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Judge OKs New York Gas-Fired Plant to Restart Commissioning Process

A New York Supreme Court judge has overturned a decision by the state Department of Conservation (DEC), which had temporarily halted work at a natural gas-fired power plant, allowing the company to resume testing pending a hearing next month.

Acting Justice Roger McDonough, who serves on the Albany County Supreme Court, granted an injunction to Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) last week, giving it approval to resume testing at its 650 MW Valley Energy Center in Wawayanda, NY. The injunction bars DEC from imposing any fines or penalties, pending a hearing in September.

"We are gratified by the court's decision and look forward to restarting the commissioning process as soon as possible," said CPV's Tom Rumsey, senior vice president for external affairs. "We look forward to working with the DEC in a productive manner as we work through remaining steps to becoming fully operational." The commissioning process was restarted on Sunday, he said.

On Aug. 1, four days before commercial operations at the Valley Energy Center were to begin, DEC said CPV needed to secure a Title V air quality permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before the company could renew its Air State Facility permit. CPV argued that DEC's policies allowed it to continue operating.

"The current air permit we have requires us to apply for a Title V within one year of operations," Rumsey told NGI on Monday. "The DEC changed their interpretation, after extending and issuing our current permit three times, to a view that we need it immediately."

The Valley Energy Center has a nominal rating of 650 MW, but depending on the weather can have a capacity of 630-680 MW, according to Rumsey.

DEC said while it is disappointed by the injunction, the expedited briefing process from the Aug. 1 order "will provide us with an opportunity to vigorously litigate this issue and get a ruling on the merits as to whether CPV can continue to operate without a Title V permit. DEC is confident we will prevail in this matter and that CPV will need to apply for, and obtain a Title V permit to continue to operate."

According to Rumsey, DEC has until Sept. 28 to respond to McDonough's order. He said both sides are due in court for a hearing on Oct. 5, at which time the judge could issue a bench order.

The 650 MW Valley Energy Center is supplied by Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC's Valley Lateral, which until last month was the subject of a separate, long-running regulatory dispute between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and DEC. The 7.8-mile, 16-inch diameter Valley Lateral is to deliver about 130 MMcf/d of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale to the power plant.

Pramilla Mack, a Democratic candidate for the New York Senate and leader of Protect Orange County, which opposed the Valley Lateral, said the group continues to oppose the Valley Energy Center. She also derided Gov. Andrew Cuomo, despite his energy policies supporting renewables and perceived hostility toward the natural gas industry.

"I don't know who Cuomo/CPV think they're fooling," Mack said in a Facebook post last week. "We didn't declare false victories when the DEC denied the air permit or the water permit; we're used to their election season deflection and political gamesmanship."

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