No More Dirty Energy for Massachusetts! | Conservation Law Foundation

No More Dirty Energy for Massachusetts!

David Ismay

As families across New England were preparing for this last holiday season, NRG Energy, a Texas dirty-energy giant (over 80% of its massive power holdings burn fossil fuels!), quietly filed its request with the Massachusetts Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) for approval to construct its newest fossil-fuel power plant: a new, 350 megawatt gas- and oil-fired power plant on the south bank of the Cape Cod canal, in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

NRG wants you to believe that it is doing us a favor by building this new plant, but it isn’t. I will have more to say on each of these points in future posts, but let’s be clear from the start:

We don’t need more energy generation in Sandwich. Even including the imminent retirement of the nearby Pilgrim nuclear plant, that section of the regional grid – the South East New England, or “SENE,” zone – has more electricity available than it actually needs to power our homes and businesses (in fact, it has more than 730 megawatts of excess generation feeding it). (NRG’s Petition is misleadingly wrong on this important point: see page 1-3, and page 1-5, and page 1-20, and page 3-2.)

We don’t need this facility in order to integrate more renewable power into the electricity grid. (NRG gets this wrong too: on page 1-3, and page 3-2, and . . . well, you get the idea.) More than half of New England’s power already comes from gas and gas/oil plants just like this one. The so-called natural gas “bridge to renewables” has already been built (or over-built!) in New England.

And nothing about this proposed plant is “efficient and clean” as NRG suggests in its application (for example, on page 3-2).

NRG’s proposed plant is anything but efficient and clean
Like the old, oil-burning plant it will sit next to, NRG’s proposed new plant – “Canal Unit 3” – will spew toxic smokestack pollution: nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and dangerous micro-particle pollution. Each of these are proven to pose major health risks to children, seniors, and anyone living with asthma. In spite of these known hazards, the new plant will sit on the edge of a residential neighborhood just a half mile from the public beach, and directly opposite the canal from the campgrounds and trails of Scusset Beach State Reservation.

That’s not clean. So, how about efficient?

Only if by “efficient,” NRG means “better than the worst.” The Petition (on page 4-4) indicates that the new plant would release on average 1,296 pounds of climate-warming emissions for each megawatt-hour of electricity it produces. That’s better than a coal plant, which releases about 2,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity on average – but let’s face it, that’s a pretty low bar to beat.

NRG’s emissions estimate is in fact almost double the existing rate for New England electricity! According to our regional grid operator, ISO-New England, the region’s average greenhouse gas emission rate was just 726 pounds per megawatt-hour in 2014. And NRG’s numbers are even worse – a whopping 1,730 pounds per megawatt-hour – when the proposed plant will run on oil, as NRG hopes it will for months on end.

Damage to our climate we can’t afford
Which brings us to the real tragedy of NRG’s proposal: its inevitable role in helping to cause more damage, not less, to our climate. If constructed, the new Canal Unit 3 would run 50% of the time, all year long, and would release almost 1 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually. For a plant that will last for 40 or more years, that’s disastrous. There is no way we can meet Massachusetts’ Global Warming Solutions Act emissions mandate if we keep building fossil fuel plants like this one.

Even without a law like the Global Warming Solutions Act mandating deep emissions cuts, building this plant is simply irresponsible if we want to protect our families’ and our children’s health – today and for future generations.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand: No more dirty energy for Massachusetts!
TELL THE ENERGY FACILITIES SITING BOARD THAT YOU WANT CLEAN ENERGY! Come to the Siting Board’s public meeting tonight at 7pm at the Sandwich High School (in the Auditorium; 365 Quaker Meetinghouse Road, East Sandwich, MA 02537) to demand clean energy for Massachusetts! Click here for directions.

TAKE ACTION AGAINST THE NRG PLANT! Send an e-mail to Governor Baker telling him that you oppose construction of another new fossil-fueled power plant in Massachusetts because climate change is real and building plants like this one will make it impossible for the Commonwealth to meet its GWSA carbon-emission-reduction mandate. Include a link to this blog post; please add your own comment to Gov. Baker to personalize your message.

(To download and read NRG’s entire petition, visit the EFSB website here; additional figures and appendices filed with it are also available from the EFSB here: enter “EFSB15-06” / click “Go” / scroll to the bottom to the 12/03/2015 entries.)


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