Climate Law Urgently Needs Legislative Oversight

Submitted by Jerry Halberstadt on Mon, 08/16/2021 - 17:52
Bullfinch Gate, State House on Beacon Hill, Boston

August 17, 2021

Hon. Chairs, Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, Senator Michael J. Barrett and Representative Jeffrey Roy

Dear Senator Barrett and Representative Roy,

In stark violation of the Climate Law, Acts of 2021, Ch. 8 S. 15, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) on August 12 approved the request of the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC) to borrow $85 million to finance building the project 2015A peaker plant slated to be sited at the Waters River, at the Peabody/Danvers border, with the option to refinance at a later date.

The provisions of the Climate Law should have required a comprehensive health and environmental review with consideration of reliability, equity, and impact on the climate, not just cost, before proceeding.

We urge you and your colleagues to investigate the actions of the DPU and the Baker administration, do all in your power to halt the plant, and require a comprehensive review of the plant and alternative solutions to assure the capacity obligations of municipal power plants.

We must have effective accountability and oversight to assure the rights of citizens under law. With brave exceptions, our elected civic and state leaders, right up to the Governor, have looked the other way. No state administrative agency has acted to protect the health and welfare of citizens in this matter. Even though the municipal light plants and MMWEC are insulated from direct interference, our leaders have at least a moral obligation to speak out on behalf of the welfare of their constituents.

We are concerned that project 2015A may have been “grandfathered” and exempted from the climate law. Municipal light plants and MMWEC must not be exempted from laws and regulations that are vital to the well-being of citizens of the Commonwealth.

A statewide network of concerned citizens opposes the plant. Members and supporters of the Peabody-based group, Breathe Clean North Shore, have been canvassing in the neighborhoods near the Waters River facility and at the Market Basket in Danvers, in sight of that location. When people learn how close the plant will be to their homes and schools, they are shocked. When they learn about the harm that will come to their health and their environment; as well as exacerbating the climate crisis, they are surprised and concerned, and express their opposition to the project. Over 500 signatures on a petition urging a halt to the plant were delivered on August 12, 2021 to Matthew H. Nelson, Chair of the DPU commission.

The plant is a very bad investment risk. The main income of the plant would be from ISO-NE to assure capacity, and ISO-NE uses an auction system to award capacity contracts to low-cost providers. Industry sources predict lean margins for the next decade because of low capacity payments for new fossil fuel plants in the ISO-NE area, potentially not providing the income to reliably cover interest payments. Within a few years, offshore wind will be plentiful, reliable, and competitive in cost. Project 2015A will be a stranded asset.

$30 million is already spent or committed, and if the plant project were to end today, the average Peabody ratepayer would be hit with a $400 obligation; if the plant is built, it will likely be an obsolete stranded asset within a few years, and then the Peabody ratepayer will have a bill for $1,000. The annual social cost of the carbon pollution, figured at a nominal $100/ton, is on the order of $5.1 million.

We made a formal request for information to MMWEC, seeking to review the contracts for planning and construction of the peaker plant, which was denied. And we asked to examine the lifetime projected levelized costs. The information received was not responsive and would not justify a prudent person’s investing in the project.

The “Code Red” of the climate crisis report just published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is echoed in the “Code Blue” in our public health. Massachusetts’ energy regulations must stringently restrict the amount of carbon dioxide that the state emits. We urge—cease building new fossil fuel infrastructure; cease energy production through existing fossil fuel infrastructure; and increase renewable energy sources, like solar and wind.

There are more reliable, less expensive options that do not depend on fossil fuel to meet the capacity obligations of municipal light plants, options that would not increase greenhouse gas emissions, that would not endanger the public health, and that would not pollute the environment. There is much that could be done by each local community in partnership with electricity suppliers like the municipal light plants. 

Peabody area legislators, Representatives Tom Walsh, Sally Kerans, and Senator Joan B. Lovely have testified about the lack of transparency in the development of the peaker project, and Representative Kerans has been relentless in seeking accountability.

Surely there are many legislators who would welcome and support hearings and legislation to assure that Governor Baker and state agencies will follow the laws that seek to mitigate the awful harm that comes from pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Thank you for your consideration.


Jerry Halberstadt
Peabody, member of Breathe Clean North Shore & Coordinator,

Ron Smoller, Peabody, member of Breathe Clean North Shore

Tracy M. Valletti, MS, Owner/Managing Partner Northeast Care Management and Consultants, LLC; Candidate for Peabody Municipal Light Plant Commissioner; Breathe Clean North Shore Member

Judith Black, Marblehead, founding board member of Sustainable Marblehead and active member of 350Mass

Mireille Bejjani, Western Massachusetts Community Organizer at Community Action Works

Mary Jane Else, South Hadley

Gretchen Schultz-Ellison, Shrewsbury, member of EmergencyEverywhereShrewsbury

Andra Rose, Amherst, member of Mothers Out Front

Phil Thayer, Chair,

Elliott Place, Member Hingham Climate Action Planning Committee and Hingham Net Zero

The Rev. Mimi Hollister, Marblehead, Retired Clergy; Member of League of Women Voters of Marblehead

Denis Mahoney, Holden

Janet Miller, Concord, Member, Comprehensive Sustainability and Energy Committee

LaurieAnn Doucette-Wright, Holliston, Public Benefits Advocate for Low Income Families and Advocate for Children with Special Needs

Mark Dullea, Peabody, Urban Planner/Climate Journalist

Jane Dye, Holden, Citizens for Holden’s Energy Future

Barbara Treacy, Peabody, member Breathe Clean North Shore


"I am short of breath, I can't walk."

Peabody Board of Health Seeks Health & Environmental Review of Peaker Plant

Strategen Consulting, Assessment of Potential Energy Storage Alternatives for Project 2015A in Peabody, Massachusetts, Clean Energy Group, Massachusetts Climate Action Network, July, 2021