Somerset Power Generating Station

The Somerset Power Generating Station is located in Somerset, Massachusetts. It was a coal and oil-fired power stationed maintained by NRG Energy until the announcement of its permanent closure in early 2011. Adverse market conditions and complaints from residents and environmental advocates in the area suspended the power plant’s operations in January 2010, but the closure of the 85-year-old power station was formally recognized a year later. The government of Massachusetts pressured the plant to close down after it passed an air pollutions regulations act in 2001. The act required that the Somerset Station and six other coal-fired plants in the area switch to fuel with cleaner emissions, or shut themselves down by 2010. The Somerset Power Generating Station is the product of a different age of American energy, and was one of the final four coal-fired plants in the state of Massachusetts. In 2009, only one of the coal boilers in the plant was still in service. That November saw the announcement that the Somerset Power Generating station would close indefinitely on January 2, 2010. The spokesperson for NRG affirmed that the plant would either shut down or undergo a retrofit by September of 2010. The Somerset plant had a long list of opponents, such as the Massachusetts Clean Air Coalition, the Toxics Action Center, and the Conservation Law Foundation. Opponents of the plant affirmed that shutting down the Somerset plant was a far better option that retrofitting the power station for coal gasification. They argued that the coal plant’s indefinite closure showed that it was not an essential part of the state power grid. A series of wide scale protests and rallies against coal power plants in the state further pressed the plant to make a decisive decision to close its doors. Protests in a nearby park on March 1, 2009, comprised of 75 activists from different organizations from across the state, added to the pressure against the plant. In February 2011, the NRG Energy Company made a formal announcement regarding the fate of the Somerset plant. After withdrawing their application from the Department of Environment Protection for approval to re-open the plant, NRG announced that the plant would be shut down permanently. The energy company is currently making a decision on what to do with the coal plant and the land. The Conservation Law Foundation continues to monitor the NRG property to make sure that no toxins or emissions are released while the plant remains closed. In addition to toxins that the plant produced or emitted during its manufacture of electricity, older plants like Somerset also posed a risk of asbestos exposure to those employed inside. Although this particular facility might have created high emission levels during its operation, the dangers of asbestos exposure remain a threat. The material’s fibers can embed in the cells of former employees for decades, only leading to disease years later. One such disease is mesothelioma, which can have a latency period for as many as 50 years. As a result of the cancer’s poor prognosis, former employees of such facilities are encouraged to regularly undergo scanning for symptoms of these conditions. References:
  • Kuffner, Alex. (February 26, 2011) “Somerset power plant decides to shut down in face of opposition, market conditions.” Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from the Providence Journal Co