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Power Plant Emissions to Be Probed By City Council For First Time

 Several power plant smoke stacks in Queens, viewed from Astoria.
Several power plant smoke stacks in Queens, viewed from Astoria.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

ASTORIA — A City Council hearing later this month will investigate emissions produced by some of the city's biggest power plants — the first time local lawmakers have conducted such a review, officials said.

The Nov. 28 hearing will examine pollution from the city's 16 plants, the kind of fuels the facilities burn and what utility companies are doing to reduce their emissions, according to Councilman Costa Constantinides, who chairs the Environmental Protection Committee.

This will be the first time the council has held an oversight hearing to look specifically at power plants, and it will include testimony from environmental groups, city agencies, the public and the companies that run the city's energy facilities, Constantinides said.

"The issue that we want to focus on is the emissions, the negative impacts we are seeing in our communities based on their proximity to the power plants,"  he said.

"What role do they play in the large amount of asthma and respiratory illness that are rampant in our community?"

The councilman's own district in western Queens is home to three power plants — Astoria Generating Station, Ravenswood Generating Station, and another on Vernon Boulevard near the Queensboro Bridge — which produce between 55 to 70 percent of the city's power, according to to lawmaker.

"This is all in our backyard," he said.

He specifically wants to look at which city plants are still burning No. 6 oil, one of the dirtiest types of heating oil. The city banned its use in 2010, though dozens of buildings were still using the illegal fuel as recently as last year.

The city does not regulate power plants  — they're overseen by the state's Public Service Commission, Constantinides said — but he hopes the upcoming hearing will encourage local utility companies to seek out cleaner energy sources.

"It's time to hold them accountable to their role in combating climate change," he said.

The City Council's Environmental Protection Committee oversight hearing on power plants will take place Monday, Nov. 28 at 10 a.m. in the 16th Floor Committee Room at 250 Broadway in Manhattan. Those who want to testify can sign up to do so at the start of the meeting.