Revisiting the Battle for Storm King

April 05, 2017
Don Weise
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Revisiting the Battle for Storm King
The view of Storm King from Breakneck. Photo by Kelly Lewis


The beauty of the Hudson River Valley was a legendary subject for artists during the 19th century. They portrayed its bucolic settings and humans in harmony with nature as the physical manifestation of God’s work on Earth. More than 100 years later, those sentiments would be tested as never before. In the fall of 1962, Trail Conference Conservation Chair Leo Rothschild raised the alarm that Consolidated Edison of New York, the nation’s largest utility company, planned construction of a pumped-storage hydroelectric power plant at Storm King Mountain on the Hudson River, 40 miles north of New York City. Over the next 18 years, Con Ed’s clash with environmentalists would culminate in the abandonment of the project.

In Power on the Hudson, author Robert D. Lifset offers an original case study of this monumental event in environmental history, when a small group of concerned local residents initiated a landmark case of ecology versus energy production. He follows the progress of this struggle, as Con Ed won approvals and permits early on, but later lost ground to concerned citizens and
local organizations—including the Trail Conference—who were able to raise questions about the potential damage to the habitat of Hudson River striped bass.

Lifset uses the struggle over Storm King to examine how environmentalism changed during the 1960s and ’70s. He also addresses the financial challenges and increasingly frequent blackouts faced by Con Ed, along with the pressure to produce ever-larger quantities of energy.

As Lifset demonstrates, the environmental cause was greatly empowered by the fact that through this struggle, for the first time, environmentalists were able to gain access to the federal courts. The cause was greatly advanced by adopting scientific evidence of ecological change, combined with mounting public awareness of the environmental consequences of energy production and consumption. These became major factors supporting the case against Con Ed, spawning a range of new local, regional, and national environmental organizations and bequeathing to the Hudson River Valley a vigilant environmental awareness. A new balance of power emerged, and energy companies would now be held to higher standards that protected the environment. 

Join the author for a hike, book talk and signing on Saturday April 22:

Hike: Guided History Hike of Storm King
Location: Esty and Hellie Stowell Trailhead, Cornwall, NY.
When: Saturday, April 22, 10am- 1pm
Register now.

Book Talk and Signing: Power on the Hudson by Robert Lifset
When: Saturday, April 22, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Location: Fort Lee Historic Park Visitor Center, Hudson Terrace, Fort Lee, N.J.
Description: Professor Lifset discusses the historic battle to save Storm King Mountain and its impact on environmentalism and the utility industry. Sponsored by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. For more information, call 201.512.9348, ext. 813.
Register now.