SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 13, 2013

Hearing held on bill to phase out coal plants

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — A local environmental leader testified at a Statehouse hearing yesterday on a bill to phase out coal-burning power plants in Massachusetts and to provide support for host communities and plant workers.

Pat Gozemba, co-chairwoman of Salem Alliance for the Environment, testified on a bill filed by state Rep. Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead to phase out coal-fired plants by 2020, support workers at those facilities, and provide assistance to cities and towns where the coal plants are located.

“In Salem, we believe that the right thing for the leaders of Massachusetts to do is provide resources for all of our coal host communities,” said Gozemba, according to a press release from Coal Free Massachusetts, which is made up of a number of environmental groups.

“Salem received assistance with reuse planning and with supporting the community through the loss of a big taxpayer in our city, and Somerset and Holyoke certainly deserve concrete support, too.”

The state funded a $200,000 reuse study for Salem Harbor Station, the city’s coal and oil-fired plant, which is slated to close at the end of May. It also guaranteed to make up for any lost property taxes from the plant over the next few years.

Somerset had two coal plants, including one that has closed and the larger Brayton Point, which has announced plans to shut down. Holyoke is the home of the Mt. Tom coal plant, which has given strong indications of closing.

“After living downwind from a filthy coal plant for my whole life, I am acutely aware of the public health and contamination price paid by host communities,” said Ehrlich, sponsor of An Act to Transition to a Clean Energy Commonwealth. “Helping workers and communities in the transition also presents exciting opportunities to scale up clean renewable power. I couldn’t be more thrilled for Massachusetts.”

The hearing on the bill was held before a committee co-chaired by state Rep. John Keenan of Salem.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.