Mike Patrick for the Waterbury Republican-American:
Two years after disputing a report that its days were numbered, owners of the last coal-fired power plant in the state plan to demolish the facility and build a $550 million natural gas-fired power plant in its place.
That’s according to Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim’s office. Ganim, along with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, praised the plan by PSEG Power Connecticut as one that will provide cleaner energy, more jobs and add millions to the city’s tax base.
Others eye the development cautiously.
In Oxford, the leader of a citizen group against the building of a power plant there said the new Bridgeport plant just a half-hour or so away wouldn’t deter efforts to build what he said is an unneeded and dangerous facility in his Naugatuck Valley town.
And a woman restoring Civil War-era houses near the Bridgeport plant said the issue again raises long-standing concerns about environmental justice in the mostly poor, minority neighborhood.
The plan is for PSEG to begin construction of the gas-fired facility in 2017, and when that is complete, the coal-fired plant will be decommissioned and dismantled, according to Ganim’s office.
In a prepared statement, Ganim called it “a huge win” for the city that will create more than 350 construction jobs and 20 permanent maintenance jobs.
“PSEG is also a pledging to be a good corporate citizen of Bridgeport and we all stand to gain by the addition of more than $5,000,000 per year in tax revenues,” Ganim said, adding, “the neighborhoods closest to the plant will be bolstered by the $2 million yearly investment set forth by the community environmental benefits agreement.”
That agreement will fund environmental projects and improvements in the city and encourage regional hiring.
A SCATHING REPORT ON the plant released in 2014 described the facility’s decline, citing several factors for the coal-plant industry’s fall from grace nationwide.
Titled, “When, Not If: Bridgeport’s Future and the Closing of PSEG’s Coal Plant,” the report from the Institute for Energy Economic and Financial Analysis said the economic downturn caused electricity demands to either stay flat or fall.
In addition, increased energy-efficiency efforts and the falling price of natural gas were factors in the decline of coal-powered plants.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the number of coal-fired plants nationwide dropped from 629 in 2003 to 518 in 2013, the most recent data made available, while natural gas facilities increased from 1,693 to 1,725 in that same time period.
And the number of facilities converting other renewable resources — solar, trash-to-energy and the like — to electricity skyrocketed from 741 to 2,299 in that same time frame.
All the while, according to the institute report, coal remained expensive, and the Bridgeport plant’s inefficiency — taking upward of 24 hours to reach full power once going on line — made the facility more and more obsolete.