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Left In Lowell » Billerica Power Plant

Left In Lowell

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April 24, 2012

Dam Partisan Politics!

by at 12:40 pm.

My man, Campi. The editorial ponders:

Is the Obama administration pushing for a crestgate system at the Pawtucket Dam to increase hydropower on the Merrimack River?

The illuminaries at the Blog of Record have stumbled upon a report. Maybe Bob LaRochelle FEDEX’d it over? Who knows? Anywho. This report, MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING FOR HYDROPOWER, is relevant to the matter regarding Enel’s proposed desecration of our City’s history. Unfortunately, the Blogger in Chief, over there, missed the boat.

The editorial opted to lift a line or two directly from an online press release about the 41 page document. The editorial cherry picked from here:

“Through collaboration and partnerships among federal agencies, the hydropower industry, the research community, and numerous stakeholders, we are succeeding in advancing the development of hydropower as a clean, reliable, cost-effective and sustainable energy source,” Castle told NHA conferees. “From assessing opportunities for new generation on existing Federal facilities to developing tools to get more energy from the same amount of water, we are working on many fronts to increase the potential of the largest source of renewable energy in the country.”

Now, whether the brain trust behind this editorial was too busy, or just had enough to sling some partisan arrows with, they negated to include some pertinent lines from the MOU:

Page 4

7. Promote an environmentally responsible approach to enhancing hydropower development that recognizes the need to preserve biological diversity, ecosystem function, our natural and cultural heritage, and recreational opportunities, and also recognizes that some geographic locations are not appropriate for new hydropower development.

*Wiki-Note: Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts (cultural property) and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. Cultural heritage includes tangible culture (such as buildings, monuments, landscapes, books, works of art, and artifacts), intangible culture (such as folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge), and natural heritage (including culturally-significant landscapes, and biodiversity).

10.Investigate ways to responsibly facilitate the permitting process for federal and non-federal hydropower generation and other renewable energy projects at federally owned and Indian tribe facilities by increasing coordination among the agencies that have jurisdiction and reducing unnecessary delay, while ensuring that environmental impacts are fully considered.

(emphasis mine)

I’d venture to say, the NPS and DOI are prepared to play the “cultural heritage” card. There is a crumb trail a mile long. Also, my understanding is that FERC has let Enel slide on the whole “environmental impacts” thingy. So, this MOU is hardly the coup-de-grace the BOR (pronounced bore) wishes it was.

Lastly, the audible dog whistle, “the reason you are going to get shafted by the bladder dam is because of the Democrats and their damn ‘green energy’ policies!” subtext to the BOR’s editorial? That is rather scumbaggy. Just sayin.’

On second thought, maybe this MOU isn’t ALL THAT relevant?


April 20, 2012

The Olive Branch Before The Storm

by at 11:29 am.

Jen Myers has an exceptionally tidy write up on Dept. of Interior’s invitation to some of the interested parties to kibbutz, Re: Enel’s proposed bladder dam.

“The applicant’s new proposal attempts to respond to many of the expressed concerns of the NPS and indicates there may be more flexibility n the design than NPS had previously believed,” Tittler wrote. “We feel strongly, as we have stated in the past, that a meeting in person, among as many consulting parties as possible, is the only way in which to move toward any resolution.”

The goals of the meeting, Tittler states are: “To gain a full and shared understanding of the effects of the applicant’s new proposal on the Pawtucket Dam; to discuss methods to further reduce the impact of crest gate installation; to see whether some version of a crest gate system is acceptable to all parties can be arrived at.”

The Blog of Record is also kind enough to host the PDF version of the DOI letter on their server.

To me, this looks like “seconds” are being dispatched to define the terms prior to the duelists meeting on the “field of honour.” Without question, one rule is mutually agreed upon, the coming events will not be “a la outrance.”

April 18, 2012

Wanna Screw With Enel & Their Bladder Dam?

by at 12:43 pm.

Do what these folks did:


I’ve heard a few “important” Lowellians opine that the desecration of the Pawtucket Falls Dam is a done deal. Really? Well, for sure, if Lowellians roll over.

February 3, 2010

South Lowell Can Breathe Easier

by at 2:33 pm.

Investors have pulled out of the Billerica power plant development.

This development is significant, said Fitzpatrick, because it could remove the Billerica Energy Center from ISO New England’s waiting list to provide electricity to the region. ISO New England is the organization that operates the regional power grid.

