Environmental groups blast Brayton Point at Rhode Island press conference on energy emission standards
Kevin P. O'Connor
Brayton Point’s cooling towers and smokestacks can be seen in the distance as R.I. Rep. Raymond Gallison Jr., left, and Tony Simon, aide to U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, stand on the Mount Hope Boat Ramp during a press conference on Friday.
Environmentalists took aim Friday at what they called one of the worst polluters in the region. Their target: The Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset.
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and state Rep. Raymond Gallison Jr., D.-Bristol, joined several Rhode Island environmental groups Friday morning at the Mount Hope Boat Ramp, which is directly across the water from Brayton Point.
The cooling towers loomed in the distance and, less large, the smokestacks from the coal-fired plant. Beyond that, the smokestacks and steeples of Fall River could be seen across glassy, calm waters.
The Brayton Point Power Station is one of New England’s biggest polluters, according to Channing Jones of Environment Rhode Island.
The plant, Jones said, releases 3.3 metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. That is more than all the carbon released by Rhode Island’s five fossil fuel-fired plants, he said.
The press conference was held to coincide with Friday’s release of tighter emission standards for new power plants being proposed by the Obama administration.
New emission standards for existing plants will follow, Whitehouse said.
“In the United States, the 50 dirtiest power plants put out more pollution than many countries,” Whitehouse said. “If these 50 power plants were a country, they would be number seven in worldwide pollution.”
The Brayton Point plant is not among the top 50 polluters nationally. A report released Friday by Environment Rhode Island made it clear it is not even close. But the fact that most of the dirty plants are in the Midwest offers no protection: The report noted that most of the air pollution in New England is carried here from the Midwest on the prevailing winds.
“We are constantly on the receiving end of this pollution,” Whitehouse said. “It is time to take action.”
Whitehouse would not say if he felt the Brayton Point plant should be closed. Gallison said he felt it should be shut down.
“My ultimate goal is to close that plant down once and for all,” he said. “It is a plant that has technology from 1952.
“There are other ways to produce energy. It is more important that the air we breath, every day, is the cleanest air possible.”
The regulations for new power plants will be debated this fall and should be ready for a vote in the spring, Whitehouse said.
He did not echo Gallison’s belief that the Brayton Point Power Station should be shut.
“There is no indication yet that this plant can’t be brought into compliance,” Whitehouse said.