Photo courtesy MCAN
Remarks delivered by Susan Smoller at the hearing held by The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection at the Torigian Senior Center in Peabody on December 7 on the plan of the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Company (MMWEC) to control the emission of carbon dioxide from the Peabody peaker, now under construction at the Waters River Facility of the Peabody Municipal Light Plant. [In photo, L/R: Susan Smoller and Ron Smoller, leading members of Breathe Clean North Shore]
Good Evening. I‘m Susan Smoller. I am a 37-year resident of Peabody living at 3 Lowman Circle and I am a co-founder of Breathe Clean North Shore, a grassroots group fighting against MMWEC’s new peaker as well as the two existing peaker plants at the same site on Pulaski Street. We are happy to welcome you to Peabody. This is a new experience for us since the siting process for this plant was not very transparent.
Thank you to all of you for coming tonight in solidarity with your Peabody friends. We extend a particularly warm welcome to our neighbors across the river in Danvers’ only environmental justice area —they breathe the same air we do in Peabody’s eight environmental justice areas. We, the communities of the Waters River, share the health impacts of living with cumulative environmental pollution
resulting from industrial development around the Waters River for more than a century. Danvers is not a member of MMWEC, and receives nothing but risk from the peaker plants on Pulaski Street.
Another warm welcome to our neighbors from Salem, and their City Council, who recently issued a resolution against the new peaker plan. And our friends from Marblehead who also oppose the peakers.
I also want to give a shout out to the officials who have joined us here tonight: Representative Sally Kerans, Councilors Tom Gould and Stephanie Peach as well as Sharon Cameron, Director of the Peabody Board of Health.
Why does the air monitoring plan under consideration not apply to the entire Waters River Station—all three polluting peakers, instead of only the new peaker? The new plant appears to rely heavily on sharing PMLP resources, in addition to sharing the use of the City’s land. The new plant is an add-on designed to share facilities and maintenance support with PMLP including: to provide the new plant with natural gas via the Waters River site’s connection; to allow the new plant to connect with the regional high voltage transmission system by connecting to a PMLP substation; to share a new 200,000 gallon oil storage tank with both facilities.
Why does the monitoring plan focus solely on CO2 ? How are other byproducts of the plant monitored, such as NOX and PM2.5?
Don’t the residents of the Environmental Justice areas surrounding the plants deserve a plan that monitors all the pollution being created by the plants, not just the one under construction? BCNS has requested several times that PMLP provide information on when the existing plants run and what they are burning - to no avail. We continue to request that information in hopes of adding it to the data from Purple Air sensors the Peabody Board of Health received with funding from the DEP and to help identify how running the plants on different fuels contributes to our high rate of emergency room visits for asthma.
Please require MMWEC to provide a regular report to the public on when the new plant runs and what it is burning as well as the monitoring results.
Please also require that MMWEC publish when the new plant is tested since it requires the plant to run continuously for a number of hours. We have requested the same of PMLP regarding the two existing peakers, again—to no avail.
Without a complete picture of the air quality around the plant, how can we follow “the 2021 Massachusetts Climate Roadmap law and a 2021 update to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Environmental Justice policy mandating increased protections for low-income communities of color.” The plants are within a minority EJ area and largely surrounded by EJ areas.
The communities along the Waters River are disproportionately impacted by pollution—as highlighted by MCAN’s preliminary health analysis of the areas within a 1.2 mile radius of the plants. The prevalence of disease in these areas is significantly higher compared to the rest of the state. We have higher rates of stroke, chronic kidney disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and coronary heart disease. MCAN’s study highlights the need for additional analysis.
It’s been 8 years since the new peaker was proposed. Life has changed. 2022 is not the time to be investing in new oil-and-gas infrastructure now that battery storage is a viable alternative and there are new renewable alternatives. Our environmental justice areas have increased since 2015.
We can only hope you will act as the state did recently when the Massachusetts Office of Appeals and Dispute Resolution revoked a permit for the proposed site of a wood-energy plant in Springfield. The appeals office said “recent societal context and heightened focus on Environmental Justice” played a role in their decision. I believe decisions about Peabody’s peakers should reflect the same issues: recent societal context and heightened focus on environmental justice.
The burden that neighboring communities are already facing is clear. Do not further exacerbate these impacts. The Peabody Peaker project should not be permitted to move forward especially if no community health impact assessment is conducted. Instead of adding to the burden of the community, we should be reducing it. The city of Peabody and the PMLP should look to retire not one, but both of the existing facilities that are currently polluting and harming affected neighborhoods.
Thank you for holding this hearing tonight and restoring my faith in the public hearing process.