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January 29, 2014

Toward a Coal-Free Massachusetts

By O'Neil Pryce, Masachusetts Beyond Coal Apprentice

O'Neil-PryceIt is estimated that over 215 premature deaths and more than 5,000 public health incidents in Massachusetts each year are directly linked to pollution from coal-fired power plants. Though Massachusetts is noted as a leader in environmental stewardship and climate change mitigation, we still have room for growth.

With the recently-announced retirement of the Brayton Point coal plant in 2017, and with coal becoming increasingly unviable economically, we are urging our elected officials to join us in creating sustainable infrastructure to help transition workers and communities to a clean energy economy. Our Coal Free Massachusetts Platform does just that while calling for the implementation of energy-efficient technology and clean renewable-energy sources.

In mid-January, in a effort to gain support for our platform and mimic what the Sierra Club and other environmental advocates and activists did in Nevada, we met with senior staff of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to ask their help in moving Massachusetts to a clean-energy economy. To make these meetings a success we had several voices present to help convey our message.

Annie Rushman, Healthy Air Coordinator for the American Lung Association, emphasized the importance of retiring coal in Massachusetts due to the detrimental effects to the health of constituents, especially those living in close proximity to plants like Brayton Point and Mount Tom.

Michael Green of the Clean Action Liaison Coalition described the costly effects extreme weather has on small businesses. Each day these small businesses have to keep their doors closed due to weather-related incidents means a drastic loss in revenue.

Matt Lord, an attorney and Sierra Club volunteer, explained the importance of investing in wind energy and supporting the Production Tax Credit, which keeps electric rates low while encouraging renewable development.

James McCaffrey, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in New England, stressed the importance of support from our congressional delegation. With their support we can move Massachusetts beyond coal.

I discussed the green economy and the great growth we've been experiencing here in Massachusetts. In recent years, we have seen the creation of over 4,000 clean energy firms employing over 71,000 individuals. That being said we urge champions like Senator Warren and Markey to help us continue this growth in the Commonwealth.

Overall, both senators' offices were receptive to the information we presented, and both meetings seem to be leading to further dialogue between the two offices.

Senate-MeetingAbove, left to right: Matt Lord, Mike Green, Annie Rushman, O'Neil Pryce, and Jay McCaffrey.

Learn more about the Sierra Club's work to move America beyond coal.

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