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Somerset, MA – While local organizations and citizens groups have been organizing to plan for a future beyond coal in Somerset, so have groups across the state. Coal Free Massachusetts, a new coalition, launched on Wednesday with citizens gathering at coordinated events across the state in Somerset, Holyoke and Salem, to announce a new Massachusetts campaign to protect public health and communities, renew efforts to transition towards energy efficiency, clean renewable energy, and clean-tech development, and revitalize local economies to create more jobs.
In Somerset, citizens gathered near the Brayton Point Power Station, the largest polluter for Massachusetts and all of New England. “As we’ve learned with Montaup, which closed in 2010, coal-burning is not only dirty and outdated, it is a liability for our community. Brayton Point is a risky source of revenue for Somerset. As coal plants shut down and become more and more costly to operate, we need to plan ahead to diversify Somerset’s economy and plan for a just transition. We support Coal Free Massachusetts because we need help to plan for a future beyond coal in Somerset,” said Connie Brodeur, spokesperson for Coalition for Clean Air and a Somerset resident.
The Coalition for Clean Air, a citizens group made up of residents from Somerset and surrounding communities, formed a handful of years ago to push Somerset Station, also known as the Montaup coal plant, to keep its commitment to close in 2010 and to support redevelopment to revitalize Somerset’s waterfront. Brodeur said there are already signs that coal is on its way out: Montaup shut down in 2010, the Salem Harbor Coal Plant plans to close in 2014, and the Mt. Tom Coal Plant in Holyoke has barely run over the past year, recently laying off half its workers. “Everyone in Somerset thinks Brayton Point is too big to fail, but they are wrong,” said Brodeur.
Coal-Free Massachusetts announced nearly 50 organizations signing on in support of its platform. In addition to the Coalition for Clean Air, the Westport Fishermen’s Association, Coalition for Social Justice, Hands Across the River, and Coalition for Buzzards Bay, are local groups that have joined the effort.
“We support a Coal Free Massachusetts because as fishermen, we are very concerned about the impacts of burning coal on the environment,” said Jack Reynolds, President of the Westport Fishermen’s Association. “The New Bedford-area, where Westport is located, is the leading fishing port in the country, and coal-burning threatens our local economy and our livelihood with mercury pollution that harms fish and people.”
Jim Hornsby, Rector Emeritus at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Fall River and Secretary of Green Futures, joined the group of citizens in supporting the coalition launch. “Pollutants like lead and mercury from Brayton Point travel to Fall River threaten our children with health impacts like brain damage, learning disabilities, and asthma. As a Rector of a neighborhood city parish, I am well aware of the difficulties a town or city has when a key industry goes south or dies out. Somerset and the entire region needs to start planning now for the consequences of the loss of this polluting dinosaur.”
Statewide organizations Toxics Action Center, Clean Water Action, and others joined local residents at the Wednesday event. Several groups have long been active organizing to support efforts by South Coast residents to protect health and quality of life in the area.
“Closing Montaup allowed Somerset residents a breath of fresh air, but Brayton Point continues to spew pollution,” said Sylvia Broude, Executive Director for Toxics Action Center. “Earlier this spring, the American Lung Association gave Bristol County a failing grade for air pollution – the only county in the state to go from bad to worse, and Dominion is the biggest offender, topping the list as the largest polluter for all of New England. It’s time to plan ahead to for this dinosaur’s retirement.”
Joel Wool from Clean Water Action summed up the event by calling for the state to support transition beyond coal for towns like Somerset. He said: "we know the health impacts of burning dirty coal, and we know that - when the stacks aren't running often, like this winter - out-of-state companies with costly, imported coal aren't going to keep their doors open for long. We need to plan for new jobs, new businesses, and a balanced power grid to insure economic health doesn't suffer the same damage public health and environment have for years. And we need to ensure citizens don't bear the brunt of transition's financial costs. Polluters won't stand with us, so we need to stand up to them - decommission and let Massachusetts move on."
Coal Free Massachusetts wants to ensure that Massachusetts continues to make strides in renewable energy and efficiency to phase out the need for coal-fired electricity generation as it has done under the policies of the Patrick Administration. The coalition is working closely with elected officials at the local, state and regional level to ensure robust transition plans for workers, communities and municipal revenues. Coal Free Massachusetts will be calling upon Governor Patrick and municipalities to ensure enforcement of existing regulations, laws and programs, including leveraging policies like the Global Warming Solutions Act to ratchet down air pollution and to help create a Coal Free Massachusetts by 2020.
Coal Free Massachusetts Member Groups and Supporters July 2012
Berkshire Environmental Action Team
Better Future Project
Boston Climate Action Network
Citizens for an Informed Community
Clean Water Action
Coalition For Buzzards Bay
Coalition for Social Justice
Conservation Law Foundation
Environmental League of Massachusetts
Green Needham Collaborative
Hands Across the River
Health Care Without Harm
Holyoke Food and Fitness Center
MA Sustainable Communities
Mass Climate Action Network
Mass Energy Consumers Alliance
Mass Interfaith Power & Light
Massachusetts Global Action
Neighbor to Neighbor
Next Step Living
Northeastern Environmental Law Society
Partnership For Policy Integrity
Pioneer Valley Climate Action
Religious Witness for the Earth
Salem Alliance for the Environment
Save Our Neighborhoods Fall River
Somerset Coalition for Clean Air
Students for a Just and Stable Future
Toxics Action Center
Wallhagen Construction Co.
Watchdogs for an Environmentally Safe Town
Westport Fishermen's Association
Coal Free Massachusetts announced the following platform at events around Massachusetts:
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