TransGas back in court
by Daniel Bush
Sep 15, 2009 | 3690 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
North Brooklyn residents don’t want a new power plant in their backyard, and they’ve taken to the courts to stop it from being built.

At a September 9th Appellate Court Hearing, a community coalition faced off against TransGas Energy Systems, the power company proposing to build a new power plant at North 12th Street and Kent Avenue on the Williamsburg waterfront, on a site adjacent to Bushwick Inlet Park, which is under construction.

The hearing was held at the Appellate Court building on Monroe Place in Brooklyn Heights.

The Brooklyn parties consist of Community Board 1, the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront Task Force, and Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, and were represented by attorney Susan Kraham of the Columbia Law School Environmental Law Clinic.

John Dax, who represented TransGas at the hearing, argued that the court should overturn an earlier ruling by the New York State Board on Electric Generation, Siting and the Environment that rejected plans for the plant.

To build the plant, which would have a 1.8 million-gallon oil tank and a 300 foot-plus smokestack towering over Bushwick Inlet Park, Transgas has proposed running transmission lines under city streets leading to the facility.

The Siting Board ruled in 2008 that TransGas cannot do so without city approval, supporting a previous decision by the city not to grant the power company access to public land for the project. (That was the third design plan to be rejected since TransGas announced plans for the facility in 2002).

Dax asked the court to revisit the decision, arguing that the company has the right to use city streets under an Article 10 statue, part of Public Service Law 170, that empowers the board to authorize the “construction and operation” of electrical generation facilities.

“We want a remand of the board’s decision,” Dax said before the hearing. He said TransGas wants the board to study the issue “on the merits and not on a legal technicality.”

Opponents of the plan said they hope the court rules against the power company, whose project would impact a two decades-long effort to revitalize the North Brooklyn waterfront.

Adam Victor, the owner of TransGas, “keeps coming back from the dead like some bad B-movie star,” said Williamsburg resident Evan Thies, despite repeated rejections of his plan by the city. “Let’s hope this is his last gasp.”

Other Williamsburg residents at the hearing said a power plant with its towering smokestack would betray the point of building Bushwick Inlet Park.

“Who wants a park on top of a power plant? It's ridiculous,” said Mike Hofmann, a member of the waterfront task force. “It would ruin the park.”

State attorney John Graham, who represented the Siting Board at the hearing, said under the statute - which expired in 2002, just after TransGas submitted an application for the project - the state board cannot force the city to grant TransGas access to public land.

Still, Graham said there’s no way of predicting how the court will rule on the matter.

“You never what the outcome will be until the make their decision,” Graham said. “It could take one month, it could take six months.”

Dax said TransGas would wait for the ruling before deciding what to do next. “We’re waiting on the nature of the decision to see if we want to pursue this any further,” Dax said.

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