Friday, July 25, 2008

56 year old spews filthy pollution - poisons landscape

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The whole plant's taxes are less than a third of what the CEO receives in "salary".

Three dead workers...

but read the whole story:

Power plant opponents speak up at SATV forum

By Kris Olson/

Thu Jul 24, 2008, 11:00 PM EDT

Photo by Kristin D'Agostino
Salem has settled on a tax agreement with Dominion, owner of the Salem Harbor Power Station.

power plant pollution action group citizens tax fraud dominon tax deal

By Kristin D'Agostino
Salem has settled on a tax agreement with Dominion, owner of the Salem Harbor Power Station.

Salem -

Expecting the worst from its sit-down with the owners of the Salem Harbor power station Thursday, members of the Salem Alliance for the Environment (SAFE) got an early start in going on the offensive Monday, taping a one-hour forum on SATV Channel 3.

The show was set to be rebroadcast on SATV’s channel 3 on Thursday, July 24 at 3 p.m. and Saturday, July 26 at 4:30 p.m. and will also be shown later in the summer. Check for the schedule.

In 2001, the state passed landmark air-emissions regulations, and the state later ruled the owners of the Salem plant would have until 2004 to comply. But in 2003, the plant owners, citing the expense of upgrades, negotiated a deal in which it would exchange credits for reducing some pollutants earlier than necessary for more time to upgrade the plant.

With that “consent order” set to expire Thursday, July 24, Dominion, which took control of the plant in 2005, was set to appear at the DEP’s Wilmington offices to announce how it will proceed, where representatives of the other parties to the consent order, including HealthLink, Clean Water Action and the city of Salem, will be listening carefully. (For details about the meeting, read the note at the end of this article and look for a story on the afternoon of Friday, July 25, on the homepage,

SAFE member Pat Gozemba moderated Monday’s show, entitled “Dominion Over All.” The five panelists had unique but equally negative perspectives on Dominion, the Richmond, Va.-based owner of the Salem power plant.

Gozemba lives in the Willows area, where the power plant, which sits on a 65-acre site, dwarfs the neighborhood. Gozemba displayed a graphic that showed just how much taller the plant’s 400-foot stacks are than the average three-story home. Not only is the plant big, but also it is old, explained Gozemba. At 56, it is well past its expected 30-year life.

Gozemba first turned the floor over to her SAFE colleagues Marjorie Kelly and Shelley Alpern.

Questioning a company

Kelly, who has written articles on business ethics, focused on Dominion’s corporate behavior and decision-making. Many remember Dominion cutting 25 percent of the plant’s jobs and last year’s explosion that killed three people. But Kelly noted that Dominion’s tax payments to the city of Salem have been on a steady decline, from $9 million in 1997 to $4.75 in the last fiscal year. Over the same time period, the average Salem homeowner has seen his tax bill increase by 90 percent.

Last year, Dominion took in $16 billion in revenue and turned a $2.5 billion profit, an estimated 3 percent of which can be attributed to the Salem plant, according to Kelly. Rather than investing that profit in new technologies, like a wind farm, as some power companies have done, Dominion paid $5.8 billion in 2007 to buy back its own stock, which she called a “one-time paper maneuver” to drive up its stock price.

Of the $19 million in profits attributable to the Salem power plant, the company devoted less than one-tenth of 1 percent of that amount to charitable contributions, far less than the typical company (1 percent) or generous company (5 percent) will give away, according to Kelly.

Kelly laid responsibility for the company’s choices at the feet of CEO Thomas Farrell, whom she claimed last year earned $15 million, or four times what the company pays the city of Salem in taxes.

The global warming debate

In light of the state passing landmark air-emissions regulations in 2001, the plant has made some dramatic reductions, such as with SO2, but it still one of the “Filthy Five” largest polluters in the state. She quote from a 2000 Harvard School of Public Health Study, which attributed 53 premature deaths, 14,400 asthma attacks and over 600 emergency-room visits to power-plant pollution.

