Coal Plant Shutdown a Long-Awaited Step in the Right Direction


Photo credit: Mona Miri

It is a step towards victory for Massachusetts—a top official at Dominion Energy publicly announced the Salem power plant is expected to shut down in the next 5 years.

In 2005, I began my environmental series documenting the coal and oil power plant that was responsible for environmental health problems and deaths in the region. Potential shut-down of the plant is a giant step for Dominion and for environmental advocates including Erin Brockovich, a big community and environmental activist.The 59-year-old plant that is owned by the Virginia energy giant, Dominion, will have no choice but to shut down—no revisions for pollution control are in its future. With the help and consistent action of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, the plant failed to meet standard environmental obligations. Action by environmental groups and citizens who have voiced their concerns for many years also brought attention to the plant.

The issue of finalizing the plant's shut down will also reflect on the reliability of energy production, the Salem power plant provides to some 750,000 homes in the New England area. The Independent System Operator New England has rejected the plant's request to be de-listed in the past two years to ensure energy reliability for the region. The federal energy regulations on ozone are scheduled to go into effect in 2015 and 2017. This would mean if the plant could not meet the federal regulations that it will have to shut down.

As of now, Dominion Chief Financial Officer, Mark McGettrick said in the Edison Electric conference that he will not be investing in more environmental pollution prevention for the plant. Although the company's spokesman Dan Genest, said, " Our game plan is to continue to run the station as long as we can do so safely, economically and meeting all environmental rules and regulations. "


Photo credit: Mona Miri

For many years the Dominion company has repeated what they have said before. By implying that the plant is safe and meets environmental regulations, Dominion has not lived up to its promises. The federal regulations will put more pressure on their actions and will force them to shut down within the next 5 years.

By de-listing the company, which means to be taken off the list of companies which produce and are reliable for production, the Conservation Law foundation has argued that Dominion is "gaming the system," by filing to de-list in the hope of being ordered to keep operating for reliability reasons and, as a result, receiving higher payments.

"The fact is their plan is to run this plant into the ground and to have the rate-payers cover the costs until shutdown," CLF staff attorney Shanna Cleveland said. "This leaves Salem in a bad position, workers in a bad position and certainly leaves us with a plant that continues to pollute the environment and damage the public health."

When Dominion could have invested more money into improving the Salem power plant, it actually invested in the Brayton point plant, a much larger coal plant. The Brayton plant is currently constructing new towers that operate as a cooling system which will use water from the Tauntan Bay, and will discharge less hot water back into it. Many environmental groups in the region, like the EPA and the CLF, have stated their concerns that the cooling system will still pollute the environment, with their structures being, "environmentally and technologically obsolete."


Photo credit: Mona Miri

Every year, we try to take a step forward. It may be a slow road, but our destination is clean, safe and sustainable energy. Many people in this region, including myself, have pushed for progress in these issues that are important to everyone and affect our daily lives.

It is a big step forward for the New England community in expecting to close the Salem Power plant operating since 1966, which has had a giant impact on the environment and the citizens for many decades.

For more information on this issue, please go the links below and read more about the history of the Salem Power plant.

For more information, visit www.monamiri.com.
Read more about coal power:
Coal-Fired Power On the Way Out?
3,000 US Coal Power Plants Could be Replaced by Offshore Wind Power: Sec. of Interior
Scientists Write Letter Telling Coal-Fired Power Plants to Close

Tags: Coal | Pollution