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BETHLEHEM, NY-Construction has begun on the new $400-million Bethlehem Energy Center project here. The new facility, expected to begin operation in 2004, will replace the aging, 400-megawatt Albany Steam Station, located on the Hudson River in the Town of Bethlehem.

A host of state and local dignitaries were on hand for the June 10 groundbreaking of the 750-megawatt plant being built by PSEG Power New York Inc.

Compared to the Albany Steam Station, the new plant will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 97% and sulfur dioxide emissions by 98%, state officials said. Further, the new facility will only use about five million gallons of Hudson River water per day, compared to the 500 million gallons per day used by the Albany Steam Station.

On February 28, 2002, PSEGNY received approval from the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment to construct and operate the Bethlehem Energy Center.

PSEGNY has also secured the required air and water pollution control permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation for construction and operation of the facility. The company’s proposal was supported by the local municipalities and environmental interest groups that participated in the public review process, as well as the state agencies involved in that review, state officials note.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Erin M. Crotty says of the new facility, “The Bethlehem Energy Center represents a new generation of cleaner, more efficient and more environmentally sound power plants and is exactly the type of electricity generation we are encouraging across New York State. By permanently retiring the existing Albany Steam Station and dramatically reducing air emissions and impacts to the Hudson River, the proposed facility fulfills the state’s goal of providing reliable and affordable energy for New Yorkers while protecting public health and the environment.”

Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh spoke of the need for this plant and others like it to help prevent an energy crisis in New York State. “New York needs this facility and many others like it to give a jolt to our economy. Our prosperity is powered by power, and there is ample evidence that our current electricity shortage will undermine our growth unless we add new plants like this one,” he said.

The 400-megawatt Albany Steam Station has been in operation since 1952. Originally built to burn coal, it was converted to oil in 1970, and natural gas capability was added in 1981. Previously owned by the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, the station was sold to PSEGNY in 1999 as part of the state’s restructuring of the electric industry.

The construction of the new plant follows some disheartening news of late concerning new energy plant developments in New York State.

In March of this year, the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment approved Mirant New York Inc.’s 750-megawatt Bowline 3 power plant project to be built in Suffern (Rockland County). However, company officials said that due to the Enron scandal, that has all but dried up funding for energy related projects, the company has not set a timetable on when it would begin the $500 million plant. In early 2002, Sithe Energies announced it would no longer pursue approvals on an 827-megawatt facility it planned to build in Ramapo, also located in Rockland County. The firm cited the Enron scandal as one factor in its decision not to move forward with the venture.

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