“We’ve communicated (to ISO-New England) we are no longer actively developing the project,” said Fitzpatrick.

Mentioned also is that the plan could always be revived in a few years but losing its place on the ISO list is a pretty final thing for the current plan.

March 24, 2009

Decreased Need for Power Puts Billerica Plant on Hold

by at 10:02 am.

In a rather sudden turn of events, we hear that the plans for a Billerica power plant are on hold due to decreased demands for power in the New England area. From Billericapowerplant.com, an opposition group:

In an interesting turn of events last week relating to the Billerica power plant proposal, the plant developer ran an ad in the Lowell Sun proclaiming victory with the EFSB decision to site the plant.  And on the next day, also in the Sun, Joe Fitzpatrick, CEO of DG Clean Power, admitted that the plant would likely be delayed for some time due to decreasing demand for power overall and specifically for plants like this one.  Click here [PDF] to see the ad that ran in the SunClick here to read the article in the Sun.  A second article in the Tewksbury Town Crier quotes ISO-NE’s spokesperson stating that there was far  more capacity than demand in the recent ISO-NE auction.  There is also commentary from the other partner in DG Clean Power, Ed Liston.  Click here to read the Crier article.

Now, obviously the economic downturn has a lot to do with the decreased demand, but so do efforts to conserve, and as the national and state initiatives ramp up to push conservation (and there is a lot of low-hanging fruit) and increase the use of renewables like wind and solar, demand will only decrease further. It was always bunk that “we’ll continue to need more power” in the short run - the line that the plant’s proponents liked to push. “It’ll take time for renewables to reduce the demand for carbon-based power” said they. Well, they are wrong, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that we can easily, if we put our minds to accomplishing it, start reducing demand for CO2-based energy, deliberately and systematically. And will be, because the alternative is to let the planet warm even more than it has and will.

December 2, 2008

We Don’t Need The Power Now - And Shouldn’t Later, Either!

by at 10:33 am.

The biggest argument from the proponents looking to build CO2-polluting power plants in MA, like ones proposed in Billerica and Brockton, is that we’re constantly in need of more power, and need to ramp up our infrastructure to meet tomorrow’s needs. And anyway, natural-gas-fired plants are sooo much better than coal, so really, we need these in the interim…let us build these plants so we can make money hand over fist, your air quality won’t get that bad, and you need us. Sure we’ll be transitioning to renewables and conservation someday, but in the meantime…

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

The gas- and diesel-burning plant would produce 350 megawatts of electricity and is slated to open by 2012.

But new sources of power won’t be needed until 2014 at the earliest, according to a recent report from electricity overseer ISO New England.

And it may be even longer before the Brockton plant is needed if other plants come into service first, electricity projections show.

Yet that won’t mean state energy regulators will reject it. Under state law, such forecasts aren’t considered by the Energy Facilities Siting Board, the permit-granting board.

That’s a disappointment to project opponents.

(And remember, the more natural gas plants go up, the quicker our residential gas bills, yours and mine, go skyrocketing too.)

The thing is, by 2014, we should have long been seeing the effects of better policies at the local, state, and federal levels - both in conservation (reducing our need for power overall) and in ramping up the use of renewables, spurred on by such programs as Commonwealth Solar, or local contests (to start with). Thereby, I predict (and am quite sure of myself) that even 2014 will not see an increased need for power. If we’re seeing an increased need for power in five years, we have much bigger problems than having the cost of electricity go up due to scarcity (and honestly, having scarcity might be the only thing at that point that will force us to conserve like we should be).

Like the oil market these days, where a downturn has reduced demand so sharply we’ve seen the price slip to 1/3 its peak cost, below $50 a barrel (a price I never thought I would see in my lifetime again!), power and electricity demand should be going down, and also be supplemented by decentralized power, where every rooftop which is prime real estate for solar will have it, and every windy backyard will have a windmill, and home owners will begin to look beneath their foundations for geothermal.

Decentralized power, as discussed by such people as Jeremy Rifkin in “The Hydrogen Economy,” is a huge threat to the profits of Big Power types that like to pressure us with warnings of electrical scarcity, so they can keep building giant, polluting plants in our backyards. This time, we don’t have to listen to them. We’re on our way to true energy independence - including from our own industrial power giants. The plants in Brockton, or Billerica, or the myriad other sites being considered in MA, are not needed.

