Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich was in Orange County Saturday, joining with protestors in front of a power plant under construction. His visit came days after it was revealed that alleged ties between a former top aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the plant’s permitting process are the subject of a federal probe.
Former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich stood in front of the CPV Valley Energy Center site in Wawayanda with a weekly crowd of picketers and a new call to Governor Cuomo.
“This is the time for the governor to use his executive authority with a cloud of criminality over this project and say ‘we’re going to stop it right in its tracks, it’s not going forward,’” Kucinich said. “Stop it now. Don’t wait, don’t wait.”
He says he’s known Cuomo for many years and that they worked together when Cuomo was part of President Bill Clinton’s administration.
“And I would assume that as he’s looking at this right now he’s got to be very concerned that he doesn’t get smeared on this project because this project started before he was governor,” said Kucinich.
A Cuomo spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on Kucinich’s call to halt construction amid the investigation. The Daily News first reported April 29 that a former top aide and others close to Governor Cuomo were under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan for potential improper lobbying and undisclosed conflicts of interest, including for the CPV, or Competitive Power Ventures, plant in Orange County. Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal reported that investigators are looking into payments appearing to come from CPV to the wife of former top aide Joseph Percoco. A CPV spokesman also did not respond to a request for comment, but in previous media reports the company has said it was contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s office to provide information and is cooperating fully with the investigation.
It was Kucinich’s first time standing with weekly picketers in front of the natural gas power plant, but not his first visit to Orange County. The two-time presidential candidate was the guest speaker at a forum in Warwick about CPV in January, where he said the following:
“When I look at this project in Orange County, it cries out for a detailed federal investigation,” says Kucinich. “There are too many things that have gone wrong, in my view, as someone who understands and looks at these kinds of projects with a jeweler’s eye, I can tell you that there’s something really wrong about the way this whole thing has been put together here and basically presented to you as a fait accompli.”
The pickets are organized by Protect Orange County, and activist, actor and Warwick resident James Cromwell has been protesting the plant for some time. He was with his friend Kucinich May 7.
“And he was, I believe, responsible in some way for the investigation that is going on now because he took our information to Washington and said, you should take a look at this.”
Kucinich says he cannot take credit for the ongoing investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office. He says that while he did speak with federal officials in Washington and raised questions about the plant, he did not speak with Bharara.
In a May 2 letter, Cuomo’s counsel wrote to the heads of the New York Power Authority, Public Service Commission and Department of Environmental Conservation, directing them to immediately suspend all communications with CPV or CPV Valley, activities in support of any regulatory approvals, any ongoing regulatory proceedings related to CPV or any other matters concerning the state and CPV amid the investigation. Hearing this, Kucinich responds.
“That’s good, that’s good, but construction’s continuing,” says Kucinich. “And, think about it, if the thing is wrong, if it was advanced through illegal means, through conduct that could be prosecuted criminally, why should that even be there.”
Tom Denny is a Wawayanda resident and guitar teacher.
Song lyrics: “Call Governor Cuomo, tell him to stop the power plant. Call Governor Cuomo say stop the fracking plant.”
The project is described as a 650-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas power plant with two 275-foot-high stacks. CPV says gas for the facility will come from the nearby Millennium pipeline and the company is awaiting approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the pipeline connection.
UPDATE: The New York Power Authority emailed a statement to WAMC about what state-level approvals are needed for CPV.
“There are significant open issues between the Power Authority and CPV that prevent the plant from becoming operational. Any prior approvals are incomplete and do not authorize clearance for the operation and function of the plant. Specifically, the Power Authority and CPV have not come to agreement on several material terms, which include certain engineering and technical issues, nor has CPV obtained permission from private landowners to work on the property where the Marcy South transmission line is located. If permission is obtained, CPV will then be required to obtain a NYPA permit to access its right-of-way. NYPA has no plans to enter into a power purchase agreement to buy electricity from the CPV Valley Energy Center.”
UPDATE: CPV Vice President of External Affairs Thomas Rumsey emailed a statement to WAMC.
"We do not have, nor are we seeking a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) from any state authority. This facility is 100% privately funded and we fully expect to meet our commercial operating date of February 2018. We look forward to continuing our work with all of our partners to bring this critical infrastructure and environmentally responsible power resource on-line in order to secure New York's power needs in a constrained area where additional generation is needed."