By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO August 16, 2002 Due to the protests of a local community group and the opposition of some local government entities, Calpine Corporation has decided against building a power plant on 60 acres of land adjacent to the Sullivan County Landfill. Calpine officials notified County Manager Dan Briggs on Monday that they were withdrawing the offer to purchase an option on the property.
Both Briggs and Legislature Chair Leni Binder made statements afterwards, although only Briggs specifically voiced opinions on Calpines withdrawal.
"I am genuinely disappointed that the process was not allowed to continue and that more information was not made available about the entire project, said Briggs. I feel that with more information the public could have made a better informed decision.
We in the county have an obligation to carefully look at any project brought to us," Binder said in a press release. "If those proposals have any negative aspects, they will be brought to light because we have a system that has checks and balances."
Calpine had proposed to build a power plant adjacent to the landfill. The plant would produce between 540 and 1,080 megawatts of power and be run on natural gas. The project would have cost between $350 and $700 million, and up to 400 construction jobs would have been created in addition to 25-35 permanent jobs with a $2 million payroll once the plant was operational.
This was all preliminary, however, as Calpine never got the chance to thoroughly research the property and make concrete decisions on the project.
Nevertheless, Calpine ran into a great deal of opposition to their project. A group of residents who live near the landfill formed the Special Protection for the Environment of the County of Sullivan (SPECS). SPECS was very outspoken against the project and stated their case before the Sullivan County Legislature, the Town of Thompson, and the Village of Monticello at their meetings. In fact, due to information from SPECS, the village opposed the project and the town nearly reversed their pro position on it.
SPECS members were cautiously elated.
We are pleased that Calpine withdrew their request to purchase the land, said SPECS Co-Chair Cynthia Niven at a legislative meeting yesterday. We thank the county and town officials who came out against this. It did bring the community together in a good way.
[But] we don't think Calpine is gone, she added, speaking to legislators. We feel that we are not a part of the process. In the future, I hope you will take our considerations seriously and you will listen to us.
We are very pleased that the Calpine project was not pursued. We appreciate that you let us state the facts, agreed SPECS Co-Chair Janet Newberg. If another project comes up with environmental impacts, please consult us. We will continue to work with you on all environmental issues.
But at least one local official has been left with a bad taste in his mouth regarding the entire situation.
"There has been a terrible overreaction [by the elected officials] to partial and wrong information," commented Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development President Michael Sullivan, the lead local promoter of Calpine. "This project was met with a knee-jerk reaction. It is unfortunate and an incredible overreaction to a preliminary inquiry. The facts were never heard. Sullivan County has a history of this. We have to, as a county, look at every project that comes here."
According to Calpine, though, the county still might see a power plant.
"The [Monticello] property is just not feasible from a community relations standpoint. We will not go where we are not wanted," remarked Calpine representative John Flumerfelt. "We will continue to look for property in New York State and in Sullivan County. We will not be looking for any property in the Town of Thompson or the Village of Monticello. Also, we will not buy land from any government municipality.
"There were a lot of people who supported it," Flumerfelt continued. "[SPECS] was entitled to their opinion. They made up their mind on incomplete information.
We like Sullivan County and are cautiously optimistic we can still build there.
Calpine spent over $300,000 for the proposed project at the landfill, said Flumerfelt. They had worked on it for over a year and a half.