NRG Raises the White Flag on Power Plant Expansion

A resolution to terminate the tax agreement between the City of Middletown and NRG, owner of the power plant on River Road, will be tabled at the Council meeting on April 5. It appears that NRG is waving the white flag and has requested a one-month delay of Council action in order to terminate the tax agreement by mutual consent with the City. 

Pending such a mutual consent agreement, that will presumably be ratified at the May 3 Council meeting, below are the details of the tax agreement for reader information.

So, public testimony at the April 5 meeting will not be needed, though it will be allowed as the item remains on the agenda. 

Many thanks to all who participated in and supported our campaign.

 

NRG Middletown Power Plant — site of proposed new 375 MW generator

The tax agreement with NRG is unfavorable to Middletown. Until the proposed turbine is built and becomes operational— something that could not possibly happen before 2024, at the earliest—property taxes paid to the city are frozen at the 2019 level of $1.78 million per year. The city is losing over $200,000 per year in taxes while the agreement remains in effect for a project that is not getting built anytime soon.

But it the proposed turbine should ever be built — an increasingly unlikely outcome, due to market conditions — the tax agreement represents an unconscionable giveaway to NRG. Why would Middletown give a tax break to a company that is going to pollute our air more and stand in the way of meeting the state’s climate goals?

What would the actual tax revenue from the project be?

Under the terms of the agreement, taxes paid to the city would depend on the “forward capacity market price” for each year. You don’t need to understand what that means. Simply stated, the taxes paid to the city each year would vary between $2.36 million to $3.41 million per year, but would most likely be at the lower end of that range. Over a 25-year period, the total paid to the city would be somewhere between a minimum of $59 million and a maximum of $85.25 million. Assuming the forward capacity market rises over the next five years and NRG or its successor built the plant, we estimate total tax revenue over 25 years of no more than $65 million — and that’s being optimistic and contrary to current trends and predicted future trends in the capacity market.

But with no tax agreement, the taxes paid would depend on different factors — namely, the rate of depreciation assigned by the assessor’s office and the tax mill rate for each year. Assume for our purpose here a constant mill rate of .0358 for 25 years. The depreciation could be 75% of initial value over 25 years, or it could be an accelerated depreciation of 75% of initial value over 17 years. So, without this tax agreement, the total taxes received by the city over 25 years would be between $82.5 million and $123 million.

Summary — Financial impact of the Tax Agreement.

Prior to turbine operation: $200,000 tax loss per year

After turbine operation: $700,000 – $2.3 million tax loss per year (depending on depreciated rate applied by the assessor’s office.)

 Let the Common Council know you support termination of the tax agreement with NRG

Email all Common Council members here council@middletownct.gov

For more details on the tax agreement and the calculations cited above, read more below: Continue reading

Update on Proposed New Boathouse

Plans for a new boathouse on Middletown’s riverfront are progressing. DiBattisto Associates LLC and Christina Wasch, Associate AIA, recently presented renderings (shown above) of a proposed new Middletown High School boathouse at the March meeting of the city’s Economic Development Commission. (Right click on the image to open and enlarge it in a new tab.)

The Boathouse Building Committee has recommended the least expensive option of the three it originally considered. This proposal retains the Wesleyan boathouse (left) and the current Middletown High School  boathouse (center) which would be refurbished for the community rowing program. The additional proposed building (right) would serve the MHS rowing program that has been so successful in recent years.

The next step is for the professional design team to present a quote to develop the plans more fully — to approximately 40% of what would be needed for construction.

Shown below is an aerial rendering of the proposed new building’s footprint (in white) next to the existing boathouses. To the far right is the restaurant located in Harbor Park. To the far left is the area know as Columbus Point, bordered by Sumner Brook.

NRG Power Plant Update

NRG power plant in Middletown as seen from the Air Line Trail in Portland. Photo by John Hall

The Jonah Center’s campaign to resist the installation of a new combustion turbine at the NRG power plant at 1866 River Road appears to be making an impact. Middletown’s Economic Development Commission (EDC), at its meeting on March 9, voted unanimously to recommend that the tax agreement with NRG be terminated. A resolution to that effect is expected to be on the agenda of the Common Council on April 5. The tax agreement pertains primarily to the property taxes that would be due after such a new turbine becomes operational. But, in the meantime, the agreement freezes property taxes on the existing plant at the amount due in 2019. So the city loses revenue each year the agreement is allowed to stand. Continue reading

Complete Streets News — Portland, Durham, Meriden, & Middletown

The grassroots activism to make our streets safer and more comfortable for walkers, bicyclists, wheelchair users, and users of public transit is the “complete streets” movement. Middletown, Portland, and Durham have Complete Streets groups working with their respective towns to achieve improvements that make our streets complete in that sense – suitable for all users.

