ELIOT, Maine — Citizens for Clean Air, a grass-roots organization, claims the Schiller Station coal-fired power plant in Portsmouth, N.H., is contaminating the air with harmful amounts of sulfur dioxide emissions.
The organization is campaigning to persuade residents to vote on Tuesday, June 11, at Town Meeting in favor of a petition asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the power plant.
The wording of the petition is as follows: “Shall the Town direct the Board of Selectmen, on behalf of the Town of Eliot, to petition the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) under authority of the Federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 126, the so called ‘Good Neighbor’ provisions, to investigate and make findings concerning possible adverse impacts on the Town of Eliot’s air quality and public health caused by sulfur dioxide or other airborne contaminants emitted from the coal fired electrical generation facility known as the Schiller Station located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire?” The petition requires residents to vote yes or no.
“Air pollution does not respect town lines or city borders,” said Kimberly Richards Thursday. Richards lives in south Eliot resident and is an activist for cleaner air.
Citizens for Clean Air benefits from the existence of the Good Neighbor Petition supplied by the EPA. If a community votes in favor of the petition, the EPA will investigate.
The Sierra Club has been working with the local petitioning citizens about these concerns and supports them, according its Maine Sierra Club Director Glen Brand.
“We have paid for a study that has proved Schiller is a health threat in the Seacoast region, specifically in hot spot regions such as Eliot, Kittery, and South Berwick,” Brand said Thursday.
According to the Sierra Club, sulfur dioxide can damage the respiratory, increases asthma attacks and can lead to premature death. Additionally, they claim in York County that more than 10 percent of the population suffers from asthma including 3,500 children.
The Sierra Club says filing the petition does not commit the town of Eliot to any actions or fees, but does require the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the problem.
The EPA has 60 days to respond to the petition and if its experts find the Schiller plant is causing violations of safe air standards, they will take action to force the plant’s owner, Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) to bring the plan up to standards without costing the town.
However, PSNH is assuring the plant is up to code and the Sierra Club is misleading town residents.
Martin Murray of PSNH says the power plant is in complete compliance with all state and federal clean air standards and the study conducted by The Sierra Club is flawed.
“They are making presumptions against us and are coming up with erroneous conclusions,” Murray said last week.
Murray also said, Schiller Station has recently cut one-third of sulfur emissions since replacing a coal burner with one that only burns clean wood products.
“We cannot operate if we violate air standards. We make regular reports on what our air emissions are, and there has never been a violation,” he said.
Murray said the investigation is unnecessary and the town will be at financial risk if the vote goes through.
“We want to be a good neighbor and I feel we have been. We’re simply defending our company and our customers,” Murray said.
There are tentative public hearings scheduled for this summer on new EPA standards for air quality, and Murray encourages the public to participate.
The Board of Selectmen has endorsed the petition based on the Sierra Club study conducted in 2011, and are giving residents a chance to vote on the EPA investigation.
Voting will be at Marshwood Middle School from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11.
Distributed by MCT Information Services