A Call to Close Bridgeport Coal Plant

Residents, environmentalists crowd into public hearing

Bridgeport Residents, Environmentalists Protest Coal Plant
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Bridgeport Residents, Environmentalists Protest Coal Plant

Environmentalists have been trying for years to shut down Connecticut’s last remaining coal-burning power plant. They could make more headway on that goal this year, since the power plant’s operating permit is up for renewal. WNPR’s Neena Satija reports on a public hearing held on the matter last night in Bridgeport, where the plant is located.

More than 150 people filled a room in the Bridgeport City Hall Annex last night. Most of them were asking the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP, to carefully consider if and how it should renew the operating permit for the Bridgeport Harbor Station.

“This coal plant is outdated," said Onte Johnson,   It’s a dinosaur. And it is time to wake up and invest in renewable energy.”

According to the Clean Air Task Force, asthma rates and levels of air pollution are higher in Bridgeport and Fairfield County than in the rest of the state. But executives from Public Service Electric and Gas, a company based in New Jersey that owns Bridgeport Harbor Station, said it’s not the fault of their coal plant. That air particulate and ozone pollution is coming from somewhere else.

"Over 95 percent of it comes from out-of-state," said Mark Strickland, a PSE&G executive. "In-state, in this past year those contributions from power plants were about four or five percent.”

Strickland said that while coal only generates two percent of Connecticut’s power, it’s crucial as a backup source in case natural gas and other power sources fail. That’s happened in weather emergencies like Hurricane Katrina, and during peak energy seasons, which is generally the only time the plant operates.   

“There’s a need for other sources of generation," he said. "So without plants like Bridgeport Harbor, we may not be able to keep the lights on or homes warm.”

Tiffany Mallers knows that not all of Bridgeport’s pollution can be blamed on the power station. But she wants it out.Mallers lives two miles from the plant, and said two of her daughters were hit with unexplained asthma attacks last year.

“I never thought that it could be the environment that sent my daughter with healthy lungs and healthy everything into a severe asthma attack," Mallers said. "And I don’t know when she might have another one. So this is why I’m here.”

DEEP can’t actually deny Bridgeport Harbor Station’s request to renew its coal operations. But it can put more restrictions on how the coal plant should run. Environmentalists think that with enough of these restrictions, the power station would have to shut down its coal facility in the next few years. 

For WNPR, I’m Neena Satija.

A version of this story also appeared on the Connecticut Mirror at http://ctmirror.org/story/16341/residents-environmentalists-crowd-hearing-bridgeport-coal-plant.