NRG forced to unveil secret emissions information

By Rachel Swick
Cape Gazette staff

NRG Energy’s attempt to keep emissions data secret failed this week when the Court of Chancery declined to issue a restraining order to prevent release of the information.

NRG, which proposes to build a new $1.5 million plant near Millsboro to provide the state with new power, submitted a petition to keep trade secrets out of the public light. After a four-hour hearing Tuesday, March 27, in Georgetown, Chancellor William “Bill” Chandler III refused to grant the restraining order.

The information on emissions data was released this week, but energy watchdogs are still skeptical, saying more information is needed.

The state’s Public Service Commission released four binders of information on NRG’s proposed coal gasification plant Wednesday, March 28. The information did not include how much energy the plant would use, even though it noted the plant would produce 201 pounds of carbon dioxide for every million pounds of energy used.

John Austin, a member of Citizens for Clean Power and a former scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency, said he supports the Bluewater Wind proposal to build a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean.

Carbon dioxide emissions are linked to global warming, but even knowing how much will be released by the new plant does not tell the public how much energy the plant will consume, which is vital information, said Austin.

“Even if sequestration at 65 percent were possible, the carbon dioxide emissions of a 220 megawatt unit would go uncontrolled,” said Austin. “[Coal gasification] units have not turned out to be the better alternative they have been touted to be. [Coal gasifiNRG
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cation] is just a way to mine and burn coal faster. I conclude that the NRG bid is not in conformance with the Coastal Zone Act and should be removed from further consideration.”

Austin’s concerns were echoed by Green Delaware’s Alan Muller, who said NRG continues to try and withhold information the public needs to know before making an informed decision about the future of power in Delaware. Muller said the company continually holds back emissions information and has not cleaned up the existing plant. NRG is also going to court over the multi-pollutant emissions regulations passed by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) last year, seeking more time to comply with the regulations.

“We’re still nowhere near where we need to be, and the only solution to this is to unwrap the entire bid,” said Muller.

Proposals for future

Faced with a steep rise in electric bills in 2005, state officials ordered Delmarva Power, in conjunction with the Public Service Commission, to search for new power suppliers. A request for proposals was issued and three proposals are now under consideration, including NRG’s coal gasification plant, Bluewater Wind’s offshore wind farm, and Conectiv’s natural gas plant. The request for proposals called for new power that would generate 400 megawatts of electricity– enough to power more than 300,000 homes.

When the public first requested copies of the three proposals, all three companies, Conectiv, Bluewater Wind and NRG, released heavily redacted copies. Later, both Conectiv and Bluewater released more in-depth information, but NRG refused, stating the requested information contained trade secrets. Conectiv plans to build a 200-megawatt natural gas plant in Wilmington, while Bluewater Wind proposes a 600-megawatt wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean. Bluewater later filed a petition with Chancery Court to block the release of information regarding its equipment supplier, Vestas Offshore. Even though Bluewater had earlier signed a nondisclosure agreement with Vestas, without informing the Public Service Commission, Chancery Court granted Bluewater’s petition to prevent disclosure.

NRG officials said they are concerned that the release of the entire proposal will only lead to a loss of trade secrets to competing companies.

Caroline Angoorly, senior vice president for NRG’s northeast division, said the court filing was in response to ongoing requests for information, which she says are trade secrets.

“The more than 1,100-page bid NRG submitted to the PSC is the culmination of two years of focused effort, as well as significant funding to support development of NRG’s IGCC project at Indian River,” said Angoorly. “We have disclosed the vast majority of information contained within our bid and seek only to protect vital and proprietary details that, if released, could potentially harm NRG’s ability to most effectively structure and bring its proposed generation projects to fruition – both in Delaware and elsewhere.”

Chandler disagreed, stating that the Public Service Commission (PSC) had done its job and given NRG as much room as possible to protect trade secrets.

“It’s obvious to me that the commission made its decision in an informed and deliberate matter,” said Chandler. He said NRG had no right to challenge the PSC’s fairness in the power-bid process, because the final decision on future power has yet to be made.

NRG officials said they would continue to pursue financing for a coal gasification plant in Delaware.

“NRG continues to stand behind our proposal and we remain firm in our belief that [coal gasification] is the answer to providing energy reliably and in an environmentally responsible manner,” said Lori Neuman, spokeswoman for NRG.

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