The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

06 March 2005

Out Go The Lights... And Common Sense

Out Go The Lights... And Common Sense
By Brian Maloney

Something's just plain baffling about Massachusetts environmental activists these days: is there any method of electrical generation they won't fight to death?

Don't they need electricity like the rest of us? What power source will cook future organic lentils and tofu dinners? Hamster teams spinning wheels in cages? Wait, that would be animal exploitation.

After all, New England faces critical power generation issues in coming years, according to LivePowerNews, an industry trade site. There are already reliability problems due to the age of current facilities and intense political opposition to developing cost-effective new production, they report.

It certainly doesn't take much to knock out power to the region as it stands today. It will only get worse in coming years and with government blocking plant development at every turn it's certainly not cheap. Why would a company bother to try in this environment?

Two situations unfolding in the southeastern part of the state underscore the difficulty in making sense of these activists. Is it really about the environment, NIMBY-ism, or a bit of both? How do they expect electricity to be produced?

One one hand, environmental and community activists want the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., shut down as soon at its license expires in 2012. Never mind that the 33-year-old plant generates a critical, difficult-to-replace, 670 megawatts of power without belching pollution into local skies.

And you can apparently disregard the fact that the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission just gave Pilgrim, run by Entergy Corp., excellent safety marks, it's time to stir up "China Syndrome"-era emotions about nuclear power.

Never mind that France, of all places, largely relies on this type of energy nationwide. Aren't we supposed to emulate Western Europe whenever possible?

Nuclear power opposition has been a mainstay of the left for decades, so it's not terribly surprising that activists are fighting the 2012 renewal of the Pilgrim license. While Plymouth itself seems to have accepted the plant, even allowing a town commission to go nearly dormant (it does provide a lot of excellent local jobs), other nearby areas are gearing up for war.

In adjacent Duxbury, a town committee brought in scientists for an emotional meeting designed to stir up opposition to allowing the plant to remain operational. Its chairwoman made vague claims about existing power alternatives, but nothing specific, according to reports.

Chairwoman Mary Lampert told attendees, according to the Patriot-Ledger newspaper, ‘‘Whether it operates another 20 years or not, the lights will stay on.''

All that was missing was Jane Fonda racing to the meeting to expose the plant's operators as dishonest crooks.

Even worse, Entergy representatives were outright blocked from participation in the panel discussion! Duxbury's excuse was that they had a vested interest in keeping the plant open, therefore their viewpoints weren't suitable. The best Entergy could do was sit in the audience and take notes during this one-sided advocacy attempt.

Opponents are also stirring up fears of terrorism as another reason to place Pilgrim in mothballs, but millions have been spent to defend the plant since 9-11. High-profile armed guards are now stationed all around the facility.

The best environmental argument they've been able to cook up is that the plant releases millions of gallons of ocean water used to cool the reactor back into the bay at a higher temperature. Is there evidence that the ecosystem has been harmed over the last 33 years? They don't offer it.

The icing on the cake, from the Patriot-Ledger story, is a suggestion by a Boston University professor that radioactive iodine can lead to higher cancer rates. But not one shred of data was provided to assert that anyone in the area has actually been stricken with cancer, or even exposed to iodine, since 1972, as a result of the plant's operation.

Opponents have done nothing to prove that Pilgrim does anything other than produce an essential 670 megawatts of clean power. Think that will stop them?

Not on your life.

So if nuclear plants are unsafe, wouldn't equally safe, non-polluting alternatives such as wind power, be embraced by Massachusetts residents?

Guess again.

On nearby Cape Cod, an even bigger battle is raging over a proposal for the waters of Nantucket Sound. A company called Cape Wind has proposed the nation's first attempt at large-scale wind power generation, where a number of turbines would be placed well out to sea.

Wouldn't you expect supposedly environmental-minded area residents such as the Kennedy family to support this wind farm? After all, the pollution factor here is exactly zero. It doesn't get any better than this, does it?

Not a chance. Senator Ted Kennedy leads the way in opposing it, telling the Cape Cod Times that the project would desecrate a national treasure. Republican governor Mitt Romney, fearing the wrath of Cape Cod voters, joined the obstructionist bandwagon.

So far, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has done all it can to block the project, but backers are hoping to sidestep Boston regulators by placing the turbines in federal waters.

This may mean that no state laws will conflict, but Massachusetts has to sign off on any final approval of the proposal. They could stop it if, for instance, they can show that cables passing through state waters pose an environmental hazard.

An astounding 17 governmental agencies are involved in reviewing this project, all but ensuring that if Cape Wind is ever built, it will be years down the road. How does the environment benefit from Ted Kennedy stalling or killing a wind power project?

Apparently preserving the environment goes out the window if it interferes with views from the Kennedy compound.

So what type of power production do they support? Traditional, polluting, plants that use coal? Or do they think a tiny magic energy cube will soon be invented to take care of the world's electrical needs?

These activists and the politicians who shamelessly pander to them offer no solutions, only anger, emotions, lawyers and governmental red-tape. Will it take California-style blackouts to shift the political winds in New England?

Back to RadioEqualizer Main Page


  • Hmm... no comments yet? Yours are welcome!

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 07 March, 2005 18:25  

  • Before you write artcles about the Pilgrim Nuclear Waste Dump you should do a bit of research. Some of us don't like having 8 or 9oo tons of high level waste in our back yard. Where will this stuff go? Who else would take it? We don't even get paid for the risk. Pilgrim is old and should be replaced with a gas plant The bottom line is the waste issue and now the terrorist threat.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 27 May, 2005 07:07  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Page Rank Checker

Powered by Blogger