On September 27, 1962, Consolidated Edison announced in the New York Times their plans to build a hydroelectric power plant at Storm King Mountain in Cornwall.
Although the announcement made few waves at the time, the publication of an artist's rendering got the public's attention. The realization that the face of Storm King Mountain would be marred spurred the protest of citizens groups like the Hudson River Conservation Society and helped create the Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference.
The power plant was designed to take advantage of low electricity use times like nights and weekends to pump Hudson River water up into a natural reservoir in what is now Black Rock Forest Preserve. Then, at peak use times, the water would be released to power the turbines and create electricity when it was needed most.
Unfortunately, the porous nature of the bedrock of Storm King Mountain meant a high risk of untreated Hudson River water filtering into the groundwater, which was the drinking water source for Cornwall. In addition, the location of the plant and the water pipeline was quite close the Catskill Aqueduct, and there were concerns that the blasting involved in building the power plant would crack or break the aqueduct, thereby interrupting the drinking water supply for New York City.
Scenic Hudson used these concerns to garner grassroots support for the cause. The above advertisement in the New York Times was specifically referring to the threats to the integrity of the Catskill Aqueduct and Cornwall's drinking water.
In 1965, a federal judge upholds a lower court ruling against Con Ed, saying that the company must take into account the scenic and environmental impacts of the project. While a huge victory for groups like Scenic Hudson and the Hudson River Fishermen's Association, Con Ed goes back to the drawing board and releases the above plan, which moves the plant entirely underground. Although this mitigated impacts to the scenic value of the mountain, the problem of fish kills remained.
Over the next fifteen years, Consolidated Edison, the Federal Power Authority, Scenic Hudson, and the Hudson River Fishermen's Association engaged in a series of legal battles that became known as the Scenic Hudson Decision. In 1980, the environmentalists finally won and the Storm King project was cancelled.
1962: Storm King plant proposal announced.
1963: Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference established.
1964: Federal Power Commission (FPC) holds hearings on the proposed plant. They grant Consolidated Edison the license to build plant
1965: First case: Consolidated Edison Vs. Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference, Towns of Phillipsville, Putnam Valley, Cortland. Court remands case to lower court and acknowledges the aesthetic and historical importance of Storm King Mountain and grants standing to a citizen environmental group.
1966–1967: The remanded FPC hearings take place. There are over 19,000 pages of testimony. Many additional environmental studies are presented including studies showing the predicted number of fish kills from the plant.
1968: Almost one year after the hearings ended, the FPC recommends that the license be granted for the Storm King Project.
1968–1970: Alternative sites and routes are examined by FPC. They determined that the alternate site is a major hazard to the New York City aqueduct. This eliminates the possibility of the alternate location. The FPC again examines the potential of the Storm King Mountain Site. In August 1970 the FPC re-licensed Storm King.
1971: Scenic Hudson, the Hudson River Fisherman's Association (now Riverkeeper), The City of New York, the Palisades Park Commission and others appealed the Federal Power Commission decision. The Court upholds the FPC licensing decision in a two-to-one vote. The court later split four-to-four on reconsideration. (453 F. 2d 463 (2d Cir. 1971), cert. denied 407 U.S. 926 (1972)).
1973: Once again, Scenic Hudson and the Hudson River Fisherman's Association petitioned the Federal Power Commission to reconsider the Storm King license. They allege that the fish studies used in the 1970 license granting were inaccurate. The study did not consider that the Hudson is a tidal river and therefore underestimated impact to certain fish. The Federal Power Commission later rejected the Scenic Hudson and Hudson River Fisherman's Association Petitions. (49 FPC 1227 (1973)).
1973: Scenic Hudson and Hudson River Fisherman's Association bring suit against the US Army Corps of Engineers in federal district court to stop Consolidated Edison from dumping rock excavated from the Storm King project into the Hudson River. They argued that a Corps of Engineers permit was required. Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v. Callaway, 370 F. Supp. 162 (S.D.N.Y. 1973), aff'd 499 f.2d 127 (2d Cir. 1974).
1976: NY City Attorney General and some FPC staff join Scenic Hudson and Hudson River Fisherman's Association in petitioning the Federal Power Commission to restart hearings on the Storm King license. This time they include economics in the argument along with changed circumstances and environmental concerns.
1980: Scenic Hudson and Consolidated Edison reached a settlement in the Storm King case. Consolidated Edison agreed to terminate the Storm King plans, reduce fish kills at some of its power plants on the Hudson. They also established a research fund for the Hudson River.
1981: The surrender was approved by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).