Activists Come Together On Energy Agenda

Sep 9, 2015

Members of a new clean energy coalition held a news conference outside Holyoke City Hall.
Credit WAMC

With the Massachusetts Legislature set to take up energy bills in the fall, advocates for clean energy are mobilizing across the state.  A new coalition of activists was launched today.

A coalition with more than 80  members from across the state, including environmental organizations, solar power businesses, neighborhood activists, and religious congregations, was announced at simultaneous news conferences Wednesday in a half dozen Massachusetts cities including Holyoke.

Claire Miller of Toxics Action Center, one of the founding organizations, said the coalition members have endorsed a five-point agenda advocating local, clean, renewable energy.

" We have a vision for Massachusetts in which children don't grow up with asthma from living near polluting energy sources," she said. "We should continue to be a leader in solar and wind."

The coalition, which goes by the name Mass Power Forward, includes national organizations such as the Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Club, Environmental League of Massachusetts, and several local concerned citizens’ groups formed to fight such things as fossil fuel power plants and natural gas pipelines.

" It just became obvious as the state legislature was considering major energy policy that we needed to knit together and everyone was ready," said Miller.

The new group’s immediate focus is on a September 29th Statehouse hearing when several energy bills will be discussed.

Among the bills the legislature will take up this fall are ones filed by Gov. Charlie Baker and State Senator Ben Downing of Pittsfield that address, in different ways, the net metering cap on solar power generation.

State Rep. Aaron Vega of Holyoke said he looks forward to working with the new coalition.

" I hope this coalition will stay strong," said Vega.  " We are not always going to agree, but you need to be the eyes and ears on the ground in the community so we elected representatives can hear all sides of every issue."

Carlos Rodriquez from Neighbor to Neighbor said local groups joined with national ones to call for the shutdown of the region’s last coal-fired power plant, Mount Tom Station in Holyoke, that closed last year.  He said closing the plant reduced air pollution that affected the health of people in the Pioneer Valley and also eliminated climate altering emissions.

Pointing to Hurricane Katrina,and Superstorm Sandy, Rodriguez said " Climate change is real. It is here."

The coalition’s platform calls for a state energy policy that reduces climate change pollution by no less than 80 percent by 2050.

Also speaking at the Holyoke news conference was Jed Proujansky, a member of the board of selectmen in Northfield, who spoke against the controversial natural gas pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan.

" Your actions, or lack there of, will determine what happens. Neutral does not exist," he said.

Mary Ann Babinski has led neighborhood opposition in Westfield for eight years to a proposed gas-fired power plant. 

"Massachusetts needs to aggressively support clean energy solutions, energy efficiency and energy conservation for a just energy future," she said

News conferences to launch the coalition were also scheduled in Pittsfield, Boston, Fall River, Peabody, and Weymouth.