Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How new EPA regulations will affect Mount Tom

After reading a claim in the Republican newspaper that Mount Tom can already meet all current and future regulations I submitted this letter to the editor:

A recent letter about Mount Tom power station (Tuesday, March 1) makes some valid points that nobody would dispute. For example, the plant provides good jobs and significant tax revenue for Holyoke. And repowering the plant to natural gas may not be practical, not least because it sits on a flood plain.

But the assertion that there are no future regulations the plant cannot meet is way off the mark.

The Environmental Protection Agency is issuing new regulations that amend something called the Air Transport Rule. Under the new rule, in 2014 Mount Tom will be allowed to emit no more than 245 tons of sulfur dioxide, a chemical that damages people's lungs and exacerbates respiratory illnesses. Last year -- even with the Turbosorp system in operation and the plant running at 60% capacity -- Mount Tom emitted 2,129 tons of sulfur dioxide. So three years from now the plant will have to reduce its sulfur dioxide emissions by 1,884 tons. Similarly, the plant will have to bring its nitrogen-oxide emissions down from 287 tons to 185 tons, a drop of more than 100 tons a year. Right now, Mount Tom is simply not equipped to do that.

We all want to safeguard existing jobs and generate new ones, and we all want to boost Holyoke's tax base. So we (the community, plant employees, plant-owner GDF Suez, and elected officials) need to plan a post-coal future for Mount Tom, one that creates clean energy and green jobs. And the time to start planning is now, before the new regulations come into effect.

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