She then displayed slides showing what the impact of rises of 6 and 10 meters in sea level — one of the possible impacts attributed to have global warming — would have on Salem. The latter, she said ironically, would engulf a wide swath of the city, including the power plant itself.

She noted that, given the cost of operation, coal plants are becoming dinosaurs, with plans to construct 59 coal plants cancelled in the U.S. last year.

Her ultimate position: that the plant should “run on gas, not coal, and if it cannot run on gas, it should not run at all.”

The stage was then turned over to Dave Dionne of Somerset, a founding member of the Massachusetts Clean Air Coalition. He explained that the Fall River area lives in the shadow of two power plants, a smaller one that has just converted to “coal gasification” and a larger one operated by Dominion, which he described as the “largest polluter east of the Mississippi River.”

Dionne discussed the power-plant industries two “big lies.” The first resulted from the large investment the plants made in “pseudoscience,” trying to debunk the idea that they were contributing to climate change. Now that that lie has been “exposed,” said Dionne, they have move on to a new lie: that the coal-gasification process is both cleaner and safer. As part of this process, the plants plan to “sequester” their CO2 emissions and bury them underground forever. But Dionne said that idea was impractical, especially in New England. He noted that company officials admitted in a public hearing that the region lacks the “geographical features” that would make CO2 sequestration possible.

He said he would rather see the plants invest in renewable energy.

Perspectives from the South — and South America

The first of two excerpts from Michael O’Connell’s documentary “Mountain Top Removal,” named for the method of coal mining in Southern Appalachia, was then played. The film took the top prize at this year’s Nashville Film Festival, where an emotional Al Gore made the presentation to the Pittsboro, N.C., filmmaker.

The broadcast was then turned over to two people intimately familiar with the subject of O’Connell’s file. Helen Lewis now lives in Georgia, but for 50 years she lived and taught in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. Throughout that long history, she has seen the coal industry view miners and employees as a “hindrance” to operations, caring more about providing for its stockholders and “leaving behind destruction and pollution… children with respiratory problems and disabled workers.”

Salem harbor
Salem Harbor Station is responsible for 53 premature deaths, 570 emergency room visits, and 14,400 asthma attacks every year, according to a 2000 study by the Harvard School of Public Health.

She said that communities have been organizing and fighting the coal industry for over 100 years, not just over safety issues but the destruction of land and water also. She echoed calls to move away from coal, a “limited resource [that is] soon to be gone” to a “new, sustainable commodity,” like wind.

Another segment from O’Connell’s film was played, which attributed 40 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions to coal-fired plants, noting that it is a “global problem,” with coal use on the rise in China and India and 850 additional coal plants planned or being built worldwide.

Frank Taylor, who lives on the Clinch River in the Southern Appalachian region of Virginia, then described his battle against Dominion’s plans to build a new coal plant in nearby St. Paul. He talked about how a fog settles in over the area overnight, which, when combined with the proposed plants smokestacks would deliver a “toxic mix to every man, woman and child” in the area.

He fears a failure of the coal-ash landfill on the site would taint with mercury the Clinch River, a breeding ground for a rare type of mussel and where many people fish.

He challenged one and all to get involved with the move toward renewable energy, saying we have been “complicit” too long in “hurting ourselves and hurting the planet as well.”

Salem State professor Avi Chomsky then broadened the discussion further, talking about how Dominion and other companies get the coal they burn from remote regions of Colombia, where the indigenous people seemingly inevitably suffer when the big corporations set their eyes on their land. One such place, said Chomsky, is the village of Taboco, which dated back to the late 18th-century but was bulldozed in August 2001.

While coal mining in the U.S. is not even safe, Colombian coal miners have to face additional dangers, said Chomsky, including paramilitary groups who in one village had assassinated six union leaders. Chomsky said she has reached out to Dominion and offered to lead tours of the Colombian mines, but that is something the company “hasn’t been very interested in doing.” She noted, however, Salem has “opened its arms and hearts” to the people of Colombia, with the City Council passing a resolution pledging solidarity with the Colombian mine workers, which Chomsky personally delivered to Colombia in 2006.