Let them go the way of the dinosaurs. Evolve, or get out of the way.

November 20, 2008

Will Mass Become the Greenest State?

by at 12:00 pm.

The Patrick administration is announcing a couple more initiatives to get the state onto more efficient, renewable energy. From their press release:

Governor Deval Patrick has set two new goals for energy efficiency and renewable energy: making all new malls and “big box” retail stores energy efficient and powered in part by solar energy by 2010 and offering a super-efficient building code as a local option for municipalities looking to take the lead in combating global climate change.

With the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference under way at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Governor Patrick directed Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to initiate a dialogue with the development community to put together the technical assistance, financing support, and regulatory standards to facilitate the universal adoption of solar power and super-efficient buildings for large retail stores and malls, typically greater than 50,000 square feet in size.
Secretary Bowles noted that there are already substantial financial incentives in place for solar power, but that only a few large retailers have taken advantage of them. These incentives include Commonwealth Solar, the state’s rebate program, which provides as much as 40 percent of the cost of a solar energy installation, and federal investment tax credits for solar installations, which were recently extended for another eight years.

“We want to work with the development community to make them aware of the opportunity they have before them in energy efficiency and solar energy, and work with them to find out what they need to take advantage of that opportunity,” said Secretary Bowles. “Malls and big box stores have big flat roofs that are naturals for solar power, and Governor Patrick wants to see them put to use generating clean, renewable energy.”
In addition, Governor Patrick has asked staff at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Public Safety to develop a super-efficient energy code for consideration by the Board of Building Regulations and Standards as a local option for municipalities that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from development in their communities.

Under the Green Communities Act, the comprehensive energy reform bill signed by the Governor in July, Massachusetts is required to incorporate the latest version of the International Energy Conservation Code in its building code within one year of its adoption. The IECC approved its 2009 standards in September, and the BBRS is expected to update the Massachusetts energy code to include these standards sometime next year.

The new law also allows the BBRS to adopt standards event more stringent than the IECC, and Governor Patrick proposes the Board do so by creating a second, super-efficient code that local officials could adopt as a local option.

“The state is already adopting the highest standards of energy efficiency for its building code, but some municipalities would like to go further,” said Governor Patrick. “An alternative code that is 20 to 30 percent more efficient they can adopt as an option will give cities and towns the tool they are looking for to reduce their community’s carbon footprint as development moves forward.”

This “stretch” code, which will be presented to the BBRS for adoption in the coming months, will be based on established national voluntary above-code efficiency standards that have shown themselves to be cost-effective in producing energy savings, such as the Energy Star For Homes program and the New Buildings Institute’s “Core Performance” program for commercial properties. As an optional addendum to the state building code, the stretch code would be voted on by the BBRS following a public hearing. Once approved by the BBRS, any municipality choosing to adopt the stretch code would have to do so by a vote of town meeting or city council.

So, if there’s more solar going up on all new big retail and mall buildings, adding energy to the power grid, and many cities and towns adopt the more stringent building codes, there’s no need to build more polluting power plants. If we can reduce our usage in this state (and there are a lot of low-hanging fruits to achieve this quite quickly), then this state should have to host NO NEW traditional power plants ever again. Maybe even start thinking of closing some older, seriously carbon-polluting dinosaurs. Right?

This myth that “well, the future isn’t here yet so we still need to build CO2-producing power plants in the interim in order to sustain the current system” is bull. Don’t listen to it. You’d be surprised how rapid the tipping point towards lessening our dependence on fossil fuels will come with the right initiatives in place. I mean, do you like paying more every year for natural gas to heat your home? I sure as hell don’t. The fault for that lies at higher demand for supplies…because more natural gas power plants like the one proposed in Billerica are being built. I say it’s high time to stop the insanity.

November 17, 2008

Environmental Subcommittee Meeting on Power Plant- Finally!

by at 11:51 am.

This Wednesday evening, at 6:00 PM at Lowell City Hall, the Environmental Subcommittee will discuss the proposed Billerica power plant and the consequent impacts to Lowell. Subcommittee members as well as attendees will ask questions and make comments. The developer will be present. It is also expected that City Manager, Bernie Lynch, will attend. The Environmental Subcommittee includes City Councilor, Rodney Elliott, as Chair, Councilor Kevin Broderick, and Councilor William F. Martin. They have been trying since May to have this meeting.

