Activist submits box of ziti to state to fight natural gas infrastructure

Pramilla Malick hold up a box of ziti toa crowd at Paramount Theatre in Middletown

Pasta has became the prop of choice in an ongoing fight by activists to try to stop a natural gas power plant and associated infrastructure from going online in Orange County.

Last week Pramilla Malick, an environmental activist with the group Protect Orange County, submitted a box of ziti pasta to the state Department of Environmental Conservation during a public hearing for a proposed natural gas pipeline that Millennium Pipeline Company wants to build.

The DEC held the public hearing last week at the Paramount Theatre in Middletown.  The 7.8-mile, $57.3 million pipeline would supply natural gas to a $900 million natural gas-fired power plant being built in Wawayanda by Competitive Power Ventures.

The DEC has yet to award Millennium a key water quality permit that would allow it to begin construction. The power plant is due to go online next year and would lack a permanent power supply without Millennium’s pipeline.

Speaking last week at a press conference that saw heavy turnout by environmental activists and concerned residents, Malick said the ziti represents what she called the “corrupt” process to approve the power plant.

“This ziti represents that we know that the approval process was corrupted,” Malick said last week. “One person has already plead guilty to bribery, we don’t need to know more about this.”

Malick then submitted the box of ziti to the DEC.

Federal protectors have said that “ziti” was a code word used during a corruption scheme involving a former CPV executive. Prosecutors said beginning in 2010 Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr., who oversaw external affairs for CPV, worked to ingratiate himself Joe Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Todd Howe, a former Albany consultant who pleaded guilty in September 2016 and is cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors said Howe looked to Percoco to influence the former state operations director to bolster the proposed CPV power plant. In emails between Howe and Percoco, they refer to bribe payments as “ziti,” an apparent homage to the television show “The Sopranos,” prosecutors said. Kelly is accused of providing $287,000 in bribes.

Kelly and Percoco have pleaded not guilty and neither CPV nor Millennium have been implicated in the federal corruptions charges. But activists have seized on the criminal case as a reason to stop the power plant and the infrastructure needed to allow it to go online.

CPV has said the federal case centers on activities that are unrelated to its plant’s permitting process and that charges don’t call that process or plant permits into question.

Activists also went up to Albany on Thursday to host a rally and call on Cuomo to stop the process for the pipeline and the power plant. Activists were asked to bring boxes of ziti as a rallying cry. Malick word a ziti necklace around her neck.

“Our message to Cuomo,” the invitation said. “Take back the ziti and give our children their air, water, and future back.”

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