Looking for alternatives

During the commentary period that followed, Salem resident Lisa Abbate, who operates the Web site, said she would prefer to see Dominion “vacate the premises very soon,” noting that there are redevelopment opportunities for the plant site detailed at her Web site that would bring in “far more in revenue and jobs” to the city.

Dionne said the government has, for too long, bailed out the coal plants, as it has with other industries, subsidizing the operation of so-called “Reliability Must Run” plants. (Previous speakers noted that the plant’s prolonged post-explosion shutdown might provide convincing evidence that the Salem plant should lose its “Must Run” status — and $25 million in reimbursements —when ISO New England reevaluates the situation in September.) He said that movement must be made toward a “post-carbon economic future.”

He said residents could not wait for politicians to take the lead, since they know taking “striking positions” can put reelection in jeopardy.

“It’s incumbent on us to push the envelope,” he said.

He joked that he keeps wishing for Sen. Ted Kennedy, an opponent of the Cape Wind project, to come out of one of his surgeries having had an epiphany about wind power.

“We need to get beyond all this NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) stuff,” he said. “I call [wind turbines] ‘anti-asthma machines.’ I think they are beautiful.”

Interested in the power plant? Power plant owner Dominion was set to sit down with the state Department of Environmental Protection and other interested parties Thursday, July 24 to discuss plans for the future.

Despite recent rumors, city and state officials have told the Gazette Dominion has no plans to close its doors. The meeting is expected to address how the company will continue to meet new emissions regulations while remaining economically viable.

The meeting is closed to the press and the public, but look for a story from the Gazette on Friday, here at

Salem residents and workers are still reeling from the tragic industrial accident that killed three workers at the Salem Harbor Power Station on Nov. 6.

All this week funerals have been held for the three victims, Mathew Indeglia, Mark Mansfield and Phillip Robinson, who had been working on a fan when a pipe burst some 20 feet above them, releasing high-pressure, high-temperature steam.

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3 workers dead after power plant blast

Tom Dalton, The Salem News
November 7, 2007

— Three power plant workers who were severely burned in a steam explosion on Tuesday died overnight at a Boston hospital.

Early Wednesday, Brigham and Women's Hospital confirmed the deaths of Salem Harbor Station employees Mark Mansfield, 41, of 24 Elm St., Peabody; Phillip Robinson, 56, of 16 Robb Road, Beverly; and Matthew Indeglia, 20, of 12 Pere Marquette, Lawrence.

"All three men passed away," said hospital spokeswoman Christina Jeffrey.

The workers suffered burns to their heads, arms and hands when an external water tube on a coal boiler ruptured at about 8:50 a.m. on Tuesday.

The family of Indeglia, 20, issued a statement Wednesday.

"We are deeply saddened by this unfortunate accident which took the life of our beloved Matthew," the family wrote. "We have been blessed to have had such a beautiful young man in our lives. His greatest quality was the unwavering love that he bestowed on his entire family."

The power plant also issued a statement.

"All of Dominion is greatly saddened at the deaths of these men," said Thomas Farrell II, chairman and chief executive officer of Dominion, the Virginia energy company that bought the power plant three years ago. "They were valuable members of the Salem Harbor family. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families."

The power plant has been shut down today "so that the station can focus on the needs of its employees and a full safety review can occur," the company said in a statement.
The cause and exact location of the tube rupture is not known, the company said.
Please see Thursday's edition of The Salem News for more on the deadly explosion.

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

Three workers seriously burned in power plant explosion

Julie Manganis, The Salem News
November 7, 2007

— SALEM -- Three workers were seriously injured when a pipe carrying pressurized steam and hot water burst at the Salem Harbor Station power plant yesterday morning.
The explosion occurred just before 9 a.m. on the outside of what is known as coal boiler No. 3, sending 320-degree steam and debris into the area where three employees were working, Salem fire Capt. Alan Dionne said.

