The United States Supreme Court recently decided against the way the Federal Environmental Protection Agency regulates coal fired electric generators.The Greenidge Electric Generation Plant near Dresden in the town of Torrey on Seneca Lake is closer to restarting, and Altlas Holdings, the N.Y. State DEC, and the Town of Torrey have made the next steps in that direction.
In a legal formality, the DEC asked the town if they would act as lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for soil, water, and air quality. The town declined. By law, the town must first refuse before the DEC can take on that role themselves. According to Torrey Town Clerk, Betty Daggett, once SEQR is completed, there will be a 30-day public comment period before possible approval by the DEC, and then the EPA.
Greenidge is considered in the industry to be one of the most modernized, cleanest burning coal-fired electric plants in the country, but was shut down and sold by AES when EPA- imposed greenhouse emission fees were considered too onerous to continue operation. Generation plants in Ohio and farther into the midwest are criticized for being much more polluting to the air of the Northeast, while one of New York’s cleaner burning plants sits idle.
According to sources in the town, Atlas has expressed tentative plans to restart Greenidge with coal, but plans to construct a branch from the nearby Empire Pipeline to convert the plant to even cleaner burning natural gas. Altas Holding’s representative Michael McKeon says it is premature to comment about the plans and potential timeline for the refiring of the plant until the DEC and EPA permissions have been granted. McKeon says there are no guarantees with either agency, and he will not speculate how the process may unfold. “We are working with regulators to see the best path forward. It remains to be seen,” he said Tuesday morning.
He does say that having Greenidge as an operational plant once more should be seen as an economic boon, generating jobs and much needed tax revenue for Yates County, the Town of Torrey, and the Penn Yan Central School District, along with their electricity.
Other business in Torrey:
• Off year board seat - Correcting a 20-year-old clerical error, the town board passed a resolution resetting the term of office for the Town Board Member seat currently occupied by John Martini. Having that one seat always coming up in an off-year from all other town board elections has caused confusion and increased costs. Acting under the advice of the Yates County Board of Elections, the town board passed a resolution to reset the term, bringing it into alignment with the standard election schedule.
• Storms - Building and Zoning Officer Dwight James is working with the DEC to review flood plains within the town, and the Highway department is installing debris screens in many culverts to prevent major blockages and facilitate clearing.