ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a power plant that is at the center of a federal corruption probe still needs more approvals from the state, even though construction crews are now pouring its foundation.
Competitive Power Ventures already is at work on a proposed $1 billion 650-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Wawayanda, Orange County. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is looking into ties between the plant and Cuomo administration figures. The governor's office has now cut off contact with CPV.
Cuomo, speaking to reporters on Monday for the first time since the scandal broke last Friday, tried to downplay the state’s action on CPV’s gas plant. He said permits issued by the state were “conditional,” though the plant began construction months ago.
“The CPV plant has not been approved, so it’s not like the plant is operating,” he told reporters. “There was a conditional early approval, they have to do a final agreement, which has never been done.”
Sure, the approval is conditional.
That's why the concrete is being poured for the foundation.
Everybody knows you pour the concrete for projects that haven't yet been approved so that you're ready to go when they get the "A-OK!"
As for where the appearance of corruption comes in:
For years, environmental and community groups have raised concerns about the plant, and the administration dismissed all of them, said Pramilla Malick, who runs a group called Protect Orange County that opposes the plant. Some of the numerous questions raised by local citizens over the years include whether trees were improperly cleared, whether the plant encroached upon the habitat of an endangered bat and whether it destroyed wetlands. They have also questioned why the Cuomo administration was pushing forward with a natural gas-fired power plant at a time when it was implementing climate policies, such as a fracking ban, that turned the state away from fossil fuel reliance.
“On multiple levels this project was inconsistent and incoherent with his public policies, which is why we were so bewildered with the approvals this project kept getting,” she said.
Over the years, CPV has spent more than $220,000 on lobbying and donations to Cuomo’s campaign or to those of state lawmakers.
The wife of former Cuomo aide Joe Percoco received up to $120,000 from CPV, financial disclosures show. Some of the payments to Lisa Toscano-Percoco, who was a teacher in the New York City school system the year before she was employed by a consultancy firm, Chris Pitts LLC, that did work for CPV. Todd Howe, a lobbyist and longtime Cuomo friend who is also at the center of the investigation, has also done work for CPV.
Gee, maybe that's how the concrete for the foundation wound up getting poured before the official, you know, approval.