A Major Milestone for a Coal-Free Massachusetts

N. Jonathan Peress

This past week marked a major milestone in CLF’s Coal-Free Massachusetts campaign. Not only did Salem Harbor burn coal for the last time, but on Monday, the owners of Massachusetts’ last remaining coal-fired power plant, Mt. Tom Station in Holyoke, threw in the towel and announced the plant’s retirement effective October of this year. These developments come just months after the irrevocable decision by the owner of New England’s largest coal-fired power plant, Brayton Point, to retire the plant in 2017 – a decision that was upheld and confirmed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February.

inline-MountTom-ActionForHealthyHolyokeThis amounts to a stunning turnabout in Massachusetts’ energy landscape in just two years. We can all breathe a little easier knowing that the state’s coal plants will soon be no more than a memory. This remarkable change is in large part a reflection of the success of the restructuring of the way the electric markets work. The restructured market that first got underway in the mid-1990s exposed coal plant owners to the markets in a way that forced them to accept the risks of burning a dirty fuel rather than allowing them to pass that risk onto electric customers. CLF played a leading role on the long path to this remarkable outcome, calling upon a portfolio of effective strategies, including engaging in targeted litigation that compelled coal plant owners’ to control illegal emissions; participating in federal, state, and regional regulatory proceedings; and claiming a seat at the table in planning for the future of our electric grid without coal.

The shutdown of the Commonwealth’s biggest power plant polluters means more than just cleaner and healthier air, however. With coal and other outdated sources of energy in a downward spiral, New England is on the cusp of the most critical inflection point for energy transformation in our region’s history. Even as CLF continues our work to make all of New England coal-free by 2020, we are also working to push investments and incentives to bring new clean-energy technologies online, drive market reform, and grow energy efficiency.

Today, coal is on the brink of no longer being part of the energy mix in Massachusetts, and CLF will work to enforce the law and protect public health to ensure that New Hampshire and Connecticut are not far behind. Our task now turns to making sure that New England’s energy future is one built on clean energy, and not more polluting fossil fuels.

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