NY Daily News: The Face of Clean Energy is in Queens, As Ravenswood Generating Station Transitions to a Renewable Future

As New York State implements a clean energy future, there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to implement inclusive policies that invest in environmental justice and support the union workforce which continues to keep the lights on for New Yorkers. Last week, we were reminded of New York’s national leadership position when U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm came to Queens and called the effort to transition the Ravenswood Generating Station, “a fantastic story of transformation” and “an example of what could happen all across the nation.”

Embracing both environmental justice and a just transition is not just the moral thing to do, it is smart policy which leverages the infrastructure of our fossil fuel past to build a stronger clean energy future. It sends a critical message to communities which have served as homes to power plants for decades that we are looking to make investments to create good-paying jobs, not leave them with shuttered eyesores.

Similarly, a just transition for our energy workforce tells them that they are valued and are the best candidates to operate the generation and transmission infrastructure necessary to power our sustainable future. It is not a coincidence that much of New York’s fossil fuel infrastructure is located in minority communities.

Nor is it a coincidence that several power plants, including the largest fossil fuel plant is New York City, is next to several NYCHA residences, including Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the country. For decades, this community has suffered as a result of siting decisions forced on them. Today, the community deserves an environmental justice initiative they support, which will help transform “Asthma Alley” to “Renewable Row.”

That is why we support the Renewable Ravenswood vision. Renewable Ravenswood is the direct result of an inclusive, community-based visioning process for Ravenswood’s future to transform New York City’s largest fossil fuel generator — Ravenswood Generating Station — into a state-of-the-art clean energy hub which invests in an historically underserved community. It has brought together community, elected, environmental, and labor leaders behind a common purpose, including a just transition for Ravenswood’s union workforce.

Renewable Ravenswood reimagines Western Queens’ vast energy transmission infrastructure and turns it into a community asset by undertaking a renewable repowering that will make massive community investments in jobs.

New York State can take the first step forward to implement this environmental justice initiative and unlock this clean energy opportunity today by supporting the Attentive Energy One proposal to connect an offshore wind farm to Ravenswood via the Queensboro Renewable Express. This project would lead to the direct retirement of one of Ravenswood’s 1960s-era fossil fuel generators.

As a prospective hub for offshore wind operations and interconnection, the union workforce at Ravenswood is poised to be the epicenter of the new green economy. By committing to a just transition, the union members of Local 1-2 who have been proudly running Ravenswood for decades are ready to put their valuable expertise to work in operating new renewable energy infrastructure for New York.

These projects also invest in communities that have borne the brunt of our fossil fuel past. For example, the new net-zero energy clubhouse for the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens in Astoria will include a Teen Academy funded by a $1.5 million contribution from Attentive Energy One. This new facility — which will expand capacity from 4,000 to 16,000 youth — will be fully carbon neutral, demonstrating dedication to environmental justice and climate goals.

The Attentive Energy One proposal is the critical first step and Renewable Ravenswood, and as Secretary Granholm noted, could serve as the national model for how to advance a transformational clean energy project that embraces the principles of environmental justice and a just transition. As New York State officials consider the next steps in our clean energy transition, we hope they will listen to our blue and green coalition and give us the tools to create a brighter future for Western Queens and our state.

Shillitto is president of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 and a member of the Just Transition Task Force, a subcommittee of the state Climate Action Council. Constantinides, CEO of the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, chaired the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee until 2021.

By James Shillitto and Costa Constantinides, New York Daily News