Clean Energy Groups Outraged Over Decision on Somerset Coal Plant: Final DEP Permit Lets Plant’s Owners Off the Hook, Extends Global Warming Pollution for Decades - Conservation Law Foundation

Clean Energy Groups Outraged Over Decision on Somerset Coal Plant: Final DEP Permit Lets Plant’s Owners Off the Hook, Extends Global Warming Pollution for Decades

Brian Barth Brian Barth

Colin Durrant, CLF Director of Communications

Boston, MA (January 24, 2008) – The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today gave the green light for one of Massachusetts’ last remaining coal plants to continue releasing harmful greenhouse gas emissions into the air, ignoring a previous commitment to shut down the plant or reduce all emissions. Outraged environmentalists and local community activists called the decision unacceptable and said that it significantly undermined the state’s global warming policy.

In a final permit issued by DEP, the Commonwealth said it would allow the Somerset Station power plant to adopt experimental coal plasma gasification technology and continue releasing carbon dioxide at current levels. The decision runs contrary to a 2007 policy adopted by the Patrick Administration to reduce global warming pollution. It also allows the plant’s owners to ignore a longstanding requirement to shut down or re-power the plant with cleaner emissions by 2010 – a commitment that had been made in order to meet the “Filthy Five” regulations.

“We are outraged by this decision,” said Dave Dionne of Green Futures in Somerset. “This community has endured the presence of coal-fired power plants for decades. Prolonging the life of one of these plants in our backyard is a clear example of environmental injustice. Public opposition is really mounting — this fight is far from over.”

The DEP’s decision represents the latest step in the Patrick Administration’s unwillingness to protect against backsliding on global warming pollution from the Somerset Plant. Earlier this month, despite the warnings of prominent climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, Energy and Environment Secretary Ian Bowles rejected a petition filed by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Clean Water Action, the Toxics Action Center and Environment Massachusetts requesting a full-scale environmental review to assess the impact of the Somerset proposal on greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

“It’s incomprehensible to us that the Patrick Administration has allowed one of the state’s oldest coal power plants to backtrack on its promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and instead has given it the go-ahead to continue releasing unacceptable amounts of harmful carbon dioxide into the air,” said Shanna Vale, a CLF staff attorney. “Today’s decision turns a blind eye to the Administration’s own policy on global warming pollution and takes us a step backward in our collective duty to minimize the catastrophic public health and environmental impacts of climate change.”

“This decision is a clear step backward for clean energy in Massachusetts. The failure of the Department of Environmental Protection to hold the plant owners to their original commitment to either re-power with cleaner fuel or shut down is deeply disappointing, particularly since the proposed technology is untested and has never been applied to coal burning in this country,” said Katy Krottinger, Clean Energy Organizer at Clean Water Action.

“At a time when we should be reducing our global warming pollution, the DEP’s decision is disappointing because it could commit Massachusetts to another half century of burning coal and delays progress towards a new, clean energy future,” said Ben Wright at Environment Massachusetts.

“There’s nothing clean about coal. This decision takes us in the wrong direction on clean energy policy and protecting public health,” said Sylvia Broude, a community organizer at the Toxics Action Center

ABOUT COAL GASIFICATION: Coal plasma gasification – a process which breaks down coal into gas before turning it into energy – reduces other pollutants, such as mercury, but results in the continued release of carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global warming. Carbon dioxide emissions can theoretically be reduced using carbon capture and storage, however because of geology and other considerations that technology that is not viable in New England.


The Conservation Law Foundation works to solve the environmental problems that threaten the people, natural resources and communities of New England. CLF’s advocates use law, economics and science to design and implement strategies that conserve natural resources, protect public health, and promote vital communities in our region. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization. It has offices in Boston, Massachusetts; Concord, New Hampshire; Providence, Rhode Island; Montpelier, Vermont; and Brunswick, Maine.