Although the Lowell Sun has reported that the Energy Facilities Siting Board has rendered a tentative decision to permit the plant, the EFSB must still deliberate a final decision. More importantly, the proposal has yet to pass the scrutiny of several boards in Billerica. The process is far from over and the voice of neighboring residents continues to be very important. The neighborhoods near the proposed site would suffer increased noise and traffic, and reduced air quality. Lowell’s school buses travel the same roads tankers would use, and a newly renovated playground is on the same route.

A large show of support will send a strong signal to Lowell officials about the importance of this issue to its residents. Senator Panagiotakos and Representatives Golden, Nangle, and Murphy have been invited to attend.

August 4, 2008

A Chance to Comment on L’Energia

by at 10:21 am.

You’ve read here before about the L’Energia plant, which is on Tanner Street in Lowell. This is an 85 MW power plant that’s due to be put on line this summer, but the developer, DG Clean Power, has another hurdle to cross. A public comment period is now open for thirty (30) days for concerns about L’Energia hooking up to the Lowell municipal sewer system such that it can discharge wastewater to the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility.

Comments of concern from the public about L’Energia’s discharge of water to the LRWU as well as any requests for a public hearing to discuss this matter should be submitted to:

Northeast Regional Office
205B Lowell Street, Wilmington, MA 01887
(978) 694-3200 or via email from: http://www.mass.gov/dep/public/comment_nero.htm

To view the entire permit, including diagrams of the Industrial Waste Water Pre-treatment system and list of toxic pollutants, click here. Concerns relating to the LRWU’s ability to detect biocides, anti-corrosives, metals, cyanide, phenols, etc. should be expressed, especially given recent concerns statewide over the ability of water treatment facilities to detect trace amounts of compounds in drinking water supplies. Note that the LRWU discharges into the Merrimack River, and downstream communities such as Methuen and Lawrence draw their drinking water from the river. Residents from all communities are entitled to make their concerns known through this comment process.

July 28, 2008

Two More Reasons to Stop Building Polluting Power Plants

by at 11:58 am.

The Patrick administration admits they should not be needed if their energy plan works (hear Secretary Ian Bowles at Lowell’s public meeting last week talking about the Billerica power plant), many local officials are opposed, and specifically, the peak power plant being proposed in Billerica is just that - a peak power plant, less efficient and more polluting than other peak usage solutions, such as grid energy storage. The only people who really want the plant built are those slated to make millions on it selling us power that, it turns out, we really don’t need.

Not if we go California’s route, that is. Sensible regulation has stabilized California’s usage of energy, despite its population and economic growth. According to the article at Salon,

In the past three decades, electricity consumption per capita grew 60 percent in the rest of the nation, while it stayed flat in high-tech, fast-growing California. If all Americans had the same per capita electricity demand as Californians currently do, we would cut electricity consumption 40 percent. If the entire nation had California’s much cleaner electric grid, we would cut total U.S. global-warming pollution by more than a quarter without raising American electric bills. And if all of America adopted the same energy-efficiency policies that California is now putting in place, the country would never have to build another polluting power plant.

Saving energy is also saving money, and given our growing energy costs (like your gas bill, which has increased largely due to demand from new power plants like the one being proposed in Billerica) we could all use the break for our household budgets.

Simple things, like painting the flat roofs of warehouses white, or requiring outdoor lighting to lose less than 6% of the light to an upwards direction (requiring lower wattage to light the same square footage) can go a long way, but businesses don’t do these things out of the goodness of their hearts.

Read the rest of the article, it’s really excellent. Yet again it shows that reducing climate-changing pollution and our dependence on foreign sources of carbon-based fuel does not have to cost us - in fact, it will benefit consumers, businesses, and most of all, our economy.

Second place in today’s news in why-the-Billerica-power-plant-is-a-bad-idea, who wants to wake up to a sound like your kettle on the stove whistling, except as loud as a power plant can make it?

“It sounded like a very loud whistle, for a short duration of time, until proper operations could be restored,” Nydam said. “The valves helped save the plant, but they did create a lot of noise, which some folks in the area reported to the mayor’s office.”

Nydam said National Grid spent 15 hours repairing the power lines that were damaged, and that during that time his plant’s entire phone system was out of order.

Oh and did we mention that the Billerica power plant is slated to be a “remote operations” plant? You know, via phone and internet, and stuff. Run from Lowell. Real secure.

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