My view: Pay-to-play trumped local safety in CPV approval
by Pramilla Malick
The trial of close friend and former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Joseph Percoco, and Peter Galbraith Kelly, the CPV executive that wrought this dangerous power plant upon our communities, reveals the intimate relationship between fossil fuel lobbyists and our government. Regardless of the verdict there is enough documentary evidence to demonstrate that improper influence built CPV. They received access to power constituents were never afforded. Whereas Kelly was able to have several meetings with high level state officials, all of the commissioners and directors of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Public Service Commission, New York Power Authority, the State Operations Director and the state’s “energy czar” Richard Kaufman; we couldn’t get one single meeting with even a junior staff person in the administration. There were fancy dinners, breakfasts and even deep sea fishing trips in which they all “bonded.” In one email Percoco sent to the governor’s executive secretary, he described Kelly as “family” and then directed that person to meet with Kelly to help him get his project through.
Pay-to-play corruption is bad enough, but when it involves critical health, safety and environmental issues we must draw a line. This project could not have received a single permit were it not in the personal financial interest of Percoco, who received almost $300,000 from CPV, through a low-show job created for his wife. (The entire project was built on both state and federal wetlands). In 2009 the Department of Health was supposed to do an evaluation of the project. But after large contributions by CPV to the governor’s 2010 campaign, that requirement suddenly disappeared.
The trial also shows the practice by state officials (when discussing CPV) of using private non-government emails, like AOL and Yahoo, in defiance of public disclosure laws. While we filed several Freedom of Information Law requests we never saw these discussions because they were private. Had we been able to obtain them we could have used them in the several lawsuits we filed.
It’s no coincidence this toxic power plant fired up just as the trial began. CPV may have been demonstrating their hubris and disregard for our communities. But the subsequent health reports of burning eyes, choking and nausea demonstrated that this type of corruption has real life and death consequences. We are victims of these crimes and real harm is underway.
The CPV-Percoco affair has already created a trail of destruction, the Minisink Compressor Station, thousands of trees destroyed, increasing asthma, families forced to flee.
It is time for Albany to get out of bed with these lobbyists and love New Yorkers instead. We’ll give them 50 ways to leave their lobbyists. Shut down the plant Grant, make a new plan Andy, rescind the permits Kermit, and set our lungs free.
When they took the oath of office they made a commitment to the constituents to love NY’s air, water and children. They have a legal and moral obligation to protect us. It’s time to shut down this plant.
Pramilla Malick, ProtectOrangeCounty.org
Originally published at http://www.recordonline.com/opinion/20180220/my-view-pay-to-play-trumped-local-safety-in-cpv-approval