We Won't Stand for Sacrifice Zones

Leanne Bilo

One indication of a successful, industrialized nation is every citizen having access to a free and healthy life. All Americans deserve clean water, clean air and clean soil; these three segments make up the environment around us and are crucial in contributing to a community’s health or “dis-ease”.  

We are living in the information age and because of that enlightenment, most people have realized a dismal truth; their well-being and health is “put on the back burner” to make room for the greed and need of corporate companies. It all boils down to money; few benefit at the cost of the many. There are countless examples of corporate immorality ruining lives and polluting environments— from past lies when big tobacco companies told the public it was healthy to smoke, to the food industry’s horrible treatment of animals which leads to many outbreaks of disease, to farm factories contributions to climate change, to environmental injustices. This deplorable corporate culture is a reality that we must acknowledge and take action to fight for our basic human rights. 

In the United States, pollution creating industries are commonly located in low-income areas. The CT Siting Council approved plans for a company named NTE Connecticut LLC to build a “Killingly Energy Center” (KEC) in Killingly, CT. According to the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (CT DECD), Killingly has been on the “Distressed Municipalities” list for 13 out of the last 15 years. Similarly, 76% of our state’s trash incineration takes place in Hartford and Bridgeport. This placement of pollution causing industry in low income, minority dominated areas is a demonstration of environmental injustice. 

The definition of environmental injustice is described by Dr. Robert Bullard, known as “The Father of Environmental Injustice.” To understand environmental injustice in a simple way, consider his statement, “America is segregated and so is pollution.” “Sacrifice zones are areas that are exploited for industrial output, with no regard for the people and environments inhabiting in these regions.” 

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In December, Sierra Club joined other organizations in a press conference opposing the Killingly power plant.

Geraldo Reyes, State Representative from Waterbury, spoke about environmental injustice and quality of life. Killingly already has a power plant located there, and there are high asthma rates in children living in and around the town. Building another power plant where people are already suffering is an egregious injustice.  

Todd Douglas, M.D., a postdoctoral associate at Yale’s Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology department, cited multiple studies that show a plethora of air and water pollutants that are excreted by fossil power plants. Dr. Douglas concluded any fossil power plants, old or new, are ticking time bombs that at best poison residents slowly, and at worst are catastrophic. 

In NTE’s Site Evaluations and Reports the company pats themselves on the back for having environmental benefits because combusting fossil gas to create electricity contributes less greenhouse gases then its coal or oil counterparts. Although that is accurate regarding the combustion, the process used to obtain and transport the gas produces way more methane leaks into the atmosphere. As stated by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “The drilling and extraction of natural gas from wells and its transportation in pipelines results in the leakage of methane, a primary component of natural gas that is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat over a 100-year period and 86 times stronger over 20 years.” A 2019 study published by Bob Howarth, a professor at Cornell University, concluded, “the commercialization of shale gas and oil in the 21st century has dramatically increased global methane emissions.” This scientific evidence proves that the KEC will absolutely contribute to methane leaks, and those methane leaks will have disastrous effects on the atmosphere, much worse than carbon.

Moving forward with building the KEC will not only hurt the people living in a particular radius of it, but also make it completely impossible for us to reach our goals of reducing human effects on global warming. 

Independent Systems Operator - New England (ISO-NE) is an institution that is authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to 1) coordinate the direct flow of electricity for the New England power grid; 2) plan for the electricity demands that New England will need;  3) and oversee the billion-dollar markets where participants buy and sell wholesale electricity. This organization assesses the need for new electricity generating facilities and allows companies to bid in the Forward Capacity Auction. On November 18, 2019, seven New England Senators wrote a letter to ISO-NE concerned that the organization is not supporting climate goals that have been set forth. The letter states “Unfortunately, ISO-NE appears to be pursuing a patchwork of market reforms aimed at preserving the status quo of a fossil fuel-centered resource mix.” And in October 2020, five New England Governors issued a statement calling for reforms needed to achieve their states’ respective goals for clean, affordable, and reliable electricity.

We have the right and an obligation to monitor the private companies and government agencies that affect the quality of life for ourselves and our neighbors. NTE’s plant is going to further degrade the quality of life for all in Connecticut and restrict our ability to have clean air, water and soil. New England has no need for this proposed Killingly Energy Center. 

To combat climate change and protect the environment, we need to address the environmental justice issues at hand—we cannot allow any of our neighborhoods to become sacrifice zones.

If you want to get involved in the fight to stop the Killingly Energy Center, please contact Martha Klein

Leanne Bilo is a student at Central Connecticut State University, studying biology with a concentration in ecology, biodiversity and evolutionary biology. She is interested in pursuing a career in environmentalism. She is a Sierra Club member and volunteer, and has also volunteered with Clean Up CT and Save the Sound.