Society

Coal Plant With 'Killing Canals' Closes In New England

| by Kathryn Schroeder

The largest of New England's coal-fired power plants permanently closed on May 31 in Somerset, Massachusetts.

The Brayton Point Power Station had a deadline of June 1 to power down, according to The Associated Press. Its closure is a result of a decades-long shift from coal, oil and nuclear energy to natural gas, a lower cost source of power.

David Onufer, external communications manager for plant owner Dynegy of Houston, Texas, told the Boston Globe the plant's closure occurred because of low energy prices and the high cost of keeping the facility operational.

Dynegy purchased the Brayton Point Power Station in 2015 as part of a larger deal, and the agreement stated it had to shut down in 2017. 

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“We’ve known that this day was coming,” Onufer said. “We’re going to safely and permanently discontinue operation.”

The plant employed 170 people.

"We're committed to helping everyone with the transition," Onufer said.

The plant, located along Mount Hope Bay near the Rhode Island border, had been in operation since 1963, according to AP. Since opening, it has been plagued with controversy. Its cooling canals, nicknamed "killing canals" by activists in the 1970s, have been blamed for damaging fisheries by residents, fisherman and environmentalists.

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The amount of electricity it generated by burning coal to turn water into steam to power electricity-generating turbines equated to 1,500 megawatts, which could power nearly 1.5 million homes.

The closure of the plant occurred on June 1, the same day President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a global deal to combat climate change. Trump has said he wants to revive the coal industry in the U.S., and has delayed or rolled back federal regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of that pledge.

Trump's plan is not stopping the closure of coal plants. In February, the largest coal-fired facility in the western U.S., the Navajo Generating Station outside Page, Arizona, announced it would close by the end of 2019, The Washington Post reports. Its closure is also because of low natural gas prices.

“NGS and its employees are one reason why this region, the state of Arizona and the Phoenix metropolitan area have been able to grow and thrive,” Mike Hummel, deputy general manager of plant operator Salt River Project, who also owns it along with several utility companies and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said in a statement. “However, [its owners have] an obligation to provide low-cost service to our more than 1 million customers, and the higher cost of operating NGS would be borne by our customers.”

The Navajo Generating Station was the third largest carbon-emitting facility in 2014, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The plant's closure could put nearly 800 people out of work.

Sources: AP via Valley News, Boston Globe, The Washington Post / Photo credit: Alan Stark/Flickr

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