Energy & Environment

Three House Democrats ask watchdog to probe ‘peaker’ power plant pollution

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
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Three House Democrats from New York on Tuesday called on a federal watchdog to investigate pollution generated by “peaker” power plants, or those that only generate electricity during periods of high demand.

House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) joined Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) in calling on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the effects of such plants on local communities.

The lawmakers noted that the plants are both less energy-efficient than standard power plants and are frequently located in lower-income or predominantly minority neighborhoods.

“Addressing the use of peaker plants, which can emit twice the carbon and up to 20 times the nitrous oxides of a typical plant while operating significantly less efficiently, represents a high-impact opportunity to reduce climate risks and tackle a life-threatening environmental justice issue,” they wrote. “We request GAO’s assistance in reporting on key data to assess damage, uncover health burdens, calculate economic costs, and identify alternative solutions to the use of peaker power plants.”

There are 89 peaker plants in New York City alone, including 28 in or near Maloney’s district and 16 in Ocasio-Cortez’s district. An area in western Queens with a number of such plants has become known as “Asthma Alley” due to its disproportionate rates of the respiratory condition.

Earlier this year, Clarke joined three other New York Democrats — Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand — in introducing bicameral legislation to replace and upgrade the plants. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee in May but no action on it has been taken since.

The Biden administration has repeatedly emphasized a commitment to environmental justice, or addressing environmental hazards that disproportionately affect low-income communities and people of color. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would use $1 billion in initial funds from the bipartisan infrastructure bill to take action on 49 unfunded Superfund sites.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Carolyn Maloney Jerrold Nadler Kirsten Gillibrand Nydia Velazquez Yvette Clarke

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