SALEM — With the aging smokestacks of Salem Harbor Station as a backdrop, local and state environmental leaders announced the formation of a new statewide coalition yesterday, with the aim of shutting down the last coal power plants in the state.
The Salem plant is already slated to close by 2014. The new group, called Coal Free Massachusetts, wants to close similar plants in Somerset and Holyoke by 2020.
“We are leading the way for the rest of the country toward safer and healthier ways of developing energy, and moving away from the harmful ways of the past,” said Michelle Gottlieb, a Marblehead Board of Health member who is also a member of HealthLink, a local environmental advocacy group. “We’re all very excited about this statewide effort.”
Coal Free Massachusetts is a broad coalition of local environmental groups such as HealthLink and Salem Alliance for the Environment (SAFE), as well as state and national groups such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, 350.org, Massachusetts Climate Action Network and many others. The various groups have been in discussions since the fall about forming a unified anti-coal coalition. Leaders said many small local groups had formed in communities like Salem, but there was a need for a singular powerful voice and vision.
“We thought we should get together and form an umbrella organization ... because if we could all get together and agree on distinct purviews in a larger group, it would be really helpful to a group like SAFE,” said Pat Gozemba, SAFE co-chairwoman.
In Salem, groups like SAFE and HealthLink have been outspoken about the need to close the Dominion-owned power plant, which has been in operation since 1951. The plant will close in 2014 and will likely be replaced by a smaller, cleaner, gas power plant. Footprint Energy has signed an agreement to buy the plant, but the sale is not yet final.