Energy

Brayton Point Power Station Demolition Underway

SOMERSET, Mass. — The Brayton Point power plant isn’t likely to burn coal ever again as demolition is underway to level the former fossil fuel facility, including its two 500-foot-high cement cooling towers.

On Sept. 25, the owner of the 307-acre peninsula on Mount Hope Bay received permits to raze the pollution emission stacks and the cooling towers, which are often confused for nuclear reactors.

According to the town’s building commissioner, Paul Boucher, the owner of the property, Commercial Development Company Inc. (CDC) of St. Louis, has a permit to level the site within three years. As of Sept. 28, oil storage tanks were being dismantled and asbestos abatement was underway.

CDC bought the site in January for $8.5 million. The company said demolition will be finished in 2019. No building plans have been submitted to the town for what could be proposed. But the company, which specializes in brownfield development, said it will announce plans at a later date “to transform the former power plant site into a commerce center campus for new and sustainable utilization.”

The 1,530-megawatt Brayton Point Power Station was New England’s largest coal-power facility and a regular on the Toxics Action Center’s “Dirty Dozen” list of polluters.

The plant opened in the mid-1960s and closed May 31, 2017. The owner at the time, Dynegy Inc., based in Houston, blamed the closure on low natural-gas prices.

The facility’s opponents and energy experts speculated that the cost of pollution-control upgrades and protests contributed to the plant’s shut down.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emissions from the Brayton Point Power Station were responsible annually for 32 deaths, 61 heart attacks, and 472 asthma attacks in surrounding counties.

The power plant was blamed for warming upper Narragansett Bay. Save The Bay sued the EPA to enforce pollution-control efforts. In a settlement, then-owner Dominion Energy agreed to build the cooling towers for $507 million. They were completed in 2012.

Save The Bay said the heated water, or thermal pollution, discharged from the power plant into Mount Hope Bay caused environmental damage. At its peak, a billion gallons of heated water was pumped daily into the Taunton River and bay, contributing to an 87 percent decease in fish such as winter flounder and other aquatic diversity.

“It’s great news,” said Topher Hamblett, director of advocacy for Save The Bay. “It’s comforting to know that this type of power station wont be polluting its dirty power in Narragansett Bay. This is progress.”

John Torgan, state director of The Nature Conservancy Rhode Island Chapter and former baykeeper for Save The Bay, said the goal was never to close the plant, but to bring it into compliance and protect Mount Hope Bay. “And I think we achieved that. It was the boom in shale gas that made the plant no longer economical, not environmental regulations. That said, it is fitting that the towers are coming down.”

Update: The two cooling towers at the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Mass., are scheduled for implosion April 27, 2019.

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  1. That those cooling towers cost more than half a billion dollars and that they are going to be demolished seems a waste to me. One would think they might be repurposed for something like aquaculture or converted to vertical farming. It makes one think that there’s more to this story, like lots of radon?

  2. Of course John Torgan is right The Nature Conservancy would never want as goal to close the plant, because, I add less bad is good enough. But it is not.

    According to William McDonough’s Cradle to "Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things" it is less bad is not good.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0012KS568/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
    McDonough a much better environmentalist than John Torgan has argued that less bad is still bad.

    While the cooling towers may have helped with the number of fish, we can now see if an articles that argued that Global Climate Change was the real culprit in the collapse of the Mt Hope Bay fish population and not Brayton Point heat emissions in the bay was junk science paid for by the Koch brothers network or not. John

    Torgan however is wrong there is no such thing as safe "compliant" coal power plant. Brayton Point emitted mercury to the very last day it made electricity. And the former "scientific" advisor for Save the Bay should have known that. At one point John even argued (if I understood him) that the Save the Bay was about making the bay clean not the air. As if it is not true that air pollution harms the water. After leaving the smokestack, mercury falls to the ground in rain or snow, contaminates waterways, and accumulates in fish. Eating contaminated fish is the main source of human exposure to mercury.

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