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News ::
Gov. Cellucci backs down on promise to clean up dirtiest Mass. power plants
23 Feb 2001
Modified: 24 Feb 2001
In 1998, Governor Cellucci promised to impose strict new emissions limits on Massachusetts' old coal- and oil-burning power plants. On February 15, 2001, however, the Boston Globe reported that now "the Cellucci administration is considering gutting new pollution limits for the state's dirtiest power plants, under heavy pressure from plant owners."
The Filthy Five -- plants in Somerset, Salem, Sandwich, Everett, and Holyoke -- are not required to meet current emissions standards because they were built before 1977. According to the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, these five plants account for two thirds of CO2 emissions and 90% of total pollution from power plants in Massachusetts; forcing them to meet modern standards would be equivalent to taking more than 750,000 cars off the road.

Harvard School of Public Health reports that the pollution from the Brayton Point and Salem Harbor power plants are responsible for 159 deaths and over 43,000 asthma attacks/year; mercury contamination of freshwater fish is so severe that there is a statewide public health advisory warning pregnant women and children not to eat the fish due to mercury contamination; and that these plants are the largest sources of heat-trapping climate change gases and acid rain pollutants in the state.

Massachusetts Climate Action Network's Michael Charney has said that "conversion of these extremely dirty plants to gas turbine generation (or shutting them down altogether) could be the single greatest contribution we in Massachusetts can make to reducing greenhouse gas emissions this decade."

Last May, after two years of negotiations, the power plant owners agreed to voluntary emissions reductions, conversion to cleaner fuels and other pollution-controil measures. The state pledged to draw up mandatory regulations to insure compliance, with a deadline of 2003. These regulations, now months overdue, have yet to appear, and sources report that the administration may consider pushing the deadline back to 2007 or 2010, or simply allowing voluntary compliance by the plant owners.

Power plant officials argue that strict regulations might result in power shortages and blackouts like those recently experienced in California, as plants are closed down or taken out of service during conversion. Activists, however, have dismissed these charges as irresponsible fear-mongering.

Richard Kennelly, director of the Energy Project for the Conservation Law Foundation, points out that Massachusetts has 27,000 megawatts of capacity, compared to peak expected demand of 24,500 in the next few years. Furthermore, there are about 20 new gas plants under construction that will provide an additional 10,000 megawatts of power.

Environmental groups across the state have launched a campaign to demand that Governor Cellucci and Lt. Governor Swift release strict final regulations. Clean Water Action's letter-writing guidelines are posted at, along with copies of the Globe article and a 1998 article detailing Cellucci's promises.

Massachusetts Public Research Interest Group (MassPIRG) has detailed information on the pollution on the five plants and their health and environmental effects at
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27 Feb 2001
You can also e-mail and fax the Gov. SEVERAL TIMES EACH AND EVERY DAY at:
Fax: (617)727-9725
E-mail: GOffice (at)