Governor Deval Patrick See Principles for New Coal Technology
Massachusetts State House
Office of the Governor
Boston, MA 02133 July 10, 2007
Dear Governor Patrick:
Thank you for your leadership to date on advancing clean energy policy and raising the profile of the global warming challenge. In the context of climate policy, the undersigned organizations want to express to you our deep concerns regarding recent efforts by the coal industry, including new coal technology "start-ups", to promote so-called “clean coal” as a global warming solution. We firmly believe that these new coal technologies – coal-to-liquids, integrated gasification combined cycle using coal, and emerging new coal gasification technologies – in their current form would be a step in the wrong direction for Massachusetts and the nation.
Please find attached a set of principles that we believe should guide whether new coal technologies are accepted or rejected by the Commonwealth. In summary:
- New coal energy technologies or facilities should only be allowed in Massachusetts if there is no net increase in emissions of carbon dioxide produced.
- "Sequestration ready" is not a substitute for on-the-ground sequestration of carbon dioxide.
- We should invest first and foremost in truly clean energy, such as efficiency, demand response and renewable energy -- and funding should not be diverted from these clean energy resources to support coal-based technologies.
Consider, for example, current proposals that would have Massachusetts’s ratepayers fund incentives for coal gasification technologies. Even though some developers claim that the carbon dioxide pollution from the gasification process will be “sequestration-ready,” carbon capture and storage technologies are widely considered to be many years (if not decades) away from being proven commercially viable, geologically safe, and feasible in this region. Thus, coal gasification is in conflict with the first two principles stated above.
Opening the door to technologies like coal gasification will lock us into decades of increased carbon emissions. We must be especially cautious in regard to proposals to convert our half-century old coal plants in Massachusetts to “clean coal” technologies. These proposals may at first appear to be an improvement – an upgrade of an old technology to a new one. But given the absence of effective sequestration strategies, such upgrades could represent little more than a decades-long extension of the lifetime of outdated and highly polluting coal plants (such as the Salem power plant).
Instead of embracing and designing incentives for new coal energy technologies, we should adhere to the third principle above and invest in alternatives, which have much greater benefits and fewer negative impacts. As you know, there is substantial untapped energy efficiency available at a cost far cheaper than buying electricity. Further, low- and zero-carbon renewable energy technologies are poised for major growth in the coming decade. Given that we have finite resources to invest in the solutions to global warming, we believe that broadly beneficial alternatives such as energy efficiency and clean, safe renewable energy should take priority over questionable coal technologies.
With the Brayton Point, Salem Harbor Station, Mount Tom, and Somerset power plants, our coal burden is the heaviest of the New England states; in fact, as of 2004, Brayton Point was the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide of all 188 electricity generating facilities in the nine northeast states. We ask that you join us in upholding the above three principles and rejecting new coal facilities at this time.
As you noted in your campaign for governor, Massachusetts has rich intellectual resources and skilled workers, and if we can get clean energy right, the whole world will be our customer. Investing in new coal technologies would be getting it wrong. We urge the Commonwealth to instead invest in and promote technologies that will result in the greatest benefits in terms of greenhouse gas emission reductions and cost effectiveness.
American Lung Association of MA
Boston Climate Action Network
C-10 Research and Education Foundation
Campaign to Clean Up Brayton Point
Cape and Island Safe Reliance
Dr. Anna Manatis
Cape Clean Air
Cape Wind Associates
Clean Air Cool Planet
Clean Power Now
Clean Water Action
Climate Action Brookline
Rabbi Katy Allen
Coalition for Jewish Life & the Env.
Conservation Law Foundation
Environmental League of Massachusetts
Massachusetts Climate Action Network
Merrimack Valley Residents for the Env
Northampton Citizens for Climate Action
Northeast Organic Farming Association
People for the Environment
Pioneer Valley Biodiesel
Regional Environmental Council-Worcester
Religious Witness for the Earth
Salem Alliance for the Environment
Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light
Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility
Green Decade Cambridge
Green Decade Coalition-Newton
Hands Across the River Coalition
Haverhill Environmental League
Healthcare Without Harm
Hilltown Anti-Herbicide Coalition
Lawrence Environmental Action Council, Inc.
Marblehead Pesticide Awareness Committee
Mass. Energy Consumer Alliance
Save the Harbor Save the Bay
Stop the Stop
Toxics Action Center
US Sky Watch
UU Massachusetts Action Network
Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safety
Wenham Lake Watershed Association
Westwood Environmental Coalition
Safer Water for MA
CC: Ian Bowles
W. Robert Keating
Salvatore F. DiMasi