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Ask WMGLD Commissioners to exit the costly and polluting 30-year Peabody Power Plant contract
Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department (WMGLD) is one of an estimated 12 municipal utilities in Massachusetts that, around 2017, quietly agreed to enter into a 30+ year power contract that will enable the construction of a 60 megawatt (MW) oil and natural gas power plant to be located in Peabody, MA (known as MMWEC Special Project 2015A). Municipal utilities work on behalf of their local ratepayers, and yet not a single one of the 12 towns has held a public hearing on a plant which is estimated to:
Emit nearly 51,000 tons of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere every year - the equivalent of adding 11,000 combustion engine cars to Massachusetts' roads/year;
Require the installation of a natural gas compressor to increase natural gas pressure, a new 200,000 gallon oil tank, a 90-foot smokestack and a 2,500 to 7,500 new tank to hold either aqueous urea or the hazardous gas, aqueous ammonia;
Spew tons of particulate matter into a region located within half a mile of two designated environmental justice areas; and
Commit ratepayers to paying for 30 years of high priced power and capacity, at a time when lower cost and cleaner alternatives are readily available and GHG-emitting power is likely to have to pay carbon taxes in the foreseeable future.
Scientists tell us that we stand "on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels" unless we take "unprecedented actions" to cut carbon emissions over the next decade. In January, Governor Baker committed the Commonwealth to an ambitious target of net zero emissions, noting that "meeting this challenge will require bold action and partnership throughout every sector of the economy." Being bold starts at home.
If confronting the existential climate threat isn't compelling enough, consider the high cost and very real financial risk of committing to an oil-fired power plant. In the first debate, now President-elect Joe Biden declared "No one’s going to build another oil fire plant in America. They’re going to move to renewable energy." He can say this because renewable energy is now cost-competitive with conventional fuels. In fact, the cost of energy capacity has declined 62% since Wakefield committed to this project and is expected to continue to fall as offshore wind and other renewables enter the market. Wakefield has other options that will save money without damaging the environment. It is also quite possible that this plant will become a "stranded asset" if laws and regulations are successful at requiring 100% clean energy prior to the Peabody plant being paid off.
Since WMGLD first reviewed the project in 2015, there has been an unprecedented shift in the energy market. Technological advances, scientific revelations, regulatory and political mandates, and falling costs demand that the WMGLD reassess their decision to commit Wakefield ratepayers to a 30-year contract. As a municipal utility, we, the residents and ratepayers of Wakefield, should be fully informed about the true cost of our power sources.
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