A Legacy of Pollution at the Northport Power Station


Photo credit: Mona Miri

The Northport Power Station—a natural gas and oil electrical power station located on Long Island New York—has been a significant landmark on the New York landscape. It is the largest oil-fired power plant on the East Coast and the second most pollution generating plant.

For decades since 1967, the Northport Power Station has been a source of local and general pollution. The New York Environmental Coalition group issued a report in 2005, that the power plant was the second most polluting plant in the Northeast and the number one in Long island and New York.The plant outputs 5.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. The age and outdated technology of the plant is one of the reason's why there are major concerns in it's output pollution. It was built in the 60's and completed in the 70's and is one of the last oil fired plant built in the US and one of the only exempt from the Clean Air Act because it was 'grandfathered' when the law was passed.

A study put together in June 2005 by the Frontier Group, MASS-PIRG, the National Association of State PIRGS, the Clean Water Fund, and the Environmental Advocates of New York, places the Northport Power Plant at the top ten worst polluted plants in the study. The study also reveals the effects the Northeast has to global warming specifically from these power plants. It states that "most of the global warming pollution from electricity generation in the North East comes from a handful of power plants. Capping and cleaning up the power plants can significantly reduce the Northeast's contribution to global warming."

Since 2004 there has been a plan to develop a regional cap-and trade system to limit global warming pollution. This program is called the regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is one the first and most historic efforts to regulate Greenhouse Global warming in the U.S.

The top ten plants produced one third of all carbon dioxide pollution within the year, they are also responsible for twice as much carbon dioxide emitted per unit, 1570 (lbs/MWh) than the regional average which is 850 (lbs/MWh). The study states that the top ten were also responsible for 60 percent of all global warming pollution in the Northeast, each producing approximately 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. They were ranked as the most inefficient power plant fleets, by using inefficient technology and dirty fuels.

The most polluted companies depend heavily on coal and oil for fuel as some to this date have made improvement which use alternate resources to balance the generating power. The study shows that over 50 percent of the global warming pollution came from the coal producing and 30 present from the residual fuel oil. The worst carbon dioxide emitters are also large sources of soot and smog pollution, which has been a major problem in communities in and around the areas close to the power plants.

Also 90 percent of the region's power sector emissions of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain and soot pollution, 81 percent of the region's power sector emissions of nitrogen oxide, which contribute to smog. Reducing the carbon dioxide pollution from these plants will make it easier for generators to regulate the soot and smog pollution and can improve the public health and their benefits.

Since 2004 there has been many improvements in alternative energy usage and technology but not to the standards of the cap and trade system and Clean Air Act. As the usage of coal and oil are the main fuel sources and are significantly higher than the alternative resources like wind or solar. Though there have been many improvements, there still needs to be significant leap to reduce global warming even more than a few years ago.

By considering even more efficiency and full sustainability of a power plant, that could sustain it's self, will be revolutionary.

The regional green-house Gas initiative, the cap and trade system and the environmental initiatives that have been passed and considered since 2004-2005 should regulate the plants in the next 5-10 years.

In hopes to improve the dirtiest plants in the Northeast, actions need to continue to speed our path to an even more improved alternative, environmentally safe and sustainable future.

The image of our landscape should be more cooperative with our surrounding nature, designed to self sustain, harmless to the ecosystem and to human nature.

Read more about power plants:
How to Tear Down a Nuclear Power Plant
Closing Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant Will Cost New Yorkers Just 18¢ A Day
Texas Coal-Fired Power Plants Release More Mercury Than Those In Any Other US State

Tags: Photography | Pollution

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