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.

Members of the EDC noted the large number of citizens who expressed a desire for a project that supports our state’s climate goals, such as energy storage in support of renewable energy and a more modern electrical grid, instead of a fossil fuel-burning turbine that stands in contradiction to our climate goals. Last September, the Common Council unanimously passed a Declaration of a Climate Emergency that includes a resolve to reduce carbon emissions in our city. Burning more fossil fuel is not a path to burning less fossil fuel.

Protests against increased pollution in the form of particulate emissions (soot) and continued high emissions of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), both of which are hazardous to respiratory health, have been heard. NOx is a precursor to ozone, and our location is already one of ozone non-compliance. Residents of Portland, who live directly across the river from the power plant and have experienced high soot pollution for decades, offered powerful and personal testimony regarding soot on their windows, gardens, and clotheslines. Soot and NOx pollution is most damaging to lower-income people and people of color who are already exposed to more pollution because of where they live –near highways, incinerators, factories, and congested streets.

Just prior to the February 11 workshop at which NRG and the Jonah Center made side-by-side presentations, we learned that NRG plans to sell all of its generation facilities in Connecticut, New York, and California. The sale is expected to close in the 4th quarter of 2021.  If that occurs, NRG will cease to operate in Connecticut.  Members of the EDC seemed to be in agreement that the city should terminate the tax agreement now rather than allow it’s benefits to be passed on to the prospective new owner,  ArcLight Capital.

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