Kill switch: Feds pause floating power plant plan, will hold public hearing

EXCLUSIVE!: Developer revives controversial plan for floating power plant near Williamsburg
Photo by Louise Wateridge

It is power to the people.

The Army Corps of Engineers will hold a public hearing on a developer’s controversial plan to build a floating power plant in the waters off the Navy Yard, after locals and pols complained they were blindsided by the proposal at the last minute and demanded more time and opportunity to voice their concerns.

The critics say they’re buzzed their voices were heard — and will be again — and that they’ll now have more time to recruit people to their cause.

“I think it’s great that people are going to have a chance to speak out,” said Williamsburg resident Kathleen Gilrain of activist group Stop the Barge, which sunk Sef Industries’ previous attempt to build the 79-megawatt natural gas-burning generator in court in 2003. “I think the more people hear about it, I’m sure more people will come out against it.

Around 200 people already sent in letters about Sef’s application to moor the luxury-yacht-sized dynamo in the narrow Wallabout Channel near Williamsburg during the original comment period — which ended April 30 — but now the federal agency will reopen the lines for feedback, and then hold a public forum where locals can speak up in person, according to a spokesman.

Many only found out about the plan via a newspaper report just days before the last comment period ended, and local elected officials — from community boards chairs to members of congress — then petitioned the agency for more time to offer their two cents on a contraption that some residents believe will pump air and noise pollution into nearby neighborhoods.

But the hearing will only happen once the company’s honchos actually decide to go ahead with the scheme — the Army Corps will first send them all 200 responses, giving them an opportunity to rebut the claims and decide whether to back out of building the buoyant battery in the first place, said agency press guy James D’Ambrosio.

In addition to Stop the Barge’s 2003 suit, rabble rousers and officials in Sunset Park — home to several floating generators — also railed against the company’s pitch to build an even larger barge off 22nd Street in 2000, and the state then capsized that one too.

If you are one of the 200 engaged citizens who has already submitted a comment, you don’t need to spend another cent on stamps, D’Ambrosio said — those letters will stay on the record.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill