Sheridan Hollow residents and local environmental advocates have continued to voice concerns that authorities haven’t weighed the public-health impact of the upcoming project set for the Sheridan Ave. steam plant that will house an oil and gas-powered microgrid. Advocates have maintained contact with the project partners at the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the NYS Office of General Services (OGS) through regular correspondence and public meetings since the project announcement, becoming increasingly frustrated with what they feel is a lack of data provided by the project managers.
The highly anticipated Request for Proposals (RFP) regarding the upcoming Empire State Plaza microgrid project was released on the project’s informational website on Friday Dec. 22. The document had been a subject of debate in meetings between Albany residents and environmental advocates who have asked to review it and the project partners who have opted to withhold it until a bidding contractor is awarded.
The Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy (SHARE) submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for the RFP back in October. As previously reported in The Alt, the request was denied for “proprietary reasons,” and a supporting FAQ document for the project stated the RFP was still in a “restricted period.” Activists have argued that the RFP should have been released along with the initial announcement of the project to give citizens ample time to explore the document and make informed questions and decisions.
The release of the document in concurrence with the contract award, said Citizen Action policy director (and head of the legal and policy committee for SHARE) Bob Cohen, “certainly would make it harder for citizens to review.”
“They should have done it before starting this project,” SHARE co-chair and Albany County legislator Mert Simpson told The Alt. Simpson and the attorneys for PAUSE (People of Albany United for Safe Energy) also filed formal FOIL appeals with NYPA, OGS and NYSERDA. Representatives from PAUSE could not be reached for comment.
The SHARE coalition opted to appeal their request, notifying NYPA’s general counsel on Dec. 21. The RFP was released on the microgrid project website the following day, but it was unclear whether a contractor had been awarded and SHARE has not received a response to their appeal. As of Dec. 28, NYPA spokesperson Susan Craig said a contract has still not been selected and that the process of design, environmental review and another public forum will follow that decision.
Simpson believes the Dec. 19 press release stating the state organization was “illegally withholding a critical document about a proposed frack gas turbine project” pressured NYPA to post the information. According to the release, SHARE had received an advisory opinion from the Committee on Open Government Assistant Director Kristin O’Neill on Nov. 21, stating that the organization was entitled to the information following their FOIL request.
According to Craig, the RFP has been posted publicly “for some time.” The document was located on a NYPA procurement site accessible to bidding contractors with a password. “The difference in the way that it was posted publicly on the project page is through the FOIL process, [we] had redacted cost information,” she said.
“We requested this information both publicly and privately well before this,” Cohen said. “That’s the point of FOIL, the people’s right to know before [there is] decision making is basic to our society, to be able to independently look at what they’re doing. We’re trying to evaluate what they’re doing and we can’t do that without the data.”
The release of documents includes the 72-page RFP outline, a 25-page informational packet for bidders, a 1,228-page RFP bid package of technical requirements with draft redactions and the 1,406-page package of the general requirements.
Environmental data includes an undated initial estimate of the project’s potential to emit (PTE) measuring the boilers’ natural gas and oil use as well as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds emissions. Additionally, there is a Dec. 11 emission estimate summary of a one-hour comparison between the existing boiler use, a cogeneration estimate “based on product information provided by potential vendors” and performance data cogeneration “based on emission performance tests from similar make/model combustion turbines that are being proposed.” Copies of the NYS DEC Office of Environmental Justice fact sheet, a NYS DEC CP-29 Environmental Justice and Permitting policy sheet and the boiler emission statements from 2012 to 2016 are also enclosed.
The release also includes over 30 addendum, appendix and application documents supplementing the RFP as well as the steam plant’s boiler assessment logs completed by Feedwater Systems, Inc., dating back to January 2015.
Craig told The Alt in an email that NYPA representatives will speak about the project with any updates from their October presentation at the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations meeting on Jan. 3, 6:30 PM at the main branch of the Albany Public Library.