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LIC: Elected leaders call on power plant operators to stop burning toxic oil

Dec. 12, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan

Several politicians held a press conference Friday to call on local power plant operators to stop burning toxic fuel oil, citing public health risks.

The elected officials, who gathered near the Ravenswood power plan on Vernon Avenue, claimed that more than 50 percent of the City’s power comes from plants in Astoria and Long Island City, with some of those facilities burning toxic oil.

The politicians called on power plant operators to stop burning No. 4 and No. 6 oil, both deemed to be extremely hazardous and have been linked to a higher rate of respiratory disease among local residents.

“For decades, power plants in our communities here in Western Queens have strongly contributed to increased asthma rates and increases in hospitalizations and ER visits that exceed the average in Queens,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides.

“Our city has made great progress in ending the use of dirty fuel oil in buildings.  Now more than ever, these plants must become better neighbors and stop the practice of burning No. 6 and No. 4 oil while looking to repower these older facilities.”

The city signed into law last year legislation that requires City-based power plant operators to stop using No. 6 oil by 2020, and number 4 oil by 2030. However, local leaders are calling on the operators to cease using such oil now.

“Today we stand together to say our community deserves better and will not stand for the polluting status quo,” Constantinides said.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said the pollution was particularly troubling into terms of its affect on children.

“Astoria and Long Island City have one of the highest childhood asthma rates in New York City,” Van Bramer said. “This is unacceptable. Our communities should not be known as ‘asthma alley.’”

State Senator Mike Gianaris echoed these sentiments.

“Combating climate change and improving air quality are now more pressing concerns than ever. Reducing carbon emissions and other pollutants will increase the health and wellness of our seniors, children and other local residents and preserve our environment for generations to come,” he said.

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Big Allis, formally known as Ravenswood No. 3, is a giant electric power generator originally commissioned by Consolidated Edison Company (ConEd) and built by the Allis-Chalmers Corporation in 1965. Currently owned by Transcanada Corp., it is located on 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard in western Queens, New York. Its main fuel is natural gas.

During 1963, Allis-Chalmers announced that ConEd had ordered the “world’s first MILLION-KILOWATT unit…big enough to serve 3,000,000 people.” This sheer scale helped the plant become popularly known as “Big Allis”. During the 1965 black-out the bearings of the Allis-Chalmers Turbine were damaged. The lube oil pumps were hooked up to the electrical grid, thus shutting them down during the blackout and causing bearing damage.

At the time of its installation, it was the world’s largest steam energy generating facility. It is located on the Ravenswood site, consisting of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as several small gas turbines (GTs), and an oil depot. The site overall produces about 2,500 MW, or approximately 20% of New York City’s current energy consumption.[1] It was retrofitted to burn some coal and oil in 1983.[2] In 2011, Big Allis burned 97% natural gas, 2% coal and 1% oil (used as backup fuels).

The Ravenswood, Queens site also includes a steam generation plant consisting of four Babcock & Wilcox boilers, commonly known as “The A House”, currently owned and run by Con Edison. The plant helps in the supply of steam to the Manhattan steam system when needed, via the Ravenswood tunnel crossing under the East River.[3][4]

Ravenswood was owned by Con Ed from the time it was built until 1999, when due to deregulation, Con Ed was forced to sell its in-city generating capacity. KeySpan bought the site for US$600 million. In 2007, KeySpan merged with National Grid. Because of the possibility to influence in-city electrical costs due to National Grid’s significant upstate electrical distribution, the New York State Public Service Commission forced National Grid to sell the site. In 2008, TransCanada Corp, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, bought the site for US$2.9 billion.


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