Gazing out across the waters of Casco Bay, a layer of gray soot was almost impossible to miss. It covered boats, moorings, marinas, and was an ominous presence throughout neighborhoods on Cousins Island and beyond. Air pollution, moving on prevailing winds, spewed across the mid-coast to Penobscot Bay, Acadia National Park, and even to Downeast communities. The culprit: Wyman Station power plant on Cousins Island in Yarmouth.
Wyman Station, owned by Florida Power and Light (FPL), was once Maine’s largest source of air pollution. From 1996 to 1999, NOx emissions generated by Wyman Station increased each year. In 1999 alone, the amount of NOx pollution spewed out by the facility was the equivalent of adding 65,000 cars to Maine’s roads. In addition to making life miserable for Maine people in communities up and down the coast, pollution generated by Wyman Station contributed to the acidification of Maine lakes and coastal waters.
NRCM member Carol Bass saw firsthand the problems caused by Wyman pollution. Bass, a resident of Cousins Island—home of the plant—spoke at a press conference that was part of the effort to force Wyman Station to clean up its act. “The soot from Wyman covers our home and yard. I am outraged when I think about what this soot is doing to my daughter who has asthma and runs over the bridge daily.”
Wyman’s pollution especially threatened the health of the more than 400,000 Maine children, our senior citizens, and those already suffering from breathing problems.
Despite these dangers and repeated violations of its pollution permit—more than 300 times—FPL balked at investments and was accused of exaggerating costs for technological improvements. NRCM responded, working with local residents to gather 2,500 petition signatures, and with hundreds of concerned citizens attended a public hearing in Augusta before the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP).
BEP listened to voices of Maine people and in 2001, unanimously decided that FPL must install pollution controls and develop a clean-up plan for Wyman Station. The plant installed these improvements in the fall of 2002.
NRCM counts the clean-up of the Wyman Station power plant as one of the most important victories for clean air in Maine since the 1970s. Today, Wyman Station runs only a few hours a year, as a backup when electricity use peaks. It is a relic of the past, and one day perhaps will be even more so as Maine moves increasingly toward a clean energy future.