While the job of cleaning up New England’s power plants is not complete, we have made a good amount of progress: we have reduced emissions from the plants that are still running and are moving towards closure of some of the oldest, dirtiest and most obsolete plants, like the Salem Harbor Power Plant.
But as Ken Kimmell, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, noted in this radio story, his department still has to advise people not to eat fish caught in streams and lakes: “The mercury levels in the fish are still too high for it to be safe to eat and that’s because we’re still receiving an awful lot of mercury from upwind power plants,” Kimmell says. The Commissioner is making the essential point here – we are making progress here at home but if we want to truly end the threat of neurotoxic mercury in fish (and the other health effects of power plant pollution) we need to look towards national efforts.
The path forward is clear. We need to maintain pressure on the sources of pollution here in our region, like the the Mount Tom power plant on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts, while making a strong, affirmative move towards clean energy resources like energy efficiency, wind power, solar, and smart electric storage.
Meanwhile we need for the federal government to stand firm and implement long overdue rules to reduce pollution from the power plants to our west. The Mercury and Air Toxic Rules that EPA is releasing will prevent hundreds of thousands of illnesses (like asthma attacks) and up to 17,000 deaths each year. The effect of these regulations will be overwhelmingly positive. For instance, every dollar spent on power plant emissions reductions yields $5 to $13 in health benefits.
We all deserve to breathe easier, our children deserve to be free from the dangerous neurotoxic effects of mercury in our air, and our communities deserve the reduced health care costs and increased job opportunities that will flow as we build a new clean energy economy.