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Largest coal-fired plant in NE to close by 2017

A Massachusetts power plant recently cited by federal regulators as one of the state’s heaviest polluters plans to shut down.

Owners of the coal-fired Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset filed papers Monday indicating the plant will no longer provide power to the grid by 2017.

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The announcement came just months after the plant was sold to Energy Capital Partners, a private equity firm with offices in New Jersey and California.

Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman for ISO New England, the region’s grid operator, said the request to retire Brayton Point comes as low natural gas prices put the squeeze on older fossil-fuel-fired power generating facilities.

Blomberg said ISO New England will study what Brayton Point’s retirement would mean for reliability of the local power grid.

“We can’t prevent a resource from retiring, but if our study shows that a resource is needed for reliability, she said, “they don’t have to stay, but we can ask.”

Environmental groups had long sought to close the plant, which topped the Environmental Protection Agency’s list for most toxic emissions in Massachusetts in 2011.

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Jonathan Peress of the Conservation Law Foundation said the announcement is an indication that coal-fired power is no longer economically viable.

Pauline Rodrigues, a Somerset resident, said news of Brayton Point’s closing took her by surprise even though she is a member of a grass-roots group that has long pushed town officials to come up with a plan for how the town would handle the plant’s eventual retirement.

“It’s not as though we didn’t expect it, we just didn’t expect it this quickly,” she said, adding that her most immediate worry is how the plant’s closing will affect the town’s finances. Somerset, she said, receives a significant amount of revenue from Brayton Point.

Brayton Point is the largest coal-fired plant in New England.

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