Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Judith Enck, the former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator for New York, told the Huffington Post that the "very old and very polluting" Astoria plant "should have been shut down quite a while ago." (Photo: Steve Fine/Twitter)

New York Power Plant Explosion Seen as Glowing Reminder of Dire Need to Ditch Fossil Fuels

"Fossil fuels cause so much danger from climate change and air pollution, but freak accidents like this go to show that moving our energy system to 100 percent renewables is the only way to minimize the threat."

Jake Johnson

Though it immediately evoked images of "an alien invasion" or the eerie opening scene of a "monster movie," the explosion that briefly turned New York City's skyline bright blue late Thursday night was actually something rather more conventional, but still cause for serious alarm and action: an electrical blast at one of New York's dirtiest power plants.

"It's a reminder that New York needs to accelerate efforts to phase out fossil fuels."
—Judith Enck, former New York EPA administrator

While state authorities said they are investigating the incident and concluded that no one was injured, the transformer explosion briefly sparked panic and—according to environmentalists—offered yet another glowing reminder of the dire need to transition away from dirty energy.

As the Huffington Post's Alexander Kaufman noted, the Astoria Generating Station—where the Thursday night blast occurred—"burns 3,039,000 gallons of number 6 fuel oil a year." The explosion at the facility, wrote Kaufman, could help call attention to New York City's "dependence on antiquated oil-burning power stations."

Number 6 fuel oil is "considered one of the most polluting energy sources in the world," Kaufman pointed out, and the Astoria power plant has been partly blamed for high air pollution in the surrounding area and the growing levels of asthma that have afflicted residents as a result.

"Last year the city council passed a bill requiring the utility operators to stop using fuel oil number 6 by 2020 and number 4 oil by 2030," Kaufman observed. "But the explosion on Thursday night could add new pressure to go further, phasing out fossil fuel use altogether and converting the stations to renewable sources."

Judith Enck, the former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator for New York, told the Huffington Post that the "very old and very polluting" Astoria plant "should have been shut down quite a while ago" and replaced with clean electricity sources.

"It's a reminder that New York needs to accelerate efforts to phase out fossil fuels," Enck said of the blast.

Brooklyn-based renewable energy activist Daniela Lapidous agreed, saying it shouldn't be normal "to fear that the way we provide energy endangers the people we love."

"Fossil fuels cause so much danger from climate change and air pollution, but freak accidents like this go to show that moving our energy system to 100 percent renewables is the only way to minimize the threat," Lapidous concluded.

"None of these things happen in a vacuum," Democratic state Sen.-elect Jessica Ramos said in remarks outside the Astoria Generating Station following the transformer explosion. "We need to flip everything on its head and rethink the paradigm of exactly how it is that the city of New York and the state of New York is thinking about our future consumption of energy."

Images and videos of the Thursday night explosion and its aftermath quickly spread on social media, with New York residents expressing astonishment and horror at the bright blue light that illuminated the city sky for several minutes:

According to New York officials, the incident—which resulted in the brief closure of the LaGuardia Airport in Queens—is under control and there are no longer signficant power outages in the surrounding area.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Peru's Leftist President Calls for Global Agreement to End Vaccine Apartheid

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo is pushing for an international accord to "guarantee universal access to vaccines for all people on the planet, with no discrimination on the basis of privilege."

Jake Johnson ·


'This Cannot Happen': Biden DHS Seeks Contractor for Migrant Detention Center at Guantánamo Bay

The solicitation for bids—which requires some guards who speak Spanish and Haitian Creole—comes as the administration is under fire for mass deportations of migrants, including thousands of Haitians.

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Vaccine Goals 'Fall Terribly Short' Due to Big Pharma and Rich Nations' Greed: Experts

"Wealthy nations are using up the world's vaccine supply, and developing nations are suffering and losing thousands of people every day."

Brett Wilkins ·


11 Senators Support House Progressives' Push to Pass Full Biden Agenda

"We voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the clear commitment that the two pieces of the package would move together along a dual track."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ex-Prisoners Recall US Torture at 'Afghanistan's Abu Ghraib'

"It is psychologically hard for me to recall all that was happening," said one former Bagram Air Base inmate. "The torture was mostly done by Afghans, sometimes the Americans. But the orders came from the U.S."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo