Our Line in the Sand: A Peabody Peaker Update

Submitted by Jerry Halberstadt on Mon, 10/17/2022 - 22:54
Judith Black speaks to the die-in rally at Danversport Bridge

Guest article by Judith Black

Black delivered these remarks at a die-in rally at the Danversport Bridge on September 27, 2022.

At a time when cities throughout the nation are closing their peaker plants and replacing them with battery storage sourced from clean energy, a new peaker plant is being built in Peabody, MA. [Peaker plants provide electric power during times of exceptional "peak" need for electricity.]

Mass Municipal Wholesale Light Company (MMWEC), the semi-governmental organization that develops energy projects for Municipal Light Departments, designed Project 2015a in, well yes, 2015. But it wasn’t until 2020 that any of us knew this was to be an oil and gas peaker plant, to be operated by the Peabody Municipal Light Plant. on a property smack in the center of an environmental justice zone, that already houses 2 dirty peakers.

There was absolutely no public or stakeholder engagement. It simply appeared as an enigmatic line item on most Municipal’s agendas. All the permitting flew under the radar as well, with the public alerted only in time to advocate at the very last hearing, about funding, where despite a tidal wave of citizen protest, and failed efforts by Mass Climate Action Network (MCAN) to gain intervenor status, the project was granted up to 85 million in tax-free bonds to cover the building and initial running of the plant.

Why This Project is a Bad Idea

Fourteen Municipal Light Departments bought into the Peabody Peaker, and for over 2 years, two of them, Chicopee, and Holyoke, have been trying to sell their shares and exit the project.  There have been no buyers.  Why?  A closer look will tell you that rate payers will still be forking out for this facility long after it is forced to close, in adherence to our state's new de-carbonization guidelines, making it a Stranded Asset. The $85M projected cost of 2015A is 53%-102% higher than what the capital cost per kW of a gas peaking plant normally is. (Lazard's Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis - Version 15.0, Lazard.)

The negative health implications for the people of Peabody and Danvers are well documented. Dr. Adrien Allen, the MGH North Shore director of quality, safety, and sustainability affirms that burning fossil fuels causes heart attacks, stroke, respiratory illness, asthma exacerbations, pre-term labor and premature deaths, making this a sacrifice zone.  Oh yes, the plants is literally being built across the Waters River, about 1/4 mile from MGH.  If the hospital is yearning for repeat business, this plant will ensure it. 

Finally, the reason most of us from 350 Mass, who live outside the immediate area, are involved—it will spew 51,000 tons of CO2 a year, plus emit the climate damaging results of more gas/methane infrastructure.  

For 2 years we have asked MMWEC to pivot to batteries for this project.

For 2 years we have lobbied ISO-NE to change the composition of the forward capacity market to include large amounts of renewable energy.***

For 2 years we have asked the MLPs that bought into project 2015a to pull out.

For 2 years we have been writing to the Secretaries of  the Mass Dept. of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Katie Theorihides. and now Beth Card, including the hand delivery of 1400 petitions from local citizens, asking for them to actually undertake the required health and safety studies that this project requires to assure the wellbeing of citizens.

This past March, six 350 Mass members undertook an eight day hunger strike to bring attention to this atrocity.

For 2 years, along with partners from MCAN, Breathe Clean North Shore, Community Action Works, and Slingshot, we have held rallies and protests to bring attention to 2015a.

For 2 years all the systems at play have been deaf to our concerns.

Well, we will not be quiet and say ‘oh just one more small plant.’  

This is our line in the sand.

Our latest action on 9/27 was a die-in at the Danversport Bridge and we will continue to work at every possible inflection point.  From our governmental representatives to regulatory agencies, to pressure on the invested MLPs, to direct action, we will endeavor to stop the building, reconsider the project, and move it to one that will emit zero emissions. 

Would you like be involved?  Contact: Judith Black or see Breathe Clean North Shore on Facebook.