No Peabody Gas Power Plant!
Boston, MA - On Wednesday, November 17th at 10:00 AM over 30 advocates and community leaders from the North Shore gathered at the headquarters of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to demand that state officials do their job and protect Environmental Justice Communities living in the North Shore cities of Peabody, Danvers and Salem. The action was in response to a proposal by the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC) to build a new oil and gas Peaker power plant directly in an environmental justice community in the city of Peabody.
Community leaders came to Boston to deliver a petition signed by over 1,200 people across the state calling on the EEA and Secretary Katie Theoharides to re-open the MEPA process and require that an environmental impact report (EIR) be conducted - something that would be legally required had the project gone through the MEPA process after the implementation of the Next Generation Climate Roadmap Bill. It also asks EEA to conduct or support local government in conducting a Community Health Impact Assessment (CHIA) to understand the project's health impact on an already overburdened community.
The community members amplified their message through song and street theater: a Peabody resident, coughing from the pollution of a prop power plant, tried desperately to get the attention of an advocate playing the role of Secretary Theoharides, to no avail. The scene was meant to highlight the lack of attention that the Baker Administration has paid to calls from the community to conduct further studies prior to allowing the dirty Peaker power plant's construction to move forward.
To highlight the lack of dialogue and engagement that has been afforded to concerned residents by the Baker Administration, advocates brought along "Cardboard Katie," a cardboard cutout of Secretary Theoharides who calls herself "Climate Katie" on Twitter. Three community leaders spoke in favor of re-opening the MEPA process including Sudi Smoller (Co-founder of Breath Clean North Shore), Dr. Adrienne S. Allen (Senior Medical Director of Quality Safety and Sustainability at the North Shore Physicians Group), and Representative Sally Kerans (D-Danvers).
Despite giving prior notice, expressing a clear non-violent intent, and requesting a meeting with Secretary Theoharides, the residents of Peabody were not permitted to enter the EEA's office to deliver their petition. Instead, two representatives took the signatures with a promise to deliver them to Secretary Theoharides.
The Project, known as Project 2015A, Proposed by the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company, was planned to be built on land owned by the City of Peabody with the intent of providing peak power from natural gas and oil to t12 municipal utilities located throughout the Commonwealth: Peabody, Boylston, Holden Hull, Mansfield, Marblehead, Shrewsbury, South Hadley, Sterling, Wakefield, West Boylston, and Russell.
Since MMWEC filed its request for financing, Holyoke and Chicopee have submitted requests to withdraw from the project.
According to applications for permits, Special Project 2015A will emit nearly 51,000 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year - the equivalent of adding 11,000 combustion engine cars to Massachusetts' roads each year. Furthermore, the peaker plant will require installing a natural gas compressor to increase natural gas pressure, a 90-foot smokestack and a 2,500 to 7,500 gallon new tank to hold aqueous urea. This project would have a highly detrimental impact on our environment and climate, and would continue to harm neighboring environmental justice communities with worsening air pollution and continued poor health.
In August, the Department of Public Utilities approved financing of $180 million worth of bonds for a gas and oil powered peaker plant to be built in Peabody, directly in an environmental justice neighborhood and less than a mile from 8 other environmental justice communities. While no other permits are require, the EEA has the ability to require more investigation of this plant by re-opening the MEPA process. This would require that an EIR for this proposal was conducted. Because the MEPA process was conducted 6 years ago, this was not required. EEA could also support undergoing a CHIA.
Re-opening the MEPA process to require an EIR and conducting a CHIA would align with the request of Peabody public health officials who, in June 2021, sent a letter to the Baker administration calling for further assessment prior to building the project. Similar calls have been made by the Danvers Board of Health and the Holden Board of Health, and are being considered by several other Boards of Health in participating communities.
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