May 16, 2021

Standing In Sunset Park, Gillibrand, Clarke, Velazquez, Nadler Announce Introduction Of Peaker Act Of 2021

NYC Is Home to 16 Operating Peaker Plants, Almost All of Which Spew Harmful Emissions to Surrounding Disadvantaged Communities

sunsetpark

*additional photos and video available upon request*

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Yvette D. Clarke were joined by Representatives Nydia Velazquez and Jerrold Nadler at the Sims Recycling Plant in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to announce the introduction of their new legislation, the Promoting Energy Alternatives is Key to Emission Reductions Act of 2021, also known as the PEAKER Act of 2021.  

The bill would provide financial incentives to facilitate more rapid deployment of clean energy and battery storage to replace aging and dirty peaker plants in disadvantaged communities. During the hot summer months when air conditioners are blasting, dirty fossil fuel power plants, otherwise known as “peaker plants,” are fired up to keep up with above average energy demand across the city. These “peakers” spew out harmful emissions (i.e., NOx, SOx, PM2.5) into neighborhoods like Sunset Park, which are already overburdened by air pollution. 

The bicameral group of legislators were joined by Elizabeth Yeampierre, co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance and Executive Director of UPROSE, Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and Mychal Johnson, Co-Founder, South Bronx Unite.

“Communities from Sunset Park to the South Bronx bear the brunt of harmful emissions because of peaker plants in their backyards,” said Senator Gillibrand. “To help these communities, and to help our country build a stronger, healthier and more sustainable future, we must shift our energy reliance away from fossil fuels to renewables. Our bill, the PEAKER Act, would help quickly replace aging and dirty peaker plants with clean energy and battery storage. Together, we will keep working to bring an end to the use of these fossil fuel plants, to usher in the next generation of green energy technology, and help these communities breathe cleaner air.”   

“I am proud to join Senator Gillibrand in introducing the PEAKER Act along with Congressman Ritchie Torres and my esteemed colleagues in the House,” said Rep. Clarke. “Our landmark legislation will jumpstart the transition away from dirty, fossil-fuel burning peaker plants, and move us towards a just and equitable clean-energy future. Most importantly, our legislation does this in and around environmental justice communities who continue to bear the greatest burdens of climate change and environmental pollution, including harmful air pollution from peaker plants.”

“Marginalized communities have always been on the front lines of environmental battles,” said Rep. Velazquez. “People of color, working families, and women are disproportionately affected by environmental problems. I’m proud to join my House and Senate colleagues in introducing the PEAKER Act, which will address this environmental injustice by facilitating clean energy conversions and battery storage to help replace these aging and dirty peaker plants.”

“Peaker Plants jeopardize the health and safety of surrounding communities and undermine New York’s progress towards a more sustainable future,” said Representative Nadler. “New York must quickly move away from the fossil fuel status quo to comply with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires the state to generate 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2040. It is long past time to overhaul our energy infrastructure and permanently retire Peaker Plants and replace them with renewable solutions that generate clean, reliable power and create good jobs. I am proud to support the PEAKER Act, which will help to make this goal a reality.”

“The PEAKER Act of 2021 places a long-overdue focus on environmentally overburdened BIPOC communities like the South Bronx, where four peaker power plants line our waterfront, " said Mychal Johnson, co-founder of South Bronx Unite. "COVID-19 again exposed how air pollution causes disproportionate rates of death in communities like ours, and the time is now for a vision and transformation toward cleaner energy and better health outcomes. We appreciate the collaborative efforts and commitment of the sponsors and supporters of the PEAKER Act of 2021 in leading this effort to create change." 

"Now more than ever, we understand the negative impacts of long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution in environmental justice communities.  The emissions from peaker power plants can exacerbate serious respiratory diseases, such as asthma, and contribute to worse outcomes for those affected by COVID-19.  The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance is grateful for the leadership and vision of Senator Gilibrand and Congressmember Clarke in calling for the replacement of polluting peaker power plants with clean renewable energy, plus storage - this is what climate justice and a true Just Transition looks like,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

"Peaker plants represent a major component of environmental racism's legacy. For too long, these dirty fuel emitters have subjected Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities to toxic emissions, disproportionately generated by affluent white people, in a way that represents clear and present dangers to public health and the larger climate crisis.  Thanks to the leadership of Senator Gillibrand and Representative Clarke, we now have a key policy tool that will assist with preventing the rendering of environmental justice communities into energy sacrifice zones in New York and across the nation. New York Lawyers for Public Interest salutes the Senator and Congresswoman for continuing the climate and environmental justice leadership of our great state, and  we urge the full Congress to expeditiously include this legislation as part of the larger infrastructure package currently under consideration." - New York Lawyers for the Public Interest 

