New Digester Gas Cleaning Plant Slated for Greenpoint Ave and other NCMC newsby on
On December 19, 2013, National Grid and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced plans to construct a digester gas cleaning plant on Greenpoint Ave, next to the Visitor’s Center and just behind the bus stop on Greenpoint Avenue, the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee (NCMC) reports. For years, this area was promised by DEP to the community for open space. Plans for the gas cleaning plant had been stalled, but now it seems all the necessary approvals are in place. While the project supports several important environmental goals, including improvements to regional air quality and the production of natural gas to heat New York City homes, NCMC continues to oppose its location. The original Master Plan for the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (NCWWTP) Upgrade, which was used by DEP to gain community support for the project, showed innovatively landscaped open space along Greenpoint Avenue designed to help integrate the plant into the community. Instead, the community will now get more NYC infrastructure and lose promised green space. While the project is an important one and NCMC has encouraged the reuse of methane gas generated by the plant for years, the manner in which the digester gas cleaning plant was sited raises larger questions about commitments made by New York City during Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) actions in general and at the NCWWTP in particular. It begs the question of how to ensure that commitments made during a ULURP process are enforced, especially for long-‐term projects that span many years and changing fiscal climates.
In addition, the December 19, 2013 announcement included news of a new DEP/NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) food waste pilot program at the NCWWTP. For several months now, the NCWWTP has been accepting an organic waste stream, collected by DSNY and processed by Waste Management, Inc. for tanker truck delivery to the digester eggs. At this point, only a small amount of processed organic waste has been added to the digesters, but the plan is to continue to increase the amount of organic waste over time-‐ a beneficial program that will reduce the volume of materials sent to landfills and increase the amount of digester gas that can then be recycled to produce natural gas for home heating.
The objective of the pilot is to test the impact of the added waste stream on plant operations. Since the impact of plant operations on the community has been NCMC’s responsibility, NCMC expected to be provided the results of the pilot so that our technical consultant could independently review the information and explain it to NCMC and the community. However, DEP has determined that it will not provide information about the pilot to NCMC. Instead, DEP has designated Council Member Steve Levin as the lead person for the community on the project. It will therefore be Council Member Levin’s role to set up meetings with DEP and DSNY, to track the progress of the pilot and to determine whether the waste stream affects plant operations in a way that impacts Greenpoint. We regret that DEP has taken this position but will assist Council Member Levin as much as possible.
For a copy of the DEP press release about the December 19, 2013 announcements go to “City Announces Innovative Partnerships”
For as long as NCMC has been in existence, back to 1996, it has been understood that the property where the CM Building is located, at the corner of Greenpoint and Provost, would be open space provided to the community at the completion of the upgrade. Further, NCMC and DEP have had conversations about what it would take to preserve the CM Building since it would provide great community space. However, NYCDEP recently announced plans to move its Marine Division to the CM Building until at least 2015 when new quarters will be available for the Division back at the Red Hook plant. The Marine Division relocation has nothing to do with the upgrade but will likely pose a further delay in turning over the open space. This development is especially frustrating in light of the siting of the National Grid Digester Cleaning Plant in another location promised for open space.
Another open space promised to Greenpoint, that NYDCEP is also questioning, is the property located at the corner of Greenpoint and Kingsland. NCMC, with the assistance of Council Member Levin and Assembly Member Lentol, is continuing to press NYCDEP on these commitments and hopes to have more positive news to report soon.