ELM Working to Make Massachusetts Coal-Free

Perhaps the effects of burning coal may not be as obvious as the blackened skies of a previous century, but the fact remains that generating electricity by burning coal is inefficient and detrimental to the health of the public and the environment. Coal is the most carbon-intensive source of electric generation and is one of the primary contributors to climate change.

What many may not realize is that Massachusets meets about 25% of its electricity demand from coal-fired power plants.

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 ("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 energy, conservation, and efficiency.

Most alarming, however, are the public health impacts of pollution related to coal-fired power plants. 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 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The pollution emitted from outdated coal-fired facilities is a threat to public health and is at odds with the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act and Massachusetts' progressive environmental portfolio. The Commonwealth has the resources and tools needed to keep the lights on without relying on dirty coal.

By requiring a phase-out of coal fired plants, we can reduce GHG emissions, improve public health and accelerate the transition to clean alternatives. This legislative session several bills have been filed to help get us to a cleaner, healthier future, including an omnibus coal bill filed by Representative Lori Ehrlich, An Act Relative to a Coal-Free Commonwealth. Members of the Global Warming Solutions Project (GWSP), led by ELM, have adopted the goal of making Massachusetts Coal Free as one of its priorities and we are looking forward to working with our partners towards this goal. For more information, contact Eugenia Gibbons at 617-742-2553 or egibbons@environmentalleague.org.

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