed in the interest of justice. She was one of 42 dismissals at the Reading Town Court on March 18.  Reverend Kasper will still go to trial for her second arrest.]

It was 4 degrees on February 23, on the drive from Mecklenburg to the Reading Town Court. It had become a familiar route. Since October, I’ve been part of a local movement protesting the expansion of gas storage beside Seneca Lake by a company called Crestwood Midstream. The argument is a familiar one. People against the expansion cite environmental concerns: unstable caverns with a history of collapse, air quality issues and their associated health risks, increased train and truck traffic. Local winemakers are concerned about their grapes, being sullied by an industry known for its cavalier destruction.

To date, there have been 216 arrests at the gates of Crestwood. Since November, I have watched musicians, professors, nurses, teachers, bakers, chefs, psychologists, farmers, philosophers, business owners, winemakers and parents face charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct at the Reading Town Court. It is, my husband says, my miniseries.

The best part of the drive is heading west on 79 out of Burdett when the lake just appears. Boom. Like a guy jumping out of a cake. I grew up downstate, in a family that eschewed fresh water for salt. I find it hard to trust water that doesn’t move with the moon. (I once burst into tears at a gas station in Queens because I could smell the ocean). My children, however, were born here. Ignorant of sand up their swimsuits, or being caught in a dead man’s roll, they make piles of shale on Lodi Point every summer, squawking with excitement when a boat goes by, and for a moment, there is a wave. They are lake people. Headed down the hill, the lake was on my right, massive and unapologetic. It was so cold I was driving with my gloves still on.

Today was Reverend Nancy Kasper’s trial. She pled not guilty at her arraignment, and chose to go to trial with a public defender. For a violation, there is no jury, just the judge, which I have learned, is called a bench trial. The deputy at the door of the courthouse asked me if I was there for an arraignment or if I was ‘just visiting”. This is the euphemism he uses every time he sees me, though I am attending a public trial, in a public building. Then it was time for the search. I held my arms out in a T, and told him I’d left my phone in the car. We both agreed that I didn’t have any weapons or bombs on me. He outlined my down coat with the metal detector, and it beeped its assent. All I had on me were mechanical pencils.

I’ve been attending these court proceedings for two reasons. One: moral outrage. Jamming fracked gases into unstable caverns under one of the biggest sources of freshwater in the state, in the heart of a thriving, award winning wine industry is madness. Two: Gratitude. I came of age in a world without trustworthy role models. My heart has grown three sizes watching the people here stand up to defend their home, their water. They have given me the beginnings of faith. So I show up.

There were a handful of people in the courtroom: a few Seneca Lake Defenders that I knew; Barry Moon, the director of operations at Crestwood; and a young man in a dark suit and hair product sitting beside him. He never identified himself.

Wesley Roe, Reverend Kasper’s public defender, started things off by reminding Judge Berry that he had passed a motion requesting an expert witness. His argument, he said, was two-pronged. One, the Reverend had acted on a belief of imminent harm, and two, that harm was real. In order to show this, he said specific testimony was necessary from an expert witness.

John Tunney, the assistant District Attorney, took issue with Mr. Roe’s request, saying, “justification is not an applicable defense.” The question, he said, was not why the defendant had trespassed, but whether or not she had trespassed. Judge Berry said he agreed with ADA Tunney and that there would be no expert witness.

Judge Berry went on to say that in his understanding the application for construction of a compressor station had not yet been approved by the DEC. Roe reminded him that FERC had approved Crestwood’s request to expand their current methane storage to 2 billion cubic feet last summer. Judge Berry still would not allow the expert witness.

Mr. Tunney called Barry Moon and Deputy Eberhardt to testify. Mr. Moon, who is the Director of Operations at Crestwood, has worked for the company for the last 27 years, since they were Bath Petroleum. He is familiar with the physical plant, and involved with the wells and layout of salt and gas facilities. He told us about the NO TRESPASSING signs at the site and that the protestors did not have Crestwood’s permission to be on the property. He was working at the brine field on November 19, 2014, when he was informed that the gate was being blocked. He made the official complaint to the police that resulted in Rev. Kasper’s arrest, among others. This was my first time seeing Barry Moon in the flesh. He wore a striped shirt and corduroy pants. He was unassuming and polite while on the stand. I wondered what he really thought about all of this.