The injured workers are Mark Mansfield, 41, of 24 Elm St., Peabody; Phillip Robinson, 56, of 16 Robb Road, Beverly; and Matthew Indeglia, 20, of 12 Pere Marquette, Lawrence, according to police.
The workers suffered severe burns to their faces, heads, necks and hands, Dionne said. All three were taken to local hospitals and then transferred to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, where Mansfield and Robinson were listed in critical condition last night. The hospital did not give a condition update on Indeglia.

Firefighters had originally hoped to fly two of the men by medical helicopter, but the chopper was grounded by bad weather, Salem police Capt. Paul Tucker said.
Gary Courts, managing director for plant owner Dominion New England, said company officials were with the employees' families at the hospital.

"Our hearts and our prayers go out to our co-workers at this difficult time," Courts said during a press briefing yesterday afternoon.

It is not clear why the pipe, or external water tube, failed. By late afternoon, inspectors still had not entered the area where the explosion occurred, Courts said, because of concerns about the possible presence of asbestos or other hazards. He said there was no danger to people or property nearby.
Most of the plant's approximately 145 workers were sent home by 10:30 a.m. Courts said a skeleton crew of essential employees kept the rest of the plant operating yesterday.
The 745-megawatt Salem Harbor Station has four boilers. Three coal boilers were in operation at the time of the accident, and two of them continued to run afterward. A large oil-fired boiler was not in use.

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Agencies investigating

Police set up a barricade across the plant's main entrance and allowed only public safety and plant officials through.

Along with plant officials, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the state fire marshal's office and the Salem Fire Department will be among those trying to determine the cause of the accident. The Department of Environmental Protection also was on the scene.
The pipe that burst was carrying steam of at least 320 degrees, at a pressure of 1,800 to 2,000 pounds per square inch, Dionne and Courts said.

Power plants use what is known as "superheated" steam to run their turbines, which generate electricity. The higher the temperature of the steam, the more efficiently the plant operates, according to information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Salem plant was built in 1951 and expanded in 1958 with the addition of boiler No. 3, where yesterday's explosion occurred. Salem Harbor Station can generate enough electricity to power about 750,000 homes.

Salem fire officials said there is no history of problems with the power plant, citing records for the past five years that showed no accidents, fires or other safety incidents, other than a minor steam leak in 2003.

Of the 19 Fire Department calls to the plant in the past five years, eight were for ambulances for sick or injured workers, and 10 were for fire alarms that turned out to be false or for unusual odors in the plant.

"It is our opinion and belief this plant is run very safely," Dionne said.

OSHA has investigated two incidents at the plant over the past seven years, both of which were minor, according to a spokesman for the federal agency.

Salem firefighters have been working with Dominion as they train a team of firefighters in confined space rescues, Dionne said. The team is being trained to conduct various types of rescues, not only from the power plant but at other facilities where workers could become trapped or stranded.
Firefighters were at the plant on Monday but were not training inside the boiler area where the explosion occurred, Dionne said.

'Proud of record' (See OSHA Fines)

Courts said he is "very proud" of Dominion's record. He said the plant conducts regular training and daily safety briefings. The boilers are also inspected annually.

Mayor Kim Driscoll visited the plant for about half an hour just after noon. State Rep. John Keenan also came to the scene and expressed confidence in the plant's safety record.
A handful of neighborhood residents and at least two wives of plant workers came to the scene yesterday morning after learning about the incident.

Estelle Coan of Peabody got a call from a friend who saw news reports yesterday morning. She raced down to the plant to make sure her husband was not among the injured after she was unable to reach him on his cell phone.

She was "extremely relieved," she said, to learn that he was safe.
Staff writer Tom Dalton contributed to this article.

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posted by u2r2h at Friday, July 25, 2008


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