Streets, after all, are by far the largest public spaces. They should not be just for moving motor vehicles, but for active transportation (meaning, by muscle power) and community gathering. When people are walking, they meet, speak, and achieve a sense of belonging.  Here are some exciting news items. Continue reading

Opinion: Raise the Gas Tax

By Erik Assadourian

I was shocked and outraged to read that Governor Lamont would want to raise the gas tax by 5 cents by 2023 (2/18). Not because that’s too much, but because it is far too low.

As the frightful weather across the US reminds us, climate change, aka global weirding, is here. Bayous in Louisiana are iced over, millions are snowed in in Texas, even the Middle East has snow. Meanwhile the poles are melting more quickly every year, as new research finds.

And fossil fuels are the number one contributor. Thus, why would a tiny increase in gas taxes seem excessive? Frankly it is far too timid—especially considering the low price of gas right now (lower than 2005 and that’s not even adjusting for inflation). If anything Lamont should propose a much higher increase—both to pay for roads and transportation (including increasing and better subsidizing public transit and bike lanes to support both low-income residents and to encourage the shift away from the car) and of course to disincentivize driving and incentivize people buying more fuel efficient cars. Continue reading

Citizen Testimony Was Fantastic at Common Council Workshop

 

NRG power plant in Middletown as seen from the Air Line Trail in Portland. Photo by John Hall.

 

Middletown’s Common Council held a public workshop on the NRG plant on Thursday, February 11, on WebEx. Citizens joined the meeting in large numbers, most speaking in strong opposition to the proposed new 375 megawatt combustion turbine generator at the NRG Middletown power plant at 1866 River Road. We wish to thank everyone who attended and spoke.  It made a big difference! 

The recording of the presentations, public comment, and Common Council members questions can be viewed here.

The  new turbine would replace 2 old turbines which, due to their inefficiency, outdated technology, and high emissions per megawatt hour of electricity produced, are permitted to run only a few days per year during time of peak demand. (Peak demand occurs mainly in summer during heatwaves.) Because of the new turbine’s greater efficiency, NRG requested an emissions permit that would allow it to run many more hours in the year, resulting in higher total emissions of CO2, Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulphur dioxide (SO2), and soot (particulate matter). 

Continue reading

Resist Middletown Power Plant Expansion

Listen to a recording of the Jan. 19 Town Hall by clicking here and requesting the link and password. 

Click here for an informational handout on the issues, including email addresses for MIddletown Mayor, Common Council, and Governor.

NRG power plant in Middletown as seen from the Air Line Trail in Portland. Photo by John Hall

NRG, the owner of the Middletown Power plant on the Connecticut River at the end of River Road (not to be confused with the Kleen Energy Plant, also on River Road) is pursuing permits to replace two old steam turbines with a new, very large, simple cycle turbine fueled by natural gas or oil.

The Jonah Center and Ecoin (Environmental Collective Impact Network) urge citizens to oppose this additional fossil fuel-powered generator in Middletown because it is  1) unnecessary, 2) it is inconsistent with our city’s and state’s climate goals, and 3) it would negatively impact local air quality. At the January 19 Town Hall, we will outline the issues and opportunities for intervention. Continue reading

Local Action Needed On Climate Emergency

NRG Middletown Power Plant — site of proposed new 375 MW generator

On September 8, 2020, the City of Middletown Common Council voted unanimously to pass the Climate Change Resolution.  Thank you to all who signed the petition supporting it and to all who attended and spoke out to endorse it during the Council meeting.  Now, for the Climate Emergency Resolution to be something more than a piece of paper, the City of Middletown needs to take action. Continue reading

Completing the Air Line Trail Gap In East Hampton

Click on image to enlarge in a new tab.

While Portland was working on its phase 1 section of the Air Line Trail, completed in 2017, East Hampton was planning to extend its part of the trail westward to connect with the Portland segment. East Hampton completed that extension in 2018, except for a 1200 foot gap that could not be constructed due to the presence of wetlands—actually a stream runs through a narrow gorge. Also, Eversource utility poles occupy that same gorge. A decision was made to construct a boardwalk trail over the wetland, but that plan required the utility poles to be moved first.

After several years of off and on discussions between the Town of East Hampton, DEEP (The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection), and Eversource, it appears that a plan to move the poles and “complete the gap” is now emerging. Though the details are tentative or incomplete at this point, the parties seem to have made significant progress toward an agreement that will result in Eversource relocating the poles and transmission line onto town property at East Hampton’s Water Pollution Control Authority. We hope that that work can be completed in 2021.

In the meantime, phase 2 of Portland’s Air Line Trail has been designed and awaits a funding opportunity for construction.

The Jonah Center will  continue to keep the public informed as new developments emerge.