State Agency Wants Power Generator Phased Out

But its owner says its too valuable

Jet Engine Energy
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Jet Engine Energy

 

A state environmental watchdog says that eight jet-fuel burning generators in Hartford should be phased out.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the state's Council On Environmental Quality only wants the generators used in emergencies.
 
Deep into summer, the demand for electricity spikes.  When it does, eight jet engines in Hartford are turned on to meet the  demand.  And on the days when air quality is already bad, the exhaust from those generators just makes matters worse.
 
Here's Karl Wagener, the executive director of the state's Council on Environmental Quality.  
"If you're coming into Hartford on a hot summer day, sometimes you'll see this plume of dark smoke rising up seemingly out of the ground just south of the Charter Oak Bridge. That's the exhaust from these jet engines."
 
Wagener says that, when operational, these power generators are among the state's worst polluting when it comes to particulates.   That puts it up there with the one that burns tires.
 
The energy plant is owned by the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.  Its permit to operate the facility is up for renewal by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  Wagener's agency wants the state to do a few things.  They include prohibiting the engines from turning on to meet excess demand, having smoke monitors installed, and giving authorization for the engines to operate on an emergency basis only through June 2013.
 
Paul Nonnenmacher is the spokesman for the CRRA.   He doesn't dispute that the engines pollute.  And he grants that they're the power generators of last resort because... they're the last ones you want to use.
 
But he says that there are good reasons to keep them around.  First, they're rarely on -- like six hours all of last year.  Plus, the authority gets $5 million a year to keep them online just in case.  
 
"That money actually goes into our mid-Connecticut project system and that defrays the disposal fees that towns pay to send us their garbage."
 
In other words, take the polluting engines offline, lose $5 million, and the towns take the hit.
 
Put it all together, and Nonnenmacher says keeping the engines online makes sense.
 
For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.