Thursday, September 24, 2009

PSE&G Renovates Coal Plant; Environmentalists Say Not Good Enough

PSE&G is spending $700 million to upgrade the environmental control systems on its Hudson power station, which is visible from the Secaucus Transfer and is the single largest pollution source in Northern New Jersey. After the filters and new equipment are installed, it will be one of the cleanest coal-powered generating facilities in the nation.

Some environmentalists would like to see the plant shut down. You see, it's a coal fired plant, and they want to eliminate the 2.7 million tons of CO2 that are emitted annually. There are numerous other pollutants that are emitted as well, and the reduction in emissions improves local air quality.
Even with the upgrades, critics call the 41-year-old plant a relic to a time when the effects of carbon on the environment were not known.

“This plant feels like a dinosaur on life support,” said Matt Elliot of the advocacy group Environment New Jersey.

The plant, which provides electricity for up to 750,000 homes, spewed 1.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air and water in 2007 — about 7 percent of all the toxic releases in New Jersey. By contrast, all businesses in Bergen, Passaic and Morris counties combined emitted 242,000 pounds.

The emissions range from ammonia, which can irritate the eyes and lungs, to more toxic substances such as mercury, which can cause birth defects.

“This is one of the dirtiest plants in the Northeast,” Elliot said. “It’s an old, disgusting plant, and it should be taken offline.”
The plant supplies power to 750,000 homes.

Where is the power to supply 750,000 homes going to come from? It isn't going to come from wind power any time soon. In fact, the largest of the wind power projects in New Jersey that are currently planned or underway would produce 350 mw of power when it finally comes online. That's sufficient to power 280,000 homes. (1mw can power 800 homes for a year).

Nuclear power would be able to power far more homes with far less space, but opposition remains firmly against it, even among many environmentalists despite the fact that nuclear power would result in no greenhouse gas emissions and would be far cleaner and more reliable than any other energy source.

It might have been a better use of the $700 million to build a nuclear power plant in its stead, but that would take far longer and local opposition would keep the plant from being sited where the demand for power is located.

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