Coal-Fired Power Plant Owner Shows No Commitment to Bridgeport or the Environment | Conservation Law Foundation

Coal-Fired Power Plant Owner Shows No Commitment to Bridgeport or the Environment

David Ismay

A little over a year ago, the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut, home of one of the last coal-fired power plants in New England, passed a resolution calling for the plant’s owner, PSEG, to shut down the 50-year old behemoth and rehabilitate the property for its next use. But PSEG decided instead to double-down in Bridgeport, announcing it would add a second fossil-fuel plant on the same property and that it would keep burning coal “for as long as it makes financial sense.”

The City then formed a Citizens Action Committee (CAC) to investigate.

Last September, the Committee issued its report, calling on PSEG to do the right thing: shut down the outdated coal-fired plant, which continues to dump hundreds of thousands of tons of poisonous pollutants and greenhouse gases into the air every year. The Committee also urged PSEG to establish a fund supporting the community’s efforts to heal the damage the plant had done to people’s health and the local environment.

Finally the Committee asked the plant owner to create a task force to determine whether a new gas-fired plant even makes sense – that is, could a big new fossil-fueled power plant ever comply with the Connecticut Global Warming Solutions Act’s (GWSA) mandate to drastically reduce emissions by 2050? And, particularly given growing concern over sea level rise (and the plant’s perilous location on the coast), is there a better use for the site?

Let’s cut to the chase: the answer to these questions is simple. There is no way Connecticut can meet its GWSA mandate if PSEG continues to build and operate coal and gas plants across the state “for as long as it makes financial sense” (to PSEG!) to do so. The reality is, any other economic use would be better for Bridgeport than a new fossil-fuel power plant with another pollution-spewing smokestack.

But PSEG is a fossil-fuel power company desperately holding on to the old energy economy. So instead of meaningfully addressing the Committee’s report, PSEG negotiated in secret with a hand-picked group of “community” and environmental representatives (CLF and many others were originally excluded). The result of these behind-closed-door meetings was a draft “Community Environmental Benefit Agreement” so weak and one-sided that PSEG’s legal team should have called it the “PSEG Benefits Agreement.”

Close the coal plant as soon as possible? Nope, how about later. Address Connecticut’s climate laws? We’ll think about it. Invest in local renewable energy projects? Perhaps, if they meet our corporate “investment guidelines.” Help fund the restoration of Bridgeport’s health and environment? A little bit, but if anyone speaks out of turn, you won’t see a cent.

It should come as no surprise that when CLF was allowed to join the negotiations – and we saw how hollow and unenforceable PSEG’s draft “benefits” agreement was – we threw the penalty flag. Public process and participation – at least ours – is not for sale. The stakes are too high, and a sustainable, clean energy future is everyone’s responsibility, PSEG included.

After half a century of breathing coal pollution, Bridgeport deserves more. If PSEG wants our support, CLF is standing by to discuss any number of market-savvy, win-win climate solutions for Bridgeport. Business as usual just isn’t one of them.

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