Less than five months after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the development of a massive new source of sustainable energy – the Tonawanda Seneca Nation filed a Section 78 complaint with Earth justice to prevent the construction of this already approved project, which is expected to become the largest hydrogen plant in North America.
Plug Power, a publicly traded company, plans to build a “new green hydrogen treatment facility and state-of-the-art electrical substation – the one that will encroach on the border next to the Iroquois National Wildlife Area, a sprawling 10,828-acre federal wildlife preserve nestled in the counties of Genesee and Orleans – and the overlap of the boundary line between New York and the Tonawanda Band of the current Seneca Nation reservation in Alabama City, New York.
The $ 290 million the project will call the state’s advanced science, technology and manufacturing park its new home – producing approximately 45 metric tonnes of green liquid hydrogen each day – Decarbonize freight transportation with the goal of weaning the Empire State’s dependence on non-renewable energies ahead of Cuomo’s carbon neutrality goal in 2050.
Apparently creating a buffer zone within 200 acres of their border, the arrival of Plug Power as the first tenant of the STAMP business park, has already raised serious concerns among those residing on the Tonawanda Seneca reserve in Genesee County.
Paul Winnie, member of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation, expressed his grievances about Plug Power and the long-term impacts their project has not only on the surrounding environment, but also on its larger community.
“In our traditional teaching, we take into consideration the seventh generation to come. I try, but as an endangered species [peoples] we are fighting for land sovereignty and above all: survival ”, declared Winnie FingerLakes1.com. “We have to say enough: to keep our identity, we have to maintain our full relationship with Nature. “
Winnie, one of the popular organizers of the reserve, helped found and mobilize a group of concerned Tonawanda Seneca residents called the “Seventh Generation Land Defenders,” which acts independently of the nation’s leaders and ongoing litigation.
The 23 pages Article 78 The petition alleges that the Genesee County Economic Development Center “failed to adequately examine the impact” of their new facility to produce hydrogen by electrolysis – which has garnered support from some of the state’s prominent politicians: Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Plug Power’s presence in the Empire State has been spurred by an unprecedented offer of incentives seeking approval by the board of directors of the New York Power Authority. – on Cuomo’s direct recommendation.
The Western New York Power Proceeds program has allocated $ 1.5 million to Plug Power. Over an additional $ 2 million in Excelsior tax credits are also being considered by Empire State Development. in addition to allocating 10 megawatts of low-cost hydroelectric power from the Niagara Power project and 143 megawatts of high-load-factor power that NYPA intends to acquire in the power market.
These incentives marked Plug Power’s first NYPA client to acquire significant contributions under NYPA’s new green jobs criteria, which were ad in December 2020. Additional local tax incentives would also be offered by the county.
Laura Berglan, senior lawyer at Earthjustice, who is involved in their tribal partnership program, insisted that although the Plug Power project is “touted as a green development initiative”, it appears to “endanger both the environment and the cultural traditions and practices “of the peoples of the Nation.
“A comprehensive environmental review that takes into account the impacts on the Tonawanda Seneca Nation, as well as the animals and plants on which people depend, must be conducted according to law,” Berglan said in a press release.
The Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge was considered “a namesake”Among the indigenous communities of western New York for generations – protected by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Meanwhile, Schumer called the announcement a “winning combination of firsts” in a February 25, 2021 press release.
“After securing its new 375-plus gigafactory in Rochester last month, I congratulate Plug Power, a proud upstate New York-based company with deep roots and hundreds of NYS workers, for having doubled and selected STAMP as the headquarters for this new production facility, “said Schumer. “I will continue to advocate with the US Department of Energy for federal support to help bring this development to fruition.”
But beyond the possible environmental problems, the Nation is also concerned about the disturbances due to traffic, noise and light pollution resulting from the construction of the hydrogen plant.
Grandell Logan, spokesperson for the Nation, believes that “There will be significant impacts on our people, our way of life and our future generations” – if the project is carried out.
After repeated requests for comment, Plug Power did not respond to FingerLakes1.com.