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Scrapbook: Bridgeport Residents Call for Retirement of Connecticut's Last Coal Plant

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Sierra Club Scrapbook

August 28, 2012

Bridgeport Residents Call for Retirement of Connecticut's Last Coal Plant

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The first weekend in August, Sierra Club members joined fellow activists from the Healthy Connecticut Alliance—of which the Connecticut Sierra Club is a member—and Climate Summer in a march from downtown Bridgeport to the Bridgeport Harbor Station coal plant.

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The outdated plant—Connecticut's last coal-burning facility—is awaiting renewal of its operating permit, which expired in February. Marchers carried signs reading "Retire Coal—Revitalize Bridgeport" and "I Thought Dinosaurs Were Extinct."

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Chanting "Coal is over/coal is done/no more asthma/only fun" in both English and Spanish, the marchers pressed for the retirement of the aging power plant, stopping at City Hall to hear a local resident speak about the negative health impacts of coal. That's Sumaria Neely, above, firing up the crowd.

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Speakers from the Latino Advocacy Foundation and Bridgeport Bike Share also addressed the ralliers en route to the coal plant. Once there, the demonstrators sang, danced, chanted, and performed a bit of street theater in which Ralph Izza, chairman and CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group, which operates the Bridgeport Harbor Station plant, was placed under citizens' arrest until he puts the needs of people above profit.

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"Ironically, or maybe fittingly, it was hot the day of the rally—the kind of day the plant would be operating and contributing to local air pollution," says Bridgeport-based Sierra Club organizer Onte Johnson. "It demonstrated why we need to move forward with cleaner energy. The sunny hot days of August, when we need more power to the grid to cool ourselves (while we warm the planet) is the best time for solar power."

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The Bridgeport Harbor Station plant reportedly burns about 230 tons of coal per hour when running at full capacity. Fine particle pollution from the plant consisting of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxides, and nitrogen oxides contributes to asthma attacks, heart attacks, and lung disease, and is especially harmful to children and the elderly.

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Bridgeport, Connecticut's largest city, is nearly 70 percent non-white, and more than 18 percent of residents are below the poverty line. According to a 2011 report, the Bridgeport Harbor Station ranked eighth nationally on a list of the worst environmental justice offenders among U.S. coal plants.

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In May, more than 150 local residents packed a hearing room at Bridgeport City Hall to call for the plant's closure. "This plant is a dinosaur," Onte Johnson told officials from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection at the hearing. "It's time to wake up and invest in renewable energy."

Learn more about the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Connecticut and national Beyond Coal campaigns.

Photos courtesy of the Healthy Connecticut Alliance.

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