Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Middletown Power Plant “Upgrade” Is a “Downgrade”

The following post was written by Middletown resident Rebecca MacLachlan:

Middletown has two power plants on River Road: the newer Kleen Energy plant and the old NRG plant, which creates so much pollution that its old turbines #2&3 are allowed to operate only during times of peak energy demand. Both plants generate electricity by burning oil or natural gas. Now NRG proposes to “update” its plant by retiring these 2 old turbines and replacing them with a new gas-powered turbine. With this change, regulators would allow the plant to operate up to 182 days a year instead of just a few days per year.

This “update” has serious implications for the health of Middletown and neighboring communities. Furthermore, the emissions from burning of fossil fuels are the principal cause of climate change. This project would represent a move in the wrong direction.

This NRG project was supported with a generous tax abatement by the last Middletown administration—without any involvement of the public. The “renovated” plant would spew up to 8x the particulate matter (PM), or soot, into the air. The result would be increased asthma and other serious damage to people’s lungs. NRG argues that the nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) would be reduced. But this is like saying I ate “only” 2 gallons of ice cream today, when I was previously eating 3 gallons a day. It’s an improvement, but still a huge problem. 

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane are major contributors to climate change. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2, and methane frequently leaks from pipelines transporting natural gas.

Ahhh, but what about the electricity? Don’t we need it? Well, no. Much of the power generated locally is exported out of state, while we bear the burden of pollution and an overheated atmosphere here. This doesn’t sound right to me!

I am encouraged by the concern about climate change shown by our present Middletown mayor, Ben Florsheim, and our Common Council. In 2020 the Council unanimously passed a “Climate Emergency” resolution, which recognizes environmental injustice and pledges to address climate change: 

On Thursday, February 11, starting at 6 p.m., the Middletown Common Council will host a “workshop” on the proposed new combustion turbine at the NRG power plant on River Road. The virtual meeting will be on WebEx. The link to the meeting can be found on the agenda . The WebEx meeting number listed is 179 397 6897 and the password is "Middletown." Dial-in info is also available. 

Please voice your opinion during the public comment part of the meeting (starting around 7 p.m.). You can also email the Mayor & Common Council. For more information go to the Jonah Center website here.

Ask the Council and Mayor to follow through on their climate-emergency resolution by taking action! Tell them to stop this proposal by rescinding the tax abatement. As a city (and a country) we must throw our support behind developing renewable energy. Now, wouldn’t that be a breath of fresh air!

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