Proposed legislation would regulate Sooty Six

If efforts to pass acts concerning sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions from Connecticut’s Sooty Six power plants succeed, local media will have one less alliterative nickname to deal with, unless the plants become known as the “Safe Standard Six.”

A public hearing regarding proposed legislation for the reduction of sulfur and mercury emissions in the plants, which are located in Bridgeport, New Haven, Middletown, Norwalk, Montville and Milford, will be held Friday in Hartford. A press conference sponsored by state Sen. Donald Williams will precede the event.

The Yale Green Corps, a student-run environmental organization, is attempting to make their presence felt at the hearing. Six Green Corps members will attend Friday and possibly testify in support of the bills’ passage.

“We’ve been working on this campaign because these power plants’ pollution is so unnecessary and it’s so easy to clean up,” said Judith Joffe-Block ’04, Green Corps co-coordinator. “We need to consistently follow the clean air policy.”

Nancy Alderman, president of Environment & Human Health, Inc., said the bill is practically the same as last year’s legislation. The present legislation no longer includes the 30-day exemption of Department of Environmental Protection oversight in the event of an energy shortage, a waiver provision which caused confusion in last year’s bill.

The only waiver in the 2002 bill echoes the DEP regulation’s waiver, allowing for a suspension of the stricter standard if lower sulfur fuel is not available.

Alderman added that she thinks the bill will pass — and needs to.

“[Passage of the bill] will reduce the load of air pollution and its particulates in Connecticut,” Alderman said.

Clean Water Action, a nationwide environmental group, has been working towards enacting the Sooty Six legislation for five years. After Gov. John Rowland’s veto of nearly identical legislation last year, the DEP implemented regulations that brought emission standards where they ought to be — sort of.

“The problem is, although they have to meet the 0.5 [lbs/MMBTU limit for sulfur dioxide emissions] on site, they can purchase sulfur dioxide allowances [next year],” said Brooke Suter, program director of Clean Water Action’s Connecticut branch.

The purchase of sulfur dioxide allowances is known as pollution credit trading. For example, if a plant in Middletown emits a ton less pollution than the standard, New Haven’s power plant could buy Middletown’s credit and be permitted an extra ton of pollution.

“The issue is sulfur dioxide has a serious local health impact,” Suter said. “Because of that, you don’t want pollution credit trading.”

She added that emissions of sulfur dioxide contribute to acid rain and can trigger asthma attacks.

Friday’s legislation aims to add another phase to the program, demanding that the Sooty Six comply on site to the 0.3 lbs/MMBTU limit for sulfur dioxide emissions from the Sooty Six plants by Jan. 1, 2004.

But if this year’s attempts do not pan out, Yale Green Corps might abandon the cause.

“We haven’t talked about it as a group yet, but I imagine if we don’t get this bill through this year we will put our energy somewhere else, especially if the CT Coalition for Clean Air is working on another issue” Joffe-Block said.

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