Hydropower sparks debate as New York fights for clean energy
Renewable energy faces an uncertain future in New York. After the Indian Point nuclear plant shut down last year, the state returned to fossil fuels. Now, fossil fuels power about 90% of New York’s grid. As the state finds new energy sources to meet emission targets, divided opinions complicate the way forward. While some experts push for hydropower, others voice concerns.
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Today, state regulators decide the fate of a proposal to run a transmission line down the Hudson River from hydropower dams in Québec. The Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) could cover half of the capacity lost when the nuclear plant was closed. CHPE would provide reliable, sufficient power compared to wind and solar.
While considered a green energy source, hydropower faces criticism for ecosystem disruption. Indigenous groups have also opposed dam development. However, the CHPE proposal seems to have gained support despite this. With all permits and approval from the governor, construction could start in a few weeks. In the meantime, conservationists are speaking out against the project.
John Lipscomb, vice president of conservation group Hudson Riverkeeper, says that the project is unethical and steals from First Nations tribes. “We talk in New York about how we want to support traditionally marginalized communities, but we find a way to overlook [that] so we can check a green box,” Lipscomb said.
As the debate continues, the New York power grid keeps burning fossil fuels. The New York Communities for Change, a climate group that initially opposed the CHPE project, now urges other environmental groups to accept it. “While we respect opponents making good faith arguments against this project, we believe there is simply no time left to waste to bring renewable energy to New York City,” the group said in a statement. “No transmission project is perfect. All have real and painful downsides. Nonetheless, we have decided to support CHPE because it will rapidly reduce New York City’s massive climate impact.”