New York City is home to 16 operating peaker plants. Almost all of these peaker plants are located in low-lying, industrial flood zones where low-income communities and communities of color live. According to the New York Public Service Commission, peaker plants around the city emit twice as much carbon dioxide per unit of electricity than regular power plants and 20 times as much nitrogen oxides—which are responsible for high rates of respiratory illnesses like asthma, heart disease, and cancer. In the Mott Haven and Melrose sections of the Bronx, which are surrounded by peaker plants, the asthma emergency room visit rate among children ages 5 to 17 is nearly triple the citywide rate

The PEAKER Act of 2021 would:

  • Direct the Secretary of Energy, in coordination with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, and Council on Environmental Quality, to perform a nation-wide assessment that identifies the location of each dirty peaker plant in the U.S. and determines the quantity and type of pollution each plant is producing. The assessment will also evaluate the demographic details around the location of each peaker plant to specifically determine whether the peaker plant is located within or adjacent to a disadvantaged community. 
  • Establish a new 10 percent additional Investment Tax Credit for battery storage and renewable electricity to displace electricity generated by dirty peaker plants in disadvantaged communities. 
  • Establish a new grant program at the Department of Energy, funded at $1 billion annually over the next 10 fiscal years, for clean energy projects that will help to reduce or eliminate the need of existing dirty peaker plants. Importantly, these projects must be implemented within, or have a direct benefit to disadvantaged communities that have been impacted by pollution from an existing dirty peaker plant. Funding will go to projects that aim to either assess clean energy strategies to reduce the need for dirty peaker plants or to projects that deploy clean energy technologies such as renewable energy resources, battery storage, energy efficiency measures, and demand-side management strategies. Entities who may apply for grant funding include: state or local governments, nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations and electric co-ops, or a partnership between any of the aforementioned entities and an electric utility or a private business. Communities who wish to first undergo a clean energy assessment and then implement clean energy strategies based on the assessment’s findings will be able to apply for two rounds of grant funding. 

Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congresswoman Clarke (D-NY-09) were joined in introducing the bicameral PEAKER Act of 2021 by U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representatives Ritchie Torres (D-NY-15), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY-7), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), Mondaire Jones (D-NY-17), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA-44), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Nikema Williams (D-GA-05), Darren Soto (D-FL-09), and Ro Khanna (D-CA-17).

The legislation is endorsed by 12 groups including: New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, WE ACT, South Bronx Unite, UPROSE, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Sunrun, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

“We commend Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Clarke for introducing the PEAKER Act of 2021 and joining the chorus of legislators focused on accelerating energy storage deployment,” said U.S. Energy Storage Association Interim CEO Jason Burwen. “In addition to a tax credit for storage paired with renewable power generation that substitutes for peakerpower plants, the PEAKER Act offers a grant program for emissions-free energy storage located in communities that have historically shouldered greater burdens of pollution from power generation and are on the front lines of adapting to climate change-driven extreme weather. Energy storage facilities will offer added resilience for local electric service and ensure these communities have an economic stake in the transition to clean energy. 

"We continue to urge Congress to prioritize the investment tax credit for stand-alone energy storage as part of any tax legislation that seeks to spur clean energy investment and eliminate pollution from our power system. Energy storage is an absolutely critical tool for meeting President Biden’s goal of a carbon-free electric system by 2035, which is expected to require at least 100 GW of new energy storage by 2030. We look forward to working with Congress to pass the storage ITC as a complement to Sen. Gillibrand’s legislation and other efforts to accelerate the clean energy transition.”

“People in frontline communities have long-suffered from fossil fuel peaker plants. We have the technology today to replace them with local solar and batteries. This legislation will create good jobs and accelerate the transition to a more just and equitable future,” said Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich.

"Peaker plants emit high levels of nitrous oxide, a pollutant that is linked to respiratory illness, heart disease, and cancer. The PEAKER Act of 2021 is a great step towards incentivizing the use of renewable energy and battery storage to displace the need to use Peaker Plants. Not only will the bill help our nation meet its climate goals, but it will directly impact the health of frontline communities that have suffered from years of exposure to these polluting facilities." Charles Callaway, Director of Organizing, WE ACT for Environmental Justice 

“ACORE is committed to ensuring equitable access to clean and affordable renewable power for all Americans, and the PEAKER Act can help make that vision a reality. By creating a national inventory of peaker plants and providing targeted incentives to replace those plants with newer and cleaner renewable energy and energy storage technologies, we can reduce pollution burden and extend the benefits of the clean energy transition to many more American communities.” - Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)

Read the bill text here.