Residents question motive for Brayton closure

The announcement that the Brayton Point Power Station will close in 2017 drew different reactions Tuesday for different reasons.

The impacts range from environmental to economic, and some wonder if it will really happen.

"Nobody spends that much money and doesn't use it. Nobody," said Dennis King of Somerset, where the plant is located.

He's not the only skeptic.

"I'm not totally sure that the town of Somerset is not being used like a pawn in the negotiations with ISO," said Board of Selectmen Chairman Don Setters.

Setters said the new owners, Energy Capital Partners, bought Brayton because it was part of a package deal with two plants in Illinois.

As for the finality of its closure?

"They either need the power that they can produce being on standby or they don't. So, I don't think it's over yet," Setters said.

In fact, it may not be.

NBC 10 contacted ISO-New England, which said it has 90 days to review whether Brayton's closure will impact reliability of the power supply. If the ISO determines it will, it can ask Brayton to stay online and negotiate an agreement.

But NBC 10 also learned from the ISO that Brayton and the other five coal burning plants in the region accounted for only 3 percent of New England's electricity use in 2012.

That after the previous owners spent about $1 billion on environmental upgrades, including those infamous cooling towers that some are concerned the town will be stuck with.

"They're an eyesore. I mean, they're an eyesore from the Mount Hope Bridge. Those things are immense," King said.

"They didn't want to build those towers. They were forced to build those towers. It's not as though they were investing in their future there," said Pauline Rodrigues, of the Coalition for Clean Air.

The owners of Brayton Point said they wouldn't respond to Setter's comment about the town being a pawn.

But as for staying online, if ISO deems it needs Brayton for reliability, officials said even if it did enter into an agreement to do so, it would be temporary and wouldn't change the long-term challenges Brayton is facing. The owners said they believe the plant's closure is inevitable.