ELM Working to Make Mass. Coal-Free

By Eugenia Gibbons, ELM Program Coordinator

Perhaps the effects of coal may not be as obvious as the blacked-out skies of a previous century, but the fact remains that coal is expensive, inefficient, and detrimental to the health and safety of the public and the environment. It is the most carbon-intensive source of electric generation and is one of the primary contributors to climate change.

Surprisingly to many, 25% of electricity in Massachusetts is generated at coal-fired plants.

Mass. spends hundreds of millions annually to purchase coal burned at these facilities.  With no reserves of its own, Massachusetts imports coal from around the world including from Colombia, Venezuela, and Indonesia. In 2008 alone, $252 million was spent to import ALL the coal burned at coal-fired plants in the state the same year (“Burning Coal, Burning Cash.” Union of Concerned Scientists. May 2010).  The state exported millions of dollars that otherwise could have been infused into local economies had it been invested in domestic renewable, conservation, and efficiency. 

Most alarming, however, are the public health impacts of pollution related to coal-fired power plants and electric generation.  Nationally, emissions from coal-fired plants were expected to cause over 13,000 premature deaths, nearly 10,000 hospitalizations, and more than 20,000 heart attacks last year. In Massachusetts, 2010 saw an estimated 5,280 public health incidents such as these and related to the pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants (“The Toll From Coal.” Clean Air Task Force. September 2010).

The pollution emitted from outdated coal-fired facilities is a threat to public health and is at odds with the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act and Massachusetts’s progressive environmental portfolio. The Commonwealth has the resources and tools needed to keep the lights on without relying on dirty old coal.

Given the environmental impacts and the threat to public health, taken together with the fact that moving away from coal will foster and accelerate the transition to clean alternatives, it follows that ensuring the environmental, economic, and public health of our Commonwealth requires a phase-out of coal fired plants. This legislative session several bills have been filed to help get us to a cleaner, healthier future, including the omnibus coal bill filed by Representative Lori Ehrlich, An Act Relative to a Coal-Free Commonwealth. ELM is proud that the members of the Global Warming Solutions Project (GWSP), which ELM leads, have adopted the goal of making Mass. Coal Free as one of their key priorities and we are looking forward to helping lead the effort to eliminate coal in Massachusetts.

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