Deputy Eberhardt described the scene at the site of the arrest and identified Rev. Kasper as one of the people blockading the south gate. Mr. Roe asked him if the blockaders were doing any harm. Mr. Tunney objected to that line of questioning. Mr. Roe was finally allowed to ask Mr. Eberhardt if the protestors had been compliant. “Did they resist? Were they reasonable? Did they answer your questions?” They had not resisted, they were compliant.

Reverend Kasper testified on her own behalf. Tall and neatly dressed, she spoke calmly with clarity. She said she was compelled as a mother and as a citizen of this planet to protect our future. She spoke of mass extinctions and environmental degradation, about being a minister, and the harm that she has witnessed to the earth over the course of her lifetime. She said she put her body in the way of progress, that … But Tunney stopped her before she was finished, saying, “I have tried to be indulgent. I understand the point. It is not unfounded. I am objecting on the subject of relevance.” The only thing that mattered, he argued, was that she admitted to trespassing. Mr. Roe urged Judge Berry to dismiss the charges in the interest of justice. Mr. Tunney insisted that was a pretrial motion and couldn’t be requested now. Mr. Roe objected to the preclusion of his expert witness and asked again how imminent harm could possibly be irrelevant. He got no answer from Judge Berry.

The court was adjourned. I asked Mr. Tunney to explain his argument about the justification defense not being relevant. He said in Section 35 subdivision 2 of the Penal Code it says that under certain circumstances criminal conduct may be justified and reasonable and necessary to avoid imminent harm, such as a man breaking into a house that is on fire to save a child’s life. As an example, he mentioned a case down state where some people had blocked a bulldozer in an attempt to save a park from destruction, but they did so 7 hours before the demolition was to begin. They could have used those 7 hours to call a lawyer and get an injunction, Mr. Tunney explained to me, so they therefore could not use the justification defense. Rev. Kasper’s case was even more pronounced, he said, as it had been several months since her arrest, with no new developments at the construction site.

I drove back the way I had come, my face smarting from the short walk to the car. The wind had picked up, and the air was exquisitely painful. The lake was on my left now. Tidal or not, the sight of all water was comforting. Still a liquid, holding strong at 32 degrees. A warm spot. A 600-foot deep, forty-mile long warm spot. Even now, in this harsh winter, the lake was moderating the climate for us. A miracle.

‘I have tried to be indulgent,’ Tunney had said, as he interrupted Nancy. I have indulged many a toddler in my career, and I know that telling them they are being indulged is the final flourish on the manipulation. He didn’t have to let her talk about why she trespassed, but he did. For a little while.

State Route 14 south merged from two lanes into one and I eased in behind a truck. It was hard to keep my attention on the road, rendered a gray by the salt, boring compared to the shifting textures and tones out on the lake. There was wind out there, slicing the water into pieces of light. I ran through the words for blue that I knew: Cobalt. Cerulean. Aegean. Azure. Ultramarine. Sapphire. Lapis. None of them were accurate enough for what I saw. Take all the words for blue, put them into a kaleidoscope, look straight into a cold sun. That’s what color it was.

I thought about Mr. Tunney’s definition of imminent harm, how small it was. Nancy Kasper, on the other hand, made the issue big. Big like the lake is big. She had big reasons for risking arrest. Our water, our soil, is at the very root of what this place is, and why we are able to live here. Tunney said our concerns weren’t unfounded. Why isn’t he fighting for us? Why is the DA’s office protecting an industry that considers the lake, the grapes, and the farms an insubstantive issue?

Of the 216 arrests that have occurred, Reverend Kasper’s trial is the first. She is the first voice of many to publically stand trial in an attempt to protect their home, their water. They aren’t going to stop, those clear, calm voices. The water was still on my left as I put my Subaru in fourth to get up the hill. Soon it would be behind me, just out of sight.



