August 20, 2012

Contact: Karl Wagener



       HARTFORD – The Chair of the state’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a statement today commending the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for taking steps to reduce air pollution from the Hartford power plant known as the South Meadow “jets.”

      The South Meadow plant, which consists of eight aging jet turbine engines that burn jet fuel to generate electricity on days of high electricity demand, has been operating for 42 years with no air pollution control or monitoring equipment. In 2010, the CEQ determined that when the plant operates it emits more particulate pollution on an hourly basis than any other power plant in the state. In December of 2011, DEEP published a notice of its intent to renew the plant’s Title V air quality permit with only minor changes. The CEQ took the unusual steps of submitting detailed comments on the permit and requesting a hearing. Consequently, changes were made to the application, and a greatly revised permit was issued on August 14.

      “With these changes,” said Council Chair Barbara C. Wagner, “the residents of Hartford and surrounding towns will be subject to less air pollution and will have more assurances that the plant is always operating in compliance. We commend CRRA and DEEP for changing the permit to accomplish these goals.”

The specific changes to which CRRA agreed include the following:

     --  The jets will burn only ultra-low sulfur fuel (i.e., fuel with no more than 15 parts per million of sulfur, in contrast to the previous maximum sulfur content of 500 ppm – a reduction of 97 percent).

     -- CRRA will have site personnel trained and certified to conduct testing for opacity, which is the density of visible emissions (i.e., smoke).

     -- CRRA will have certified personnel conduct opacity tests each time that a jet is operated.

     --  Additional “stack tests” for particulate pollution, which had been required only once every five years, will be conducted for each jet turbine whenever it exceeds 168 hours of operation.

     Wagner added that the plant still will be a substantial polluter on the days that is called upon to produce electricity for the grid. “Those days of high electricity demand tend to be the hottest days of the summer when air quality already is at its worst,” Wagner said.

     “We were very clear in our comments that we were not advocating the immediate shutdown of the plant,” Wagner said, “but the ultimate solution would be to phase out the plant or switch to a cleaner fuel such as natural gas. The plant is expensive to operate on jet fuel, so the economics do not seem to favor the plant’s future. But it is not clear that peak demand actually will go down unless state energy policies are effective in encouraging greater efficiency.

     “The regulatory picture for these jets is complex,” Wagner concluded, “but there is a relatively simple step that Connecticut residents can take to reduce the pollution from these highly-polluting power plants: always purchase efficient air conditioners, refrigerators and other appliances, so the plants don’t have to operate as often. When you turn on an inefficient air conditioner on a steamy day, you turn on the air pollution. It’s a direct line. However, if we all use air conditioners that don’t waste so much electricity, we can stay comfortable, save money and breathe better air.”