Son of Peabody Shines Bright Light on Dark Cloud Thursday night, Steve Andrada’s 40-minute documentary, Stop the Peabody Peaker, premiered at the Torigian Center in Peabody. His opening comments were as inspiring as the film. Andrada spoke of his father, the son of Portuguese immigrants who moved to a heavily industrialized Peabody. “I know that Peabody has been burdened with a lot of environmental injustice over the years, but I thought those days of tanneries and factories was a story of the past.” Then Andrada learned about the Peaker plant to be built in the midst of an environmental injustice zone less than a mile from his home. As a retired TV news videographer, he started to dig.
Stop the Peabody Peaker explains, with clear visuals and words, how a peaker plant is only needed when peak electric use skyrockets and why it is both a poor economic investment and a serious environmental hazard to neighbors, especially in the midst of a global climate crisis. Andrada allows us to discover, along with the earliest activists who catalyzed a movement against this plant, how its planning and permitting were done without any community involvement. Without public knowledge or input, permissions for the peaker plant were granted and MMWEC, a Mass Electric Company, sold shares of this 85-million dollar project to 14 Municipal Light Departments, including Marblehead. For most of these light departments it was a single line on a meeting agenda - Project 2015a – which committed already burdened ratepayers to a plant that will threaten community health, add harmful greenhouse gases to the environment, and because of the standards set by the Massachusetts legislature’s Road Map Bill for decarbonization, will become a stranded asset by the end of the decade that each town will nonetheless be compelled to continue paying for.
It took a town counselor from Wakefield to discover that an air quality permit had just been issued for a new oil/gas power plant in Peabody. Julie Smith-Galvin could find no records of how the plant was proposed, evaluated, or sold to towns; in 2020 all the required permitting had flown under the radar of politicians, environmental advocates, and citizens.
In his film, Andrada shows how a tidal wave of opposition grew out the Massachusetts Sierra Club’s newsletter calling attention the project. He skillfully interviews community leaders, environmental and climate activists, and politicians as they learn, become upset, and then organize to try and stop the peaker plant. Amongst the countless efforts, an alarmed citizenry attended public hearings, made many political appeals, staged multiple protests, supported a group that waged a hunger strike, and attempted to educate the public about the way this plant further burdens a community already suffering from an excess of polluters.
Yet these questions remain: Who is really making these decisions? Why isn’t state government conducting required health and safety studies? Why isn’t the state enforcing its own laws regarding climate justice communities? Why are rate payers being coerced into supporting a hazardous 85-million energy facility when cleaner, safer options are now available through renewable energy and battery storage? Who is making money from this?
Steve Andrada acknowledges the organizations and other film makers who contributed to his work, constructing a unique, collective sense of what is needed to bring about real change in this society. It is now 2023, and the plant, despite the concerted efforts of many, is in the process of being built. This son of Peabody leaves us with an enormous amount of knowledge, painful questions and a renewed determination to see that another fossil fuel plant never goes on line in Massachusetts.
At its premier to a full house, everyone rose to their feet at the conclusion. Andrada has generously made his film available to the public. You can find it online by searching “Stop the Peabody Peaker Plant” on Youtube or at https://youtu.be/_Ur58nZO4oY at https://youtu.be/_Ur58nZO4oY”)
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