PORTLAND AND BANGOR – Against a 25-foot-high inflatable power plant backdrop, Maine citizens held news conferences in Portland and Bangor to announce that they have collected and submitted 1,043 signatures, from residents of 230 Maine towns, to the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) in support of the board’s preliminary vote to require Florida Power and Light Energy (FPL Energy) to clean up Wyman Power Plant in Yarmouth.
Today is the deadline for public comments on a rule before the BEP that would require the plant to clean up its nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution on-site to standards in effect for all power plants built since 1977.
Air pollution from Wyman, Maine’s largest single source of air pollution, harms air quality in the greater Portland area and down the coast of Maine all the way to Acadia National Park and beyond. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the last four years, nitrogen oxide air pollution from Wyman Station has increased 257%.
According to a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health, people living within 30 miles of large, dirty power plants like Wyman are at risk. In Maine, that’s over 400,000 people. The health of children, senior citizens and people with respiratory problems is most at risk from this air pollution.
The EPA says that cleaning up Wyman Station is “highly cost-effective” and would reduce pollution by 81%. FPL Energy is owned by FPL Group, one of the nation’s largest power companies. They have spent $1 billion to clean up two power plants in their homestate of Florida, but refused to spend 5% of that amount to clean Maine’s air.
A loophole has allowed Wyman and other older, dirty power plants to avoid the clean up required of all plants built in the last 23 years. In a preliminary vote June 1, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection voted 5-4 to support a rule which would require this outdated plant to reduce its NOx pollution to meet the same standards required of all power plants built since 1977. However, this issue will be considered again and FPL Energy is pulling out all the stops to convince the BEP to change its vote.
“We have a simple message to the owners of Wyman Station: Clean up this dirty power plant now; stop polluting our air,” said Brownie Carson, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
“The soot from Wyman covers our home and yard,” said Carol Bass of Cousin’s Island in Yarmouth, home of the plant. “I am outraged when I think about what this soot is doing to my daughter who has asthma and runs over the bridge daily.”
“My patients often don’t realize that it’s the air pollution that’s making them sick,” said Dr. Paul Liebow of Bucksport, an emergency physician in Bangor for almost 25 years. “Nowadays only patients needing intensive respiratory care are admitted to the hospital, so parents stay up all night doctoring sick kids, then try to work the next day. Medications are expensive. So are lost workdays. Anyone who cares about the thousands of Maine citizens who are sickened by ‘bad air days’s should support the proposal to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution at Wyman Station.”
“The leaders we trust to represent us should not trade away the improved health of the people of Maine,” said Dr. Lani Graham, former director of the Maine Bureau of Health. “Alone, NOx is a respiratory irritant that, combined with hydrocarbons, forms dangerous levels of ground-level ozone which especially threatens the health of the more than 400,000 young, old and breathing-impaired Mainers. Cleaning up this pollution at its source in Yarmouth, is the best way to guarantee cleaner air for Maine citizens.”
“I applaud the Board of Environmental Protection for their preliminary vote to require clean up at the plant instead of allowing the plant to pay a plant in Bow, NH which has already cleaned up,” said former BEP member and retired physician, Dr. Ned Rendall.
“Companies have a responsibility to invest in protecting the communities in which they operate,” said Mac Sexton of South Portland, representing Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility. “Florida Power and Light has spent $1 billion dollars to clean up two plants in their backyard in Florida, but they are opposed to spending just 5% of that to clean Maine’s air.”
“It is ironic and sad to note that Acadia National Park has registered some of the worst air pollution in the nation,” said Stephanie Clement of Friends of Acadia. “People come from around the world to see the view from Cadillac Mountain, but it is frequently obscured by pollution produced upwind. We support the BEP’s preliminary decision to reduce the pollution that originates in Yarmouth.”