Message to the UK: The Fracking Bridge is Already Burning

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Jan 242015

Despite all of the David Cameron government’s fanfare about “going all out for shale,” widespread resistance has already put the UK’s pro-fracking forces on the defensive. (Photo: by Frack Free Denton)

On a week-long trip to the UK last fall, I was struck by how quickly the push to open up the country to fracking has been escalating. Thankfully, activists are mounting a vigorous and creative response, and are more than up to the task of galvanizing the public to put a stop to this mad dash to extract.

That is not to say it will be easy. In rushing to exploit the UK’s shale gas reserves, the industry has spent millions on public relations and brazenly overridden the democratic will of British citizens by overturning laws that had prevented drilling under homes. The coalition government, meanwhile, has done the sector’s bidding at every turn.

We’ve seen all of this before. Indeed what is happening in the UK is modeled so closely on the U.S. experience that an October 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal spoke of “Plotting an American-Style Fracking Revolution in Britain.”

So it’s worth playing close attention to how that earlier plot played out, both in the United States and in my own country, Canada. The U.S. is not only where the gas companies honed various technologies used in fracking, but also where they honed their branding—like their pitch, originating in the early 1980s, that natural gas was a “bridge” to a clean energy future.

As opposition has grown, they have cleverly funded studies stamped by big green organizations that understate fracking’s huge greenhouse gas impact; touted over-optimistic production forecasts; and in true shock doctrine style, tried to take advantage of geo-political crisis, like the gas cut-offs in Ukraine, to push through massive export plans that in any other circumstance could never gain legislative or public approval.

And when all else fails, government and industry have turned to criminalizing peaceful activism. They’ve dispatched heavily armed police against Indigenous communities blockading shale gas exploration in New Brunswick, Canada; gagged families impacted by drilling from criticizing the industry for an entire lifetime; and tried to charge as “terrorists” protesters in Oklahoma who unfurled a banner and dropped glitter at an oil and gas company’s office.

Yet even with such tactics, communities across North America are in full revolt. Last month came the huge news that New York State would ban fracking, following a steady stream of bans and moratoria passed in local communities, as well as years of sustained pressure from the activists and scientists—like biologist and author Sandra Steingraber, co-founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking—who have tirelessly documented and spread the word about the health and climate impacts. (The New York uprising continues in the Finger Lakes region of the state, where one Texas-based company hopes to create a massive “gas storage and transportation hub,” and where 200 blockaders have been arrested resisting its plans to fill abandoned salt caverns along Seneca Lake with enormous amounts of fracked gas.) A ban has also been passed in Vermont and there are moratoria in parts of California, as well as in the Canadian provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.

And a month before the New York victory, the Texas town of Denton—the birthplace of the fracking boom and perhaps the most drilled area in the country—voted decisively to ban hydraulic fracturing. The victory was achieved in a Republican town, in the face of an industry that poured hundreds of thousands into the battle—which was, in the words of a resident, “more like David and Godzilla than David and Goliath.”

The story of Denton has much to teach the growing anti-fracking movement in Britain. What it demonstrates is that, left to their own devices, the fossil fuel companies will come after your homes, your churches, your schools, your parks, your university campuses, and your sports stadiums—all of which have had wells drilled on or near them in Denton.

But despite all of the David Cameron government’s fanfare about “going all out for shale,” widespread resistance has already put the UK’s pro-fracking forces on the defensive. A recent Guardian analysis found that only 11 new exploration wells are planned for 2015, with the industry bemoaning the “glacially slow” pace of the shale expansion—to say nothing of possible impacts from the global oil price shock now threatening extreme fossil fuels around the world. Just yesterday, ahead of a key Parliament vote on fracking legislation, green groups sent Cameron a petition with 267,000 signatures rejecting the dash for gas.

It may seem that frackers in the UK and elsewhere will stop at nothing to have their way. But thanks to the rising global climate movement, this so-called bridge is already burning. And it’s long past time to choose a different path.