New York bans any coal use at Danskammer plant

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on July 3 hailed a decision by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to prohibit the burning of coal at the to-be-revived Danskammer Generating Facility.

The half-century-old power plant has been shut since late 2012 due to flooding from Superstorm Sandy, and plans are in the works to reopen the facility under new ownership. With the DEC’s decision to prohibit the burning of coal, the facility will instead use natural gas. Oil will be used as a backup fuel. The new owners had already indicated that coal would only be used in a dire emergency, like if gas supply to the plant has been disrupted. 

Schneiderman said: “The decision by the Department of Environmental Conservation to prohibit the future use of coal at the Danskammer facility is a major victory for every New Yorker who shares my commitment to fighting for clean air. The burning of coal poses a real threat to public health, contributes directly to climate change and creates coal ash waste containing toxins. I’m pleased the DEC recognized these concerns and issued a decision that will benefit all New Yorkers.”

Said a June 27 New York State Public Service Commission order approving a transfer of plant ownership: “In a petition filed on April 1, 2014, [Helios Power Capital LLC] and a partner it has engaged, Mercuria Energy America, Inc. (Mercuria), opt to pursue the resumption of operations at the Danskammer facility instead of retiring it. They ask for the approval of transactions whereby Helios will transfer its interests in the Danskammer facility to Danskammer Energy LLC (DEL) (together with Helios and Mercuria, the Petitioners). Mercuria will then acquire a majority of the ownership interests in DEL. Following those transactions, DEL, as majority-owned and indirectly managed by Mercuria, will seek to return the Danskammer facility to operation.”

All four generation units at the Danskammer facility are capable of using natural gas, and that fuel will be used at all times when available. During periods of high demand, however, gas supplies into the Danskammer facility may be constrained. So the companies originally planned that at those times, Units 1 and 2 will run on fuel oil as a back-up fuel, while the back-up fuel for Units 3 and 4 is coal. To comply with certain requirements, the facility would have run less than 900 hours per year when fueled with coal. 

In a supplemental filing dated May 19, the owning companies reported to the New York commission that they have selected Consolidated Asset Management Services LLC (CAMS) as the operator of the Danskammer facility.

The plant has a nameplate capacity of approximately 537 MW and is located in Newburgh, N.Y., in the New York ISO Lower Hudson Valley capacity zone. The facility has six units: two natural gas- and coal-fired units (Units 3 and 4) with a combined capacity rating of about 386.5 (nameplate); two oil- and natural gas-fired units (Units 1 and 2) with a combined capacity rating of around 145.5 MW (nameplate); and two emergency diesel generators (Units 5 and 6) each with a capacity rating of approximately 2.7 MW (nameplate). 

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.