In 2015, 14 municipal light departments quietly signed a contract with MMWEC* that was given the subtle moniker Project 2015a.  This allowed for the building of an 85 million dollar oil and gas fueled peaker plant** in Peabody MA. The general population in these 14 towns knew nothing about this project until earlier this year when the Sierra Club publicized what the project was, and that the intent was to break ground on it this Spring.  Understanding the many hazards, and painful absurdity of building a fossil fuel facility in 2021, 350 Mass, along with MCAN, and Community Action Works sprung into action.

The first task, since there was no public vetting of the project, was to educate the communities as to its hazards.

  • The proposed Peabody Power Plant will emit nearly 51,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the air EVERY YEAR! That’s the same as adding 11,000 gas-powered cars to the roads in MA every year. 
  • The proposed gas and oil-powered facility will be half a mile from two #Environmental Justice communities, down the road from the New England Home for the Deaf and Bishop Fenwick High School and in the back yard of Mass General hospital, Danvers.  It will spew particulate matter (pm2.5) which has been proven to aggravate asthma symptoms, heart attacks, stroke, pneumonia, high blood pressure and diabetes.  There is no ‘safe’ threshold level. The plant will require installing a natural gas compressor to increase natural gas pressure, a new 200,000 gallon oil tank, a 90-foot smokestack and a 2,500 to 7,500 gallon new tank to hold either aqueous urea or the hazardous gas, aqueous ammonia. 
  • Massachusetts passed the Next Generation Roadmap Bill, which lines out our states exit from carbon pollution. The bill would make this 85 million dollar facility a stranded asset, leaving the rate payers with bills for it long after it is shut down, and well before its’ ‘useful’ life is exhausted.
  • In the six years since this project was planned, renewable energy and battery facilities have sophisticated by leaps and bounds, making a pivot to a non polluting option completely possible.
  • We almost never see these light departments promoting conservation or active shave the peak programs which could make the plant redundant.

We began writing letters to our local papers, approaching town organizations to offer informational meetings about the plant, directly questioning our light departments commitments to this project, and researching the now viable alternatives.  Many of us offered testimonies at the only public hearing sponsored by the Department of Public Utilities on April 26. Two towns, Chicopee and Holyoke, gave notice that they want out of the contract.

The good news is that on May 10, the Board of Directors of MMWEC authorized a minimum 30-day pause on the dirty Peaker Power Plant, announcing they will spend this time addressing concerns raised by stakeholders and will consider clean, alternative technologies to meet capacity needs.  We understand all too well this doesn’t mean we can sit back, eat bon bons and watch re-runs of sit-coms.  350Mass, MCAN, and Community Action Works will all continue pursuing their strategies, as well as forwarding clean energy options to MMWEC, until 2015a is left where it was conceived and we can build a clean energy future.

If you would like to be involved in this movement:
-Peabody MA citizens: Mireille Bejjani, Western Massachusetts Community Organizer, Community Action Works, [email protected] 
-Mass based organizers: Sarah Dooling, Executive Director, MCAN, [email protected] 
-Sign the petition to stop the proposed Peabody Peaker Plant!
350Mass North Shore Node:  Judith Black  [email protected]
-Finally, you can create a tweet or Facebook post on this issue. On twitter, tag @PeabodyLight and use these hashtags:
  • #CleanthePeak and #CleanthePeak
  • #StopPeabodyPeaker
  • #EnvironmentalJusticeCommunities

*Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company: A non-profit, public corporation and political subdivision of the Commonwealth of MA that is empowered to issue tax exempt revenue bonds to finance ownership interests in energy facilities.

**A peaker plant is an energy power plant that generally runs only when there is a high demand, known as peak demand, for electricity. This is in contrast to the constant power needed by the electrical grid known as the base load.

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Environmental storyteller