Environmental groups release “dirty dozen” list of New England’s “worst polluters”

A nuclear power plant, a landfill and a pipeline in Vermont are among New England’s 12 worst polluters, according to an annual report from the nonprofit Toxics Action Center. Moretown Landfill, owned by Advanced Disposal Services Inc., and Entergy-owned Vermont Yankee are household names in the state. The tar sands oil pipeline doesn’t actually exist yet, but the Toxics Action Center decided its pollutant potential is enough to earn a spot on the list.

A committee of environmental and public health professionals hand picks the “Dirty Dozen” companies each year. The 13-member committee includes Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG, and Doug Ruley, director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at the Vermont Law School.

Kalyn Rosenberg, community organizer for Toxics Action Center, said the common thread among “offenders” is that they have failed to develop sustainable business models. The other nine offenders are the Brayton Point Coal Power Station in Somerset, Mass.; Casella Waste Management in Maine; Central Landfill in Johnston, R.I.; Connecticut Environmental Council; Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority; General Electric in Pittsfield, Mass.; Harbor Superfund Site and Parker Street Waste Site in New Bedford, Mass.; the Department of Public Service of New Hampshire, and Raymark Superfund Site in Stratford, Conn.

The selection process, which begins with nominations from the public, doesn’t limit itself strictly to objective or quantifiable criteria. The committee looks at “emerging threats” as well as longtime offenders. It also pays particular attention to repeat offenders that have yet to reform their practices.

“This isn’t the first time that Vermont Yankee has been awarded this dubious distinction, and I’m certain it won’t be the last,” said Chris Williams of the Citizens Awareness Network, citing the discharge of heated water into the Connecticut River, insufficient spent fuel storage, and tritrium leaks as Yankee’s most egregious violations. Vermont Yankee was named a member of the “Dirty Dozen” in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

A handful of Moretown residents, who are part of a group called Moretown CLEAR, attended the event, thanking the Toxics Action Center for calling attention to what one resident, Martha Douglas, referred to as a “squalid Mount Trashmore.”

Jim Murphy, the Wetlands and Water Resources counsel to the National Wildlife Federation, said a 2008 proposal by Exxon Mobil to transport tar sands oil from central Canada to New England would pass through Vermont, making Lake Memphremagog, the Missisquoi River and Victory State Forest, and the Connecticut River potential spill sites. The proposal was shelved but Murphy said there is evidence that the project is being revisited.

Though the announcement was held on the steps of the Vermont Statehouse, Kalyn Rosenberg says in most cases, it’s the Obama administration that needs to crack down on offenders by taking steps such as re-instituting the “polluter pays” policy to the Superfund.

A copy of the report can be found here.

Alicia Freese

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  • There are other types of pollution that the report ignores:

    Creeping sprawl.

    The construction of wind turbines wrecking the environmental foot print of a mountain ridge, not to mention the visual intrusion and noise its human neighbors must endure.

    Tasteless or ill conceived architecture built next to downtown classic structures.

  • Jim Barrett

    You’ll notie that Vermont Yankee is not on the list as Shumlin and his gang would have you think it is a terrible company!

    • krister adams

      Jim: Yes, indeed it is. Read again.

  • Howard Shaffer

    “Selection not limited to strictly quantifiable or objective criteria.” What does this mean? Doesn’t it mean “We picked some we don’t like, are scared of, or don’t feel good about?

    This is a political document. I says nuclear power’s subsidies should be shifted to wind and solar. Wind and solar get huge subsidies in the form of tax credits. Is the opposition to wind turbines on ridges due to lack of subsidies, or real concerns about environmental and health effect?

    • Howard,
      Here are some facts.

      Here is a URL with a table, prepared by the DOE/EIA, that compares UNSUBSIDIZED sources of energy.

      On a per MWh basis, wind and solar receive the highest subsidies. See Table 1

      Wind and solar energy is of a lower quality, because it is variable and intermittent. Such energy is not equivalent to coal, gas, hydro and nuclear energy, as it has zero “On Demand/Dispatch” value to a grid operator.

      Here are some values for offshore energy from this article

      Cape Wind:
      Cape Wind Associates, LLC, plans to build and operate a wind facility on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Massachusetts. The wind facility would have a rated capacity of 468 MW consisting of 130 Siemens AG turbines each 3.6 MW, maximum blade height 440 feet, to be arranged in a grid pattern in 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound in federal waters off Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island; the lease is for 46 square miles which includes a buffer zone. 
      The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved a 15-yr power purchase agreement, PPA, between the utility National Grid and Cape Wind Associates, LLC. National Grid agreed to buy 50% of the wind facility’s power starting at $0.187/kWh in 2013 (base year), escalating at 3.5%/yr which means the 2028 price to the utility will be $0.313/kWh. The project is currently trying to sell the other 50% of its power so financing can proceed; so far no takers.
      A household using 618 kWh/month will see an average wind power surcharge of about $1.50 on its monthly electric bill over the 15 year life of the contract; if the other 50% of power is sold on the same basis, it may add another $1.50 to that monthly bill.
      Power production is estimated at 468 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.39 = 1.6 GWh/yr. 
      The capital cost is estimated at $2.0 billion, or $4,274/kW. Federal subsidies would be 30% as a grant.

      Block Island Offshore Wind Project:
      The 28.4 MW Block Island Offshore Wind Project has a 20-yr PPA starting at $0.235/kWh in 2007 (base year), escalating at 3.5%/yr which means the 2027 price to the utility will be $0.468/kWh. A State of Rhode Island suit is pending to overturn the contract; the aim is to negotiate to obtain a lower price.
      Power production is estimated at 28.4 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.39 = 0.097 GWh/yr.
      Capital cost is estimated at $121 million, or $4,274/kW. Federal subsidies would be 30% as a grant. 

      Delaware Offshore Wind Project:
      The 200 MW Delaware Offshore Wind Project has a 25-year PPA starting at $0.0999/kWh in 2007 (base year), escalating at 2.5%/yr which means the 2032 price to the utility will be $0.185/kWh.
      Power production is estimated at 200 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.39 = 0.68 GWh/yr.
      Capital cost is estimated at $855 million, or $4,274/kW. Federal subsidies would be 30% as a grant. 

  • Bob Stannard

    Mr. Barrett, I believe VY IS on the list…again

  • John McClaughry

    Whatever one may believe about nuclear power, it’s almost impossible to categorize it as “dirty”, unless you consider the daily sewage production of 600 employees…..

  • Don Peterson

    John: How can a mountain filled with a toxic waste that will kill anything that comes near it for the next 25,000 years not be considered dirty? You disappoint me– that was a very ill considered remark.

  • Howard Shaffer

    Mr. Peterson,

    Where did this information originate? Of course the hazard of radioactive material has been known and appreciated by users for a very long time. All plans and efforts have been directed to NOT creating just what you describe.

    Yucca mountain is to be sealed off when full and marked.

    I’m sure you believe this story. Could you provide a reference?

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