Targeting what they claim are the largest air polluters in Massachusetts, activists announced a campaign today to shut down coal burning power plants. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Close to 50 environmental, public health, faith based and community groups make up a new state-wide coalition called “ Coal Free Massachusetts” The activists staged coordinated events Wednesday in the three communities where large coal-burning power plants still operate to call for each to be shut down by the end of the decade.
Kim Finch, a volunteer with the Sierra club, speaking in Holyoke, called for Massachusetts to lead the way in abandoning fossil fuels.
Holyoke is home to the Mount Tom Power Plant, a coal powered electricity generation station that opened in 1960. The other still operational coal plants in Massachusetts are in Salem and Somerset.
The activists say coal plants emit nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury which are a public health menace. And, coal plants are the leading source of carbon dioxide, the pollutant blamed for causing global warming.
Even plants that have added pollution controls can cause serious health effects, according to Claire Miller, a spokesperson for Coal Free Massachusetts.
In addition to calling for the plants to be shut down by the end of the decade, the Coal Free Massachusetts platform also calls for the advancement of energy efficiency and clean renewable energy. It proposes to work with local communities to mitigate the impact of the plant closings on jobs and tax revenue
The coalition includes the Sierra Club and Greenpeace on the national level, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, and local groups such as Berkshire Environmental Action Team and Holyoke Food and Fitness Council.
Juan Valez is the health and environmental organizer for Nuestras Raices, a community farming organization.
Holyoke officials, earlier this year created a committee to explore alternative uses for the Mount Tom Power Plant believing that its age and the current economics of burning coal versus natural gas will lead to its closing in the near future.
The plants owner, GDF-Suez said there are no plans to shut down the plant at this time.
The owners of the coal plant in Salem have said it will close in 2014,and plan to convert it to burn natural gas.