Health impacts of Invenergy’s Burrillville power plant

bubble2Woonsocket may sell water to Invenergy to cool its gigawatt power plant in Burrillville. For citizens’ input, the Woonsocket City Council will hold public hearing this Friday, January 6, at the Woonsocket High School.

Of course, water is not the only issue. Woonsocket has five fracked gas power plants within five miles from its center.  Air pollution is already a serious problem.  Do we have any idea of how much the Invenergy’s will cost the region in terms of health impacts?  Health Care Without Harm compiled numbers for Massachusetts.  They may not be perfect for Rhode Island, but they give us with an order of magnitude estimate of the expected damage to public health.

Here are the annual results of the analysis for a gigawatt power plant.†

Impacts Incidents per year Social value Direct medical and other costs
Premature mortality 9,000 $60,000,000 $2,500,000
Chronic bronchitis 5,000 $2,500,000 $700,000
Hospital +ER visits 8,000 $100,000 $80,000
Asthma attacks 18,000 $11,000 $10,000
Respiratory symptoms 8,000 $300,000 $300,000
Work loss days 1,600 $300,000 $250,000
Mercury related N/A $4,000,000 $3,500,000
Total N/A $67,000,000 $7,300,000

Several things should be kept in mind. First of all, Invenergy’s Clear River Energy Center, proposed as a base load and not a peaker plant, may not be running at full capacity year round.  Secondly, within the next decade or so the plant will become a stranded asset. Indeed, Donald Trump’s “carbon bubble” economy is bound to pop — the only question is how bad it will be.

† To convert the numbers in “FIGURE 1” use the conversion factor provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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Peter Nightingale is a theoretical physicist and teaches at the University of Rhode Island. He strives to leave behind a more just and peaceful, sustainable post-capitalist world for future generations, and his children and grandchildren in particular.

One response to “Health impacts of Invenergy’s Burrillville power plant”

  1. salgal

    I feel that the certainty of a “stranded asset” future for these fossil fuel follies is not sinking in with state and local leaders and elected officials. If they simply, for once, did a bit of homework about what is already happening across the country, the whiffs would be hard to ignore.

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