After 10 years in disuse, New Haven’s English Station power plant is poised to reopen this fall, prompting considerable opposition from Mayor John DeStefano Jr., state Sen. Martin Looney, and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, or CFE.
Quinnipiac Energy purchased the oil-based power plant in Fair Haven last year, 10 years after it closed in 1991. Under a preliminary decision from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the plant will operate only to meet Connecticut’s electricity demand during peak season.
James Foye, the acting director of public information for New Haven, said the peak summer season is when New Haven has its worst air quality.
“Upon review of the extensive record and consideration of the facts and applicable law in this matter, I find that the application meets the relevant statutory and regulatory criteria,” wrote Janice Deshais, hearing officer for the DEP, in a Sept. 4 preliminary decision.
The plant will be allowed to operate no more than 16 hours per day, five days per week during peak demand. If approved, the permit would expire in five years.
“We are very confident that this decision will stay, and that it will be the right decision,” said Ralph DeGeeter, managing director of Quinnipiac Energy.
But DeStefano, Looney and the CFE have all appealed to Arthur Rocque, commissioner of DEP, to deny the request for reopening due to human health concerns.
The critics have consistently noted the level of asthma in New Haven, which has increased significantly in the past 12 years. According to data from the mayor’s office, the percentage of children in New Haven public schools with asthma has increased from 5.3 percent to 12.5 percent since 1990.
Rocque must now approve the reopening of the plant. In addition, the plant must meet separate approval under the federally-regulated Title V statute, which legally limits how much the plant can contribute to acid rain.
The DEP decision is expected to come at the end of this year or in early 2003.
Dan Lorimier, outreach and communications coordinator for the CFE, said the high soot content of the plant’s waste would be especially dangerous because it would operate on the most polluted days. But he also said that the total annual level of pollution would remain low because the plant would only be used on a few days.
DeGeeter said the plant is six times cleaner than legislation requires.
“It’s the cleanest station in Connecticut burning oil,” he said.
Looney remained critical.
“That may be true, but that’s not relevant,” he said.
Because the plant will operate for 19 days out of the year, Looney said all of the pollution will occur in a very short time frame.
“We are counting on the commissioner to use his very best judgment,” Lorimier said. “The fates of the residents of Fair Haven and the East Rock area rest in our hands.”