New Report Shows Trump & Wall Street Ties, Polluting Effects of Proposed Danskammer Gas Plant

Photo: Mriya

Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry are pushing for yet another fracked-gas power plant in New York State. Danskammer Energy LLC, owned by private equity firm Tiger Infrastructure Partners, is proposing a new 525-575 megawatt gas-fired power plant in the Town of Newburgh, New York.

If built, the plant will lock in new sources of carbon emissions for decades to come. This occurs at a time when Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to position himself as a climate progressive and is facing growing calls for a more aggressive moves towards 100% renewable energy

Yesterday, the Public Accountability Initiative and New York Communities for Change released a new report titled Putting the Scam in Danskammer: Trump-linked Wall Street Billionaires Financing a Polluting Fracked Gas Plant and Sticking New Yorkers With the Bill. and Orange RAPP also signed onto the report’s release. (Note: Eyes on the Ties and are projects of the Public Accountability Initiative).

In an article titled “Activists resist $400M Town of Newburgh power plant,” the Times Herald-Record reported:

On Thursday a coalition of groups released a report demanding that instead of allowing a new plant run by a pollution-generating fossil fuel, the state should reject Danskammer’s proposal and speed up the transition to renewable energies.

“Right now the world is literally beginning to burn,” said Pete Sikora, climate and inequality campaigns director for Brooklyn-based New York Communities for Change. “It’s imperative for New York state’s future that the governor stop approving new fossil fuel infrastructure and move rapidly to 100 percent renewable energy.”

The report’s specific key findings are listed below, but the report has two overarching arguments.

First, the Danskammer proposal represents a profit grab by a group of Wall Street investors with close ties to the far right, including Donald Trump, Sebastian Gorka, and the Heritage Foundation. They are billionaires and multi-millionaires who have histories of giving huge amounts – sometime through nontransparent channels – to corporate candidates to help advance their interests. The plant will enrich a collection of wealthy investors while hurting the climate and local communities.

Second, Danskammer will be a polluting plant that will lock in higher carbon emissions for decades to come. An opaque and complex pricing system will allow Danskammer owners to profit more while sticking consumers with the cost. The real solution here is to turn away from new fossil fuel infrastructure and move towards 100% renewable energy, now.

The report calls on Andrew Cuomo to deny the necessary permits for Danskammer and – as the hashtag goes – #StopTheDanScam.

Here are the report’s key findings:

  • Top Danskammer advisor is closely tied to fascist sympathizer Sebastian Gorka. Tiger Infrastructure advisor Thomas Saunders played a crucial role in helping to advance the career of Sebastian Gorka, the former Trump advisor who has well documented fascist sympathies. Saunders is also reportedly personally related to Gorka.
  • Top Danskammer advisor is a key Trump ally and chair of the Heritage Foundation. Tiger Infrastructure advisor Thomas Saunders chairs the Heritage Foundation, which has played a central role in influencing and staffing the Trump administration. Saunders was part of a secretive “Gang of 8” that included billionaires Rebekah Mercer, Dick Uihlein, Kenneth Griffin, Paul Singer, and Doug DeVos that Trump invited to the White House in 2017.
  • Tiger Infrastructure leaders are major fundraisers and donors to top Republican politicians. Tiger Infrastructure CEO Emil Henry has personally hosted fundraisers for Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush at his Hamptons home, and he has given tens of thousands of dollars to pro-Wall Street Republican PACs as well as candidates who oppose action on climate change and favor loosening pollution restrictions. Billionaire Senior Advisor Julian Robertson gave $1.25 million to Mitt Romney’s Super PAC in 2012 and has given over $6.7 million in PAC soft money, and more in direct donations, to pro-Wall Street candidates since 2011.
  • Danskammer billionaire advisor cashed in on housing crisis. Tiger Infrastructure Senior Advisor Julian Robertson, who is worth over $4 billion, bragged about shorting the housing market and profiting immensely from the crash. “This has been the most extraordinary period of my career as an investor,” said Robertson.
  • Top Tiger Infrastructure leaders are big dark money donors. Tiger Infrastructure Senior Advisor William Laverack, Jr. was exposed in the New York Times in 2012 as a $250,000 donor to a Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential run. Laverick made this huge dark money donation through a limited liability corporation that hid his identity. Similarly, shortly after the Citizens United ruling, three top Tiger Infrastructure leaders gave a combined $160,000 to an experimental dark money pro-Wall Street PAC that, at the time, set a record for donation amount per donor.
  • Danskammer backed by multi-billionaire family tied to hedge fund behind massive  bribery scandal. Tiger Infrastructure is the investment arm of Henry Tiger LLC, which is a partnership between Tiger Infrastructure CEO Emil Henry and members of the influential billionaire Ziff family. In 2016, the Och-Ziff hedge fund, which the Ziffs provided seed money for and remain tied to, pled guilty to conspiracy and agreed to pay $413 million in fines after a five-year federal investigation into its bribing of several African leaders. The Ziffs are also huge political donors.
  • Cuomo worked with Tiger Infrastructure leader to push education privatization. Several hedge fund billionaires,including Danskammer advisor Julian Robertson, made big donations to the pro-school privatization Coalition for Opportunity in Education, which allied itself to Cuomo’s charter school agenda in 2015. Robertson gave the group almost $250,000 and spent a total of $1.25 million collectively on education privatization that year.
  • If built, Danskammer would fuel climate change and cause air pollution that impacts health locally. Gas-fired plants emit a range of pollutants that can be especially harmful to kids, elderly people, and those suffering from pulmonary ailments. Since it will burn a fossil fuel, the plant will emit large amounts of CO2. The gas production, distribution and power production process also leads to leaks of methane, an especially potent heat-trapping gas. Taking into account methane leaks, gas power can be as bad for the climate as coal power.
  • Danskammer is a more-attractive Wall Street investment vehicle because the facility could charge unfairly higher prices. This is due to a system that inflates prices for residential and business electricity consumers, which would push up investor profits. The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) allows generators to set the prices they charge through a “market clearing” auction structure that pushes up the prices that utilities pay for electricity, which leads to higher prices for consumers.

You can read the full report on the web or as a designed PDF.