Salem Harbor power-plant closing

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    Salem Harbor power-plant closing

    Dina Cappiello, a talented AP reporter working with environmental issues, has a description of coal-fired power-plants likely to close because of forthcoming U.S. EPA air pollution requirements. For once, the Globe is showing the full article. [ EPA rules threaten older power plants, Boston Globe, December 19, 2011, at http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/12/19/ap_impact_epa_rules_threaten_older_power_plants/ ]

    Near the end of her article, Ms. Cappiello features Salem Harbor but doesn't seem to know that the Salem plant was rumored to be closing several years ago and applied for delisting from the New England power grid in fall, 2010. [ Kyle Alspach, Salem power plant to close within 5 years, Boston Business Journal, November 17, 2010, at http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2010/11/17/salem-plant-to-close-within-5-years.html ]

    Salem Harbor's current owner, Dominion, cited probable EPA regulations as triggering the exit from business, without any way to know in the fall of last year what those regulations might require. Actually, the plant was not done in by federal rules but by state pollution controls.

    Salem Harbor was among the so-called "filthy five" pollutors attacked by MassPIRG in a campaign starting in 1997, resulting in new state regulations issued April 23, 2001--the first in the U.S. to require existing power-plants to retrofit pollution controls. [Steven Rosenberg, Power plant pushed to comply, Boston Globe, September 26, 2002]

    Salem Harbor's then-owner, PG&E, opted to pay rather than play, buying emission credits from plants such as Mystic that substantially reduced emissions. The 60-year-old Salem Harbor is among the least efficient coal-fired power-plants still operating, predating current supercritical technology. High costs of operations and added costs to buy emission credits were the reasons Salem Harbor's time was up.

     
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    Re: Salem Harbor power-plant closing

    It is too bad in a way. They wanted a gas fire permit but were denied. The transmission distance of power is the largest waste of otherwise clean energy in the country. Local energy is far more effecient than long distance grid power. Every mile of transmission is a lost effeciency. Just think of how much "clean hydro Quebec" energy is wasted over hundreds of miles of wire. It is really sickening.
     
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    Federal rule not closing Salem Harbor

    Dominion's claim that a federal EPA rule will close Salem Harbor is a public-relations gesture. To minimize costs while continuing to operate Salem Harbor under Massachusetts regulations, Dominion installed nitrogen oxide and mercury controls, but it declined to install much more expensive scrubbers and baghouses, instead obtaining low-sulfur coal from South America, as Brayton Point has done for years. [ Dominion to continue to operate Salem Harbor, Dominion Power, July 24, 2008, at http://dom.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=151 ]

    Repowering Salem Harbor with combined-cycle natural gas might be feasible, as Exelon did with Boston Edison's 1925 Edgar plant in Weymouth, but Dominion never developed such a project. Instead, it proposed to maintain Salem Harbor in standby at premium-payment rates, for transmission stabilization. ISO New England rejected the proposal in favor of transmission-line upgrades. [ Reliability committee materials, ISO New England, May 9, 2011, at http://www.iso-ne.com/committees/comm_wkgrps/relblty_comm/relblty/mtrls/2011/may92011/index.html ]

    The new EPA Cross-state Air Pollution Rule has its origins in a connivance to prop up the operators of old, highly polluting power-plants. From its beginnings in 2001, the now-replaced Clean Air Interstate Rule was a Walker Bush administration scam purporting to regulate stringently the air pollution from power-plants that flows from state to state, while actually offering power-plant operators a low cost, if not a free, ride.

    Emissions were to be regulated only on a regional basis, using a trading system through which power-plant operatiors could buy the rights to pollute. Pollution limits, on the other hand, were to be regulated on a local basis, requiring potentially draconian measures by cities and counties found out of compliance, but giving them no powers to stop emissions coming from somewhere else.

    When courts call, the EPA folds. In 2005, the call was for the Bush administration to justify its rule, which put most costs of controlling air pollution on victims rather than perpetrators. The EPA lost everything. Its entire rulemaking action was canned, and the agency was told to start over, in a decision from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. [ North Carolina v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 05-1244, July 11, 2008 ]

    The new Cross-state Air Pollution Rule, the most controversial of the new federal regulations, is the result. An aspect largely ignored by reporters: it does not apply to New England or to any of the U.S. west of Texas, Nebraska and Minnesota. [ map, p. 3, Cross-state Air Pollution Rule, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, December 15, 2011, 2 MB at http://www.epa.gov/airtransport/pdfs/CSAPRPresentation.pdf ]

    However, five Massachusetts counties, most of Connecticut and half of Rhode Island are expected to experience reductions in air pollution from action levels, currently, to below-action levels, because of less emissions drifting in from other states to the west. [ maps, pp. 26 and 27, Cross-state Air Pollution Rule ]

     
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    Re: Salem Harbor power-plant closing

    Salem was a slight contributor to regional air quality. Funny how a coastal plant does that. As an dep and epa air monitor in the 90's the attainment gained by quiting salem is not even worth it. The attainment of goals is and was focused on the southern NY/ NJ as concerned to ozone. The ohio/ penn area for so2 pollution. Salem was never a significant contribution to mass regional Air pollution. Some local on certain days.
     
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    No crisis from closing Salem Harbor

    Fairly quietly, one at a time, new combined-cycle, natural gas-fired power-plants have radically changed the structure of electricity generation in Massachusetts. Twenty years ago, Massachusetts was still dominated by high-pollution power: about 29 percent of output from coal and 38 percent from high-sulfur residual fuel oil, with only electrostatic precipitators to reduce soot. In summers the air over Metro Boston turned brown from fumes, and the power grid struggled to cope. Loss of one major generator posed a threat, as happened in 1986.

    After fining Boston Edison $550,000 in 1982, the largest NRC fine to that date, in 1986 NRC told Boston Edison to close Pilgrim Nuclear, then 40 percent of the company's power capacity, while making major improvements in safety and management. The plant stayed closed until 1989. During that time, eastern Massachusetts struggled with summer brownouts, nearing power grid collapse. [ Boston Edison company history, Funding Universe, 1995, at http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Boston-Edison-Company-Company-History.html ]

    Combined-cycle, natural gas-fired power-plants have been key to lower air pollution and more reliable power in eastern Massachusetts. Beginning during the MassPIRG campaign of 1997-2001, eleven of those plants were placed in service. Two more are currently in development. The total capacity of the highly efficient, low-pollution plants--6,250 MW--is more than nine times the capacity of Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station in Plymouth.

    When this trend began, a worry was that it would exhaust supplies and import capacity for natural gas and run up the price of electricity, but that did not happen. More secure supplies occurred partly because of two new, offshore LNG import terminals and partly because of the rapid growth in domestic natural gas obtained from shale formations located in the Northeast.

    For 2010, about 19 percent of Massachusetts electricity was generated from coal, less than 1 percent from fuel oil and 60 percent from natural gas. Once Salem Harbor closes in spring, 2014, coal-fired power generated in Massachusetts will shrink by 3 percent of the total. Salem Harbor's output can now be replaced from less hazardous, local sources.

    [ EIA-860 Electricity Generator Report for 2010, U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2011, 5 MB at http://www.eia.gov/pub/electricity/f860y10.zip ]
    [ Electricity by State, Historical Tables, 1990-2010, U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2011, 4 MB at http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/generation_state.xls ]

    Owing to expansion of in-state, low-pollution power, there is no crisis in prospect from closing Salem Harbor. When new combined-cycle, natural gas-fired power-plants under development open, the Massachusetts system could absorb a shutdown of Pilgrim Nuclear, although not a shutdown of coal-fired Brayton Point.

     

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