Protestors outside the Capitol in 2019 opposing the Killingly power plant project. Photo courtesy of Not Another Power Plant

Just as those who have opposed the construction of a natural gas power plant in Killingly were tasting victory, a court has taken it away.

The federal district appeals court in Washington, D.C., late Friday temporarily halted a decision made last month that had taken the proposed Killingly power plant out of consideration for future power sources in New England.

The action has thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into the annual auction for determining those power sources. The auction is today. The operator of the New England grid, ISO-New England, which runs the auction, said in a statement on Sunday that it had considered delaying it but instead would make two calculations at its conclusion — one with Killingly and one without.

The ISO went on to say: “The ISO intends to keep these results confidential until there is greater certainty about Killingly’s status. This will protect the commercially-sensitive information that might otherwise be revealed as part of the auction finalization process.”

On Nov. 4, the ISO asked permission from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to remove Killingly — a proposed 650-megawatt facility that had been approved as part of the mix through several previous auctions — from the February auction because the plant owners NTE had missed required deadlines that would ensure its development.

The ISO specifically asked for a decision in time to avoid complications with today’s auction.

On Jan. 3, FERC approved the ISO’s request, saying: “Based on a review of the record, including the confidential information provided by ISO-NE and NTE, we find that the relevant condition for termination … has been met.” 

NTE disagreed, saying at the time: “We are very disappointed and do not agree with FERC’s decision. The Killingly Energy Center is important for grid reliability, and we will continue to work to be the bridge for the region’s carbon-free future.” 

NTE took the matter to court, which resulted in the Friday ruling. It’s unclear how long the stay will remain in place and when the next court actions will occur. NTE and state officials have not responded to requests for comment.

“Though neither Connecticut nor ISO-NE want it, NTE is hell-bent on forcing their unwanted, unneeded dirty power plant on us,” Samantha Dynowski, the director of Sierra Club Connecticut, which has spearheaded opposition to Killingly, said in a statement. “It is more evident than ever that the governor, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and our state legislators must move quickly to put policies in place that protect us.” 

Most of Killingly’s permits are in place, and state officials have repeatedly said they have no power to simply reject it because it may not be needed or it does not meet the state’s climate change goals of a carbon-free electric grid by 2040.

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Jan Ellen is CT Mirror's regular freelance Environment and Energy Reporter. As a freelance reporter, her stories have also appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yale Climate Connections, and elsewhere. She is a former editor at The Hartford Courant, where she handled national politics including coverage of the controversial 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. She was an editor at the Gazette in Colorado Springs and spent more than 20 years as a TV and radio producer at CBS News and CNN in New York and in the Boston broadcast market. In 2013 she was the recipient of a Knight Journalism Fellowship at MIT on energy and climate. She graduated from the University of Michigan and attended Boston University’s graduate film program.