Bridgeport Generating Station

By Cooper Verhalen

The question who gets what, why, and how much, often boils down to class and race. The environmental burdens that are associated with the United States’ addiction to coal powered energy falls onto communities of color in an undeniable trend. An example of this disproportionate environmental racism to communities of color is the Bridgeport Harbor Generating Station in Connecticut. The high emissions coal power plant is located in Connecticut’s second poorest city, inserted right between the cities poorest parts[1]. These two parts are Bridgeport’s Downtown and South End, whose populations consist of more than 87% people of color and averaging an income of $11,400[2]. I will show that the proximity of these residential sectors to the generating station has caused adverse health in the communities because of its emissions of toxic pollutants and its disregard to adhere to common safety practices.

Water view of Bridgeport Generating Station

The group of people who are being marginalized by the power plant are the communities that live in proximity to it, especially children and the elderly who are most susceptible to the particulate matter being released by the plant. In 2014, the station emitted nearly 1 million tons of CO2, 2 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, and 1,182,515 pounds of nitrogen oxides[3]. Particulate matter created from the plant’s emissions increased mortality rates from heart diseases, lung cancer and other respiratory disease[5]. Studies have shown that 15% of school aged children in the city of Bridgeport suffer from asthma, and are ten times more at risk from dying from an asthma attack. The ailments affecting Bridgeport communities can be attributed to the Bridgeport generating plant, not only because its proven emissions, but also because of the way it is run. The plant is still operating on an antiquated cooling system whose permit expired more than a decade ago[2] This is a blatant disregard to the health of the surrounding communities. However, the problem has not been fixed because the city of Bridgeport has been deemed less important than other cities.

Sherco Generating Station
Emissions from Bridgeport Generating Station 

The placement of this generating station is a clear example of environmental racism. Instead of it being placed in a more affluent city, the plant was placed in one of the state’s poorest, and in an underrepresented community of color. The exploitation of these communities for the means to generate cheap energy is apparent through their voice of disapproval. Communities of color affected by the Bridgeport generating station do not remain silent. The community protests the obvious institutionalized racism that influences decision makers on the placement of high emitting toxic power plants. They object the ailments that afflict their children and unborn from excessive toxic emissions, that disproportionately affect communities of color instead of the affluent. The community has strongly asserted that environmental class-ism and racism is more than prevalent in Bridgeport. Made evident by the placement of the Bridgeport Generating Station in their communities and the environmental and health ramifications that it has brought.

Being populated by a majority of low income people of color, I believe that it was a premeditated thought to make the city of Bridgeport a sacrifice zone. A sacrifice zone is a location that is disregarded from environmental harms and burdens in the name of a higher purpose, such as the national interest[3]. The United States economy relies on pollution emitting energies that their extraction and refinery requires a sacrifice zone. Whole communitie’s are written off for economical and financial advancement[4]. In a country where institutionalized racism is running rampant, these communities are usually ones of color. We can see these trends for sacrifice zones in the city of Bridgeport with the unregulated and outdated Generating Station, located conveniently in the center of underrepresented communities of color. This plant causes health disparities to the local community that is unparalleled in the more affluent surrounding communities.

Over the decades the operators of the plant have refused the communities wishes to retire the plant. Despite the overwhelming physical evidence of the plant’s ramifications on the surrounding communities, the plant is adamant to continue business as usual. In fact, PSEG has outrageously proposed the expansion of Bridgeport Harbor station by adding a 450mw natural gas plant while keeping the coal plant operating. This would be a blatant disregard to the communities well being and increase the already high rates of respiratory illnesses, nuisance coal ash, and disproportionate exposure to low income communities of color.

The Bridgeport Harbor plant is an outdated, high emitting coal plant that is no longer needed to provide power to the Connecticut power grid, and should be retired in order to mitigate worse effects from occurring on a local scale and towards global climate change[2]. Groups like Green Peace and the NAACP are involved in putting this issue into the public spotlight and are determined to shut the coal plant down. It is through community based action that we will find results in putting pressure to PSEG to not build a second plant in Bridgeport.

Work Cited

[1]“End environmental injustice in Bridgeport.” Connecticut Post,

[2]“Bridgeport Harbor Station.” Bridgeport Harbor Station – SourceWatch,

[3]Scott, R.R. (2010). Removing mountains: Extracting nature and identity in the Appalachian coalfields. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

[4] Klein, Naomi, 1970- author. (2014). This changes everything : capitalism vs. the climate. New York :Simon & Schuster,

Hladky, Gregory B. “Connecticut’s Last Coal-Fired Power Plant To Be Closed.” Courant Community, 12 Feb. 2016,

[5]“End environmental injustice in Bridgeport.” Connecticut Post,



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