Power plants are nation’s biggest contributors to global warming, putting Massachusetts communities in harm’s way

Media Releases

Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center

Environment Massachusetts field associate Ben Hellerstein, local elected officials, and coalition partners release America’s Dirtiest Power Plants in East Boston on September 10, 2013. (From left to right: Ben Hellerstein, field associate for Environment Massachusetts; Councilor Mike Ross, Boston 8th district; Councilor Sal LaMattina, Boston 1st district; Councilor Mike O’Malley, Boston 6th district; Kim Foltz, director of community building and environment for Neighborhood of Affordable Housing) 

Click here to read the full report, America’s Dirtiest Power Plants.


Boston, MA – As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy nears, a new report from Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center sheds light on the largest contributors to global warming pollution: power plants. Scientists predict that global warming will lead to even more frequent and severe extreme weather events like Sandy unless we act soon to curb emissions from power plants and other sources. 

“Nearly a year has passed since Hurricane Sandy, and as residents of the Bay State, we can’t afford to turn a blind eye to global warming,” said Ben Hellerstein, field associate for Environment Massachusetts. “State and local governments in Massachusetts have taken bold steps to cut carbon emissions, but nationwide, power plants remain the largest contributors to global warming. Tackling the problem of global warming means cleaning up the dirtiest power plants in America.”

The report, titled America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, was released at an event today in LoPresti Park in East Boston, featuring City Councilors Matt O’Malley, Mike Ross, and Salvatore LaMattina, who spoke about the importance of addressing climate change for Boston neighborhoods and the city’s efforts to lead the way in reducing carbon emissions.

The report comes as the Obama administration readies a new set of rules to tackle global warming. It illustrates the scale of carbon pollution from Massachusetts’s power sector and ranks the biggest carbon polluters in Massachusetts.

Key findings from the report include:

  • America’s power plants are its single largest source of carbon pollution, responsible for 40 percent of emissions nationwide.
  • In Massachusetts, the top 5 dirtiest power plants for carbon are Mystic Generating Station, Brayton Point, Fore River Generating Station, Millennium Power, and ANP Blackstone Energy Project.
  • The most carbon-polluting power plant in the nation – Georgia Power Company’s Plant Scherer – emits as much carbon pollution as 4.4 million cars.
  • Overall, Massachusetts power plants produce as much carbon each year as 3.8 million cars.

This summer, President Obama directed his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, the largest single source of carbon pollution. In a major step, EPA is expected to propose an updated rule for cutting carbon pollution from new power plants on September 20. Americans have already submitted over 3.2 million public comments in support of limiting carbon pollution from power plants. 

“For nearly 400 years, the Harbor has been a pillar of Boston’s economy and a natural treasure,” said City Councilor Matt O’Malley. “But because our city grew up so close to the water, we are especially at risk from the effects of global warming. That’s why the City of Boston is doing its part to fight global warming, and why I urge federal officials to act now to reduce carbon pollution from power plants across the country.”

City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina added, “Everyone should be concerned about global warming, especially the residents who live in my district, which includes East Boston, the North End and Charlestown. A major storm like Hurricane Sandy would devastate those neighborhoods. Hundreds of residents would end up without heat or electricity. Seawater that gets into the tunnels or on the Blue line track would isolate East Boston from the mainland. This is a real issue that should not be taken lightly.”

Massachusetts is one of nine states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a historic plan to cap carbon pollution from power plants in the northeast. Already, RGGI has generated over $1 billion for investment in energy efficiency. Now, Massachusetts leaders are working to adopt stronger rules that will reduce carbon emissions 20 percent.

Additionally, the City of Boston has created innovative programs to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions. Renew Boston, a city initiative, provides building energy assessments and connects tenants and homeowners with energy efficiency companies. Recently, the City Council passed the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance to require large and medium-sized buildings to report their electricity and water use each year to the city, as a way to encourage participation in energy efficiency programs.

According to a study from the Boston Harbor Association (Preparing for the Rising Tide, February 2013), global warming will make New England more vulnerable to floods, as higher sea levels enable waves and storm surges to penetrate further inland. One scenario (assuming 2.5 feet of sea level rise, which could happen within the next 50 years) shows that storm surges could overtop the Charles River Dam and flood parts of Cambridge and Back Bay, in addition to East Boston and other low-lying communities along Boston Harbor.

“There’s a lot we can do on the local level to reduce our environmental impact,” said Kim Foltz, director of community building and environment for Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, a community development corporation based in East Boston. “But climate change is a problem that’s too big for any one city to solve. If we’re going to prevent a major climate disaster for East Boston and other communities across the Commonwealth, we need federal action now.”


Click here to read the full report from the Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center.