The business community and CT politicians patted themselves on the back at the end of July for opening a natural gas power plant in Bridgeport that is to replace a coal-burning plant. The governor said we’re going to have “clean burning fuel for the next 40 years”. Unfortunately, that’s completely false.
It’s not “clean” and there’s no way that Bridgeport plant will run for 40 years. “Clean” gives the idea that emissions from the plant are harmless. True, a gas plant won’t bathe the immediate neighborhood in mercury, sulfur and coal dust pollutants, but there’s more to consider.
One dangerous gas will be coming out the power plant five times more than currently. It’s the global warming gas CO2. Over the years 2016-2018 the EPA says an average or 295, 000 short tons of the gas came out of the Bridgeport coal plant each year. However the new natural gas plant will send out 1.6 million tons a year!
While the U.N. scientists are giving a doomsday warning that we have to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, Bridgeport’s will increase its contribution by 5 times.
Up in the rural northeast of CT the movers and shakers and planning to build an even worse plant in Killingly. The town which already hosts the Lakeville Road Generating Company which poured 2.3 million tons of CO2 into the air in 2018 is slated to allow a company to break ground on another plant which will send another 2 million tons of CO2 into the air.
By the way the term “natural gas” is misleading. All the fossil fuels come from nature. Natural gas is almost entirely the substance called methane, CH4, and methane has an interesting property. It’s a much worse global warming gas than CO2. Over a hundred years its 25 times worse. The problem is we don’t have 100 years. We have to go to zero on global warming gas emissions by 2050. In the short run methane traps heat 84 times as does carbon dioxide.
Yes, you say, but the plants are burning the methane, not releasing it into the air and burning methane produces less CO2 than burning coal or oil. Correct, but there’s another problem. The methane that leaks into the air during the production and transport process. An article in the Wall Street Journal 8/8/19 tells us “2.3% of the natural gas produced in the U.S. escapes directly into the atmosphere due in part to leaky equipment or intentional discharges”. It’s the equivalent of burning 355 billion poundsof coal!
So natural gas plants pollute directly by producing CO2 and indirectly by getting their fuel from a system that leaks methane enormously. There’s also a much lesser effect of the warming of waterthe 50,000 to 400,000 gallons of water the Killingly plant will use a day for cooling steam.
The fossil fuel companies are doing everything to keep us ignorant, but at some point there’s going to be a traumatic catastrophe. Then warming and its many, many effects will become so obvious to all but the most criminally deluded that there will be a last-ditch effort to stop it. All the methane burning plants will be seized and dismantled brick by brick. And this will come long before 40 years from now.
And get this. CT doesn’t need the Killingly plant to produce electricity for CT needs. We’re getting more efficient. We’re using more solar. So the juice is all going out of state.
Another thing about methane that should be mentioned is that sometimes it blows up. In 2018, dozens of houses exploded in Massachusetts in the Merrimack Valley. Gas had to be shut off to more than 8,000 homes. In 2010 in California, a pipeline, exploded killing eight. In that same year, Connecticut had its own fatalities from a natural gas explosion in Middletown that killed eight. Add to that the cancers and other bad health effects by other chemicals released in production and burning of natural gas.
The Community Benefits Programs
Why do communities accept new natural gas plants? Several reasons. Neighborhoods are frantic to lower asthma and cancer rates. Then there is fear, the companies threaten to just shut down the coal plants forcing the cities or towns involved to lose millions in tax payments. They warn their donations to local churches and charities will stop.
Then there’s the illusion of jobs. In Bridgeport climate activists fighting the coal plant had to deal with unions who were afraid of job loss. It is a real concern. We talked about the state creating program of guaranteed jobs for anyone from the coal plant losing work. The unions brushed that aside. So what happened in the end? The company went to gas and bragged that it cut permanent jobs from hundreds to dozens. Actually, dozens is a stretch. The plant’s own website says the number of permanent jobs will be 20. And we haven’t heard that the company or the state is guaranteeing any of the displaced workers a job.
We also have to mention community benefits programs. In Bridgeport and Killingly the companies involved dangled these goodies to locals and in both cases got the neighborhood or town leaders on board. In Bridgeport it included a construction union apprenticeship training program and $2 million to be divided up in grants to the city and non-profits, a mess of pottage like the one in the bible story. After two years city clergy were having second thoughts. Only 15 people had graduated from the apprenticeship programs and less than 50 city residents had been involved in the construction of the gas plant. No one had seen any of the two million. Politicians in Killingly had opposed a second plant in their town, but objections evaporated after their own benefits agreement. Supposedly they’re getting $5 million and the same 20 magnificent permanent jobs for the town.
Bridgeport and Killingly get a benefits package, the human race gets an “Impediments Package”. We get another weight of millions of tons of global warming gases to hang round our necks as we race to stop the momentum of fossil-fuel-capitalism some time before we fall over the tipping points. Please, stop the Killingly methane plant.
Many unions came out in support of the youth actions earlier this year. Some have issued statements in relation to the September call, and others continue to debate how to respond. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) came out in supportof the “Fridays for Future” protests in March 2019, and is listed as an official “international partner” for the upcoming September strikes. Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and New Zealand are organizing support for the action.
With more than 1,200 delegates attending, the Massachusetts Teachers Association approved a resolution “That the MTA delegation to the 2019 NEA Representative Assembly propose a national teachers strike in support of the Green New Deal.”
The submitters’ rationale noted that
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently issued a report arguing that, by the year 2030, carbon emissions must fall to 45% below 2010 levels. The UN Environment Executive Director said, “It’s like a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen. We have to put out the fire.”
How can we continue to be role models for our students as the smoke alarm goes off—deafening, piercing—if we fail to make every effort to usher them to safety? How will we face our grandchildren as the planet we left them goes up in flames? “I’m sorry,” we’ll tell them. “I was too afraid. Too hopeless. Too busy.”
Or, maybe we will tell them a different story.
Maybe, when our grandchildren ask us how the Green New Deal was won, we can say it started with students—and then with us. That when the teachers went out on strike in 2019, others followed. First the nurses, then the hotel workers. Next came the TV writers, the teamsters, and the flight attendants. A general strike shut down the whole country until Congress passed a Green New Deal that the president signed into law. Millions of Americans soon started at the kinds of green jobs-with-justice that reshaped this country and saved the planet. We faced the crisis, wrestled emissions to net-zero, and put out the fire.
The few will continue to benefit from our fossil-fuel economy while the many suffer. Unless we stop them. There are more of us than there are of them. If only we’d remember that. If only we’d act like it.
The MTA sent their resolution to the national convention of the NEA. We'll update this story