DRESDEN — On Sept. 11, 2017, the state Department of Environmental Conservation issued Greenidge Generation water withdrawal and State Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits. The DEC did so without requiring the plant to install cylindrical wedge wire intake screens on the plant’s cooling water intakes and variable speed cooling water pumps to reduce fish mortality.
The Sierra Club, the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, the Coalition to Preserve New York, and Seneca Lake Guardian filed a lawsuit against the DEC Nov. 8, claiming the permits shouldn’t have been issued without the additional requirements.
Lawyers are scheduled argue their cases at 2 p.m. May 22 in state Supreme Court of Yates County. Acting Supreme Court Justice William Kocher will preside.
The plaintiffs claim the water withdrawal permit allowing Greenidge to take up to 139.2 million gallons of water per day from Seneca Lake, along with a modified SPDES permit, are legally deficient because they were issued without a proper environmental review of the impacts of restarting the Greenidge station. The lawsuit asks to have the permits annulled and a new environmental review to be conducted.
Greenidge Generation acquired the former coal-fired generating plant and retrofitted it to allow natural gas to run the turbines.
“We are concerned that DEC is continuing to allow Greenidge Station to operate with no equipment to reduce fish mortality,” said Peter Gamba, president of the Committee for the Preservation of the Finger Lakes. “The time requirements in the permit related to the installation of the screening are complicated and subject to numerous studies by Greenidge and DEC approvals. The completion of these requirements could take many years. We feel the various studies required by the permits should have been conducted before the permit was issued as part of the environmental review process so the public could participate.”
“In order to properly protect the fish and aquatic life in Seneca Lake, DEC needs to require closed-cycle cooling for Greenidge Station,” added Kate Bartholomew, chairwoman of the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter.
Bartholomew said by contrast, the Athens Generating Station in Greene County is permitted to take up to 1.5 million gallons of water per day from the Hudson River, yet generates 10 times the electricity Greenidge does.
“This shows the dramatic reduction in water usage resulting from closed-cycle cooling,” Bartholomew said of the Athens setup. “Similar protections are required for Seneca Lake.”
The same four groups also filed an earlier legal challenge to the air permits the DEC issued Sept. 8, 2016. Kocher denied that petition, but the groups appealed, and oral arguments in that litigation are set for Oct. 22 in the Fourth Judicial Department of state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Rochester.