DRESDEN — After the most recent court ruling in Greenidge Generation’s favor, company plant manager Dale Irwin praised the decision and defended the company in a statement to the media.
On Feb. 8, the Fourth Judicial Department of state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division ruled in favor of Greenidge in a lawsuit brought by four environmental groups. Now the groups are mulling whether to appeal the ruling to the state’s highest court while also taking issues with some of Irwin’s statements.
Greenidge acquired the former coal-fired electric-generating plant on the west shore of Seneca Lake near Dresden and reopened it in 2017, switching to natural gas as its fuel source.
The Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, the Coalition to Protect New York, the Sierra Club and Seneca Lake Guardian filed a lawsuit over the restarting of the plant, citing a variety of environmental and permit issues.
State Supreme Court Judge William Kocher dismissed the suit, and his decision was appealed to the five-judge Appellate Court, which voted 5-0 to uphold Kocher’s decision.
Seneca Lake Guardian Research Director Mary Anne Kowalski cited Irwin’s statement that “from the very beginning of this process, we consistently pledged to meet all state and federal requirements and the highest environmental standards in bringing this facility back on line.”
Kowalski called the statement “BS” and “fake news.”
“All they have done is make pledges,” she said. “The promises dealing with water quality and protections have not been met, and some may never be met.”
Kowalski said that based on DEC and EPA records, Greenidge is not meeting stringent requirements. She pointed out that:
• There are no screens to stop fish and other aquatic organisms from being sucked into the cooling system, “creating a huge fish blender.” Kowalski said permits issued to Greenidge in 2017 required construction of variable speed pumps and screens by 2022.
“The plant’s general manager carefully phrased their statements to make it appear they have been installed at great expense. They have not,” she said.
• There was no review of the amount of water needed to operate the plant. Kowalski said the plant is permitted to withdraw up to 139,248,000 gallons of water per day from Seneca Lake. She said that is almost three times the amount of water used by the city of Rochester every day.
• The Lockwood coal ash landfill, associated with the plant, has been rated by the DEC and EPA as closed but continues to accept material beyond the noted closing date.
Kowalski said Lockwood is not monitored for all of the EPA required compounds, including lead, thallium and radium. She said the DEC imposed a consent order in 2015 that determined the Lockwood site contained substances in excess of water quality standards yet only limited remediation has been required and corrective action is now required to be completed in November.
• Very few permanent, full-time positions have been created “despite Greenidge’s promise of jobs.”
• Tax revenues were exaggerated, with an assessment of $55 million for tax purposes. But Kowalski said under a PILOT agreement, the company paid $1.1 million annually. Under a new PILOT agreement, Greenidge is paying only $132,000, and the assessed value is less than $3 million for the plant and the pipeline.