EPA regs shutter New England’s largest coal pant

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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New England’s largest coal-fired power plant has been slated for shutdown, partly due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

The Brayton Point Station in Massachusetts will no longer provide power to the region’s electrical grid when the plant is shut down in 2017. The plant’s owner Energy Capital Partners has cited several factors for its closing, including competition from natural gas and the need to spend “significant capital to meet environmental regulations and to operate and maintain an aging plant.”

Environmentalists argue that coal is no longer an economically viable fuel source.

“If Brayton Point can’t make it economically, no coal plant can make it,” said Jonathan Peress of the Conservation Law Foundation. “This is the death knell for coal-fired power in New England.”

Brayton Point Station is the largest of six coal-fired power plants in New England, generating 1,500 megawatts of power and employing about 240 workers — who could now lose their jobs.

“We understand the impacts that this decision to retire Brayton Point Station will have on the employees of Brayton Point, local community and other stakeholders,” said Curt Morgan, CEO and President of Brayton Point Energy, LLC.

Local residents fear that the plant’s closing will cripple the local economy as jobs and tax revenues are lost.

“It feels like a big hole in the town because there is no plan in place to help the economy of our town,” said Pauline Rodrigues, a local resident. “We didn’t want anything to happen until the town planned for it.”

Coal plants have been increasingly shuttering operations or planning to halt operations as the Obama administration clamps down on carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation, much of which comes from coal power.

EPA regulations have contributed to the shutdown or planned shutdown of more than 280 coal plants across the country, according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Three coal plants in Massachusetts are slated to shut down because of EPA policies.

Coal power provided about 40 percent of the electricity in 2012, but New England relies on natural gas for most of its power generation. The region only received 3 percent of its electricity from coal while 52 percent came from burning natural gas.

Recently, the agency release emissions standards that would effectively ban the construction of coal-fired power plants unless they utilize carbon capture technology, which is not commercially proven.

“Requiring [coal plants] to use technology that has not been proven viable in industrial settings is completely backward,” said Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. “If these overzealous regulations take hold, we will lose ground on the progress we have made in energy independence, increased manufacturing and economic growth.”

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