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Power Plant Opponents Say Link To Federal Probe More Reason To Stop Construction

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Karen DeWitt
/
WSHU

Opponents of a planned fracked gas power plant in the Hudson Valley say they are hoping the U.S. attorney will investigate decisions made in the permitting process for the plan, now that it’s been revealed that the wife of a former top aide to Cuomo took payments from the lead engineering firm in the project, and that her husband is the subject of a federal probe.

The activists, who include actor James Cromwell, say they’ve witnessed the years-long process to approve the power plan with growing unease and bewilderment. And they say their concerns about potential pollution, overreliance on fracked gas and encroachment of historic sites and endangered species’ habitats have been ignored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and other state and federal agencies.

The activists say their interest was piqued when it became public through state financial disclosure forms that the wife of Joe Percoco, Governor Cuomo’s former close associate, and a former middle school teacher, received between $75,000 and $100,000 from a consultant to Competitive Power Ventures (CPV), the company building the power plant. CPV confirmed to Newsday that it has been subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney and is cooperating fully with the probe. Competitive Power Ventures is a major donor to Governor Cuomo, giving his campaign $75,000 in recent years.

Pramilla Malick, with Protect Orange County, says the group is posting over 10,000 documents it’s collected during its fight onto its website, and handing them over to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

“(We’re) urging him to cast his net deep and wide,” Malick said.

Cromwell and five others were arrested last December for trying to stop the plant. The actor in says building the plant commits the U.S. and the rest of the world to 40 years of dependence on fossil fuels.   

“This is a completely crackpot and insane idea of how we should move off of fossil fuels to a non-polluting resource,” Cromwell said.

The group says they also want to hand over their documents to the investigator that Governor Cuomo appointed to review the questions raised by the federal probe. They say all work on the power plant should be halted while the investigation continues. They say they asked for a meeting with Cuomo weeks ago, and were told the governor would see them, but so far that gathering has not happened.

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The governor’s office released a letter from Cuomo’s top counsel to the heads of the state Power Authority, Department of Environmental Conservation, and Public Service Commission, telling them to cut off all contact with Competitive Power Ventures while the probe continues, saying there’s reason to believe that there was improper lobbying and undisclosed conflicts of interest.

A spokesman for the governor says the Power Authority still needs to give permission for the plant to connect with a major power line in order for it to go forward, and that process is currently “on hold.”

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.
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