Prepared for presentation at Brooksby Village on March 6, 2023. An estimated 177 persons attended. The other guest speakers were Senator Lovely, Logan Malik, and Jim Mulloy.
Hello, Brooksby Village! I’m Jerry Halberstadt, a co-founder of Breathe Clean North Shore and Coordinator of Healthy Air Peabody.
Thank you to our hosts, Tracie Bettano, Bardwell Salmon, the BBV Climate Change Group, and the Brooksby Village Concerned Citizens Group. I am proud to be here with my partners in advocacy, Senator Lovely, Logan Malik, and Jim Mulloy.
What a wonderful oasis this community provides! Tell me, is Brooksby Village a great place to live?
Burning fossil fuel warms the climate and creates disease, that’s why we fought to stop the Peabody peaker and protect the already burdened people living nearby.
Did the Peabody peaker plant protests succeed? Yes! Although it is being built, we made sure it will be the last new peaker fueled by oil and gas.
We all want our family to enjoy good health. We all want to breathe healthy air, avoid illness, and live a long, happy life.
Pollution poisons our air, makes us sick, and kills some of us. Pollution is caused by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas in our homes, factories, and cars. That same pollution adds to climate warming.
Pollution harms me. I have asthma and carry an inhaler everywhere. Please raise your hand if you are part of the same club.
Children and elderly are most at risk from disease caused by pollution. In 2019, Peabody was a leader in deaths from heart disease (20), cancer (23), stroke (2), and COPD. Even brief periods of high levels of pollution can cause heart attacks, increased episodes of cardiac arrhythmia, and increased episodes of acute asthma in both children and adults. A new study reports that “air pollution is a potential risk factor for late-onset depression.”
The proposed [peaker] plant is within 2km of eight block groups that meet Massachusetts’ [Environmental Justice] criteria in Peabody, Salem, and Danvers. On average, census tracts in the focus area have significantly higher prevalence of cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke, adjusting for prevalence of smoking, lack of health insurance, EJ status, and total population. Significantly more people <5 years and ≥65 years live in the focus area than outside of the focus area.—Rodgers MPH, Kathryn, Pollution, People, and Powerplants: Health Burdens in Peabody, MA, November 1, 2022. Mass Climate Action Network
How can we make a difference about climate change? How can we ensure a better future for our children and our grandchildren? How can we protect our health?
Monitoring Air Quality
How do we fight an invisible threat? Air pollution is not visible, so we need a way to observe it.
Sudi and Ron Smoller, the dynamic duo of Breathe Clean North Shore, worked with Sharon Cameron, Director of the Peabody Health Department to obtain and install 7 air quality monitors in Peabody. The Air Quality (AQ) monitors measure the ambient level of PM2.5, tiny invisible particles of pollution that enter the lung and the blood. We now have a tool to create awareness of the invisible danger from pollution.
The levels of PM2.5 pollution in Peabody are dangerous to our health, says Philip J. Landrigan, an internationally recognized expert on the relationship between air pollution and disease.
The level of PM2.5 at Brooksby is similar to what we see in the rest of Peabody. Today at 12:40 pm just outside this building it is at PM2.5 18 and the nearby AQ monitor reads PM2.5 ~11. We can see the PM2.5 levels in real time. We can use portable monitors to evaluate our indoor pollution levels.
Healthy Air Peabody
We can mitigate the harm and protect ourselves by limiting our exposure to pollution. The Healthy Air Peabody is a program to address the health burdens of pollution in all of Peabody by partnering with local groups.
Community groups like yours at Brooksby Village can promote awareness of pollution and learn about ways to mitigate the health burden. If you want, we can work together with Bardwell Salmon and the BBV Climate Change Group to develop solutions.
One cure for our health and our climate
We need to address all sources of pollution from burning fossil fuel for energy, not just the Peaker plants: highways with dense traffic, a freight train that runs right through Peabody Square, airplanes on their way to Logan Airport, industry, home heating and cooking.
Traffic requires a policy solution. We can influence policy, just reach out to Representative Kerans and Senator Lovely.
There are programs to support weatherizing homes and replacing gas appliances with electric, including the Massachusetts Building Electrification Accelerator.
Stop the Peabody Peaker!
The companies that produce, distribute, and sell electric power use fossil fuel for so-called reliability and to keep costs low.
Their business goals lack a moral dimension: what about pollution and the health burden? What about the climate? What about our children and grandchildren?
We heard the heavy footsteps of the approaching fire-breathing monster, the Peabody peaker, two years ago. We few, members of Breathe Clean North Shore and our many allies have spoken, shouted, demonstrated, and hunger-struck.
We protested against building a polluting power plant in order to preserve the climate and protect the people of Peabody, Danvers, and Salem.
Protests are theater that makes news. Steve Andrada made a wicked good documentary film, do watch it. I wrote about the issues and made photos to document our efforts.
Our efforts became part of a state-wide campaign and our protests resulted in media coverage. We are very few, but we have many coalition partners, and we made huge progress. We were without a clue when we started, but we learned as we went along. People were eager to help.
What have we gained and learned from our two years of protesting the peaker plant? We have demonstrated how a few ordinary people can work together to do the impossible.
Although the plant is being built today, we’ve made it unlikely for any other fossil fuel peaker to be built. And we have added new strategies.
One of our group, Tracy Valletti, was appointed to a vacant seat on the board of the Peabody Municipal Light Plant (PMLP) by a vote of the City Council and PMLP board. She will guide the PMLP to be more responsive to health and climate.
Some energy problems are systemic and must be addressed by changes in law, in regulatory systems, and in oversight. Senator Lovely and Representative Kerans have filed a bill to reform the agency (MMWEC) that created the Peabody peaker. Please put your hands together for our legislative partners, Joan Lovely and Sally Kerans.
Judith Black is working to develop small forests in several communities of the North Shore, called Miyawaki forests that will help clean the air, create awareness of the climate, and build community.
I invite each of you gathered here today to join us to work on health and climate issues right here in Brooksby, in Peabody, or at the state and national levels. Bard Salmon and the Climate Change Group will be a great resource for you. We are ready to be your partners.
See what a few people have done already, proving that each one of us can make a difference.
Together, anything is possible! We need you! Will you join us? Raise your hands! Let us hear your voice!!
What do we want— clean air! When do we want it—now!
Senator Lovely then showed a series of photographs of the demonstrations against the Peabody peaker.
Photos Copyright 2023 Jerry Halberstadt