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My Turn: Merrimack Station is not what it used to be

  • The main portion of the Merrimack Station power plant in Bow on Thursday, Sept. 26. GEOFF FORESTER

For the Monitor
Published: 9/30/2019 8:00:12 AM

As a member of the New Hampshire Senate, I believe that informed debate on critical issues is what Granite State residents want and deserve. I also think that environmental stewardship and economic growth are not mutually exclusive.

In recent days, a handful of individuals have expressed great passion for the cause of renewable energy. I applaud that passion, and the call for continued progress in creating the next generation of energy sources in New Hampshire.

But I also wish to correct the record with respect to claims made about energy policy in New Hampshire and about Merrimack Station, in particular. The suggestion that Merrimack is what it used to be – or that its emissions levels from the facility are far greater than they are – demonstrate either a complete lack of knowledge or a careless disregard for the facts.

Over the past several years, leaders from both parties have worked to create a better, forward-looking strategy for energy production in New Hampshire. These leaders have worked to strike the right balance between our shared need for reliable, cost-effective energy for our families on our most difficult weather days and the equally important need for continued progress toward a cleaner, stronger energy future.

Beginning with the four-pollutant bill that passed in 2002, our state created a structure to dramatically reduce nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon and mercury. That bill, along with our Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Renewable Portfolio Standard, resulted in significant improvements to our state’s electric generating fleet. They also opened the door for new, emerging cleaner energy sources – while maintaining reliability and affordability.

Those efforts have resulted in tough standards, and significant investment, at Merrimack Station. Merrimack is very different today; its carbon emissions are a fraction of what they once were. And it no longer operates as a full-time base load facility. By contrast, it operates very infrequently as an intermediate or peaking plant, used solely when alternative sources are not available. But, when needed to prevent power outages that would adversely impact people and businesses in New Hampshire, Merrimack Station can and will operate.

It is a credit to the employees of Merrimack Station that they are working to shift how the plant functions to ensure that it plays a critical role in stabilizing the electric grid, while also supporting the transition to a newer energy economy in New Hampshire and New England. Demanding abrupt change, without fully understanding the history and facts of the situation, frankly is not helpful and ignores the work of many in the environmental community, the electric power industry and state government.

(Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro represents District 3 in the New Hampshire Senate.)

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