Grassroots Victory Expected

In a likely victory for grassroots activists in the Valley, a coal power plant in Holyoke is expected to close. That’s according to the Holyoke city council and the leader of a regional environmental group. For decades, activists have worked to shut the polluting Mount Tom coal power plant.

The owner of the plant announced this week that it will lay off about half the 51 workers at the plant. The Blue Green Alliance is working to create jobs for the laid off coal workers in fields including solar power, energy efficiency, and building and operating trains to move people and freight. The Alliance employs dozens of workers and has a web site at www.BlueGreenAlliance.org

On October 18, the Holyoke city council unanimously voted to begin planning for what to do with the site of the coal power plant when it closes. Holyoke is home to about 40,000 people. The council said, "The city must be proactive in addressing the real likelihood that this plant will close… Based on recent trends in coal-burning power plants of this size around the country, it is very possible that the owner of the Mount Tom Station will retire the coal plant soon.”

The city council meeting room was packed with anti-coal activists on the day of the vote. Many held signs. One sign read, “Protect our children. No toxic mercury.”

People who spoke at the meeting included members of Action for a Healthy Holyoke, Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, Nuestras Raices, the Sierra Club, Toxics Action Center, and Conservation Law Foundation.

"Mount Tom coal plant is on its way out," said Meredith Small. She is the director of the Toxics Action Center.

The Holyoke plant can burn 1,200 tons of coal in a single day. In mountaintop removal coal mining, a coal company blasts apart the tops of mountains. According to the Sierra Club, coal mining has “damaged or destroyed approximately 1,200 miles of streams, disrupted drinking water supplies, flooded communities, damaged homes, eliminated forests, and jeopardizes tourism and recreation.” Burning coal causes lung cancer, heart attacks, mental retardation, global warming, and acid rain.

Coal power plants cost farmers about $500 million in reduced crop production in the U.S. every year, according to this web page:

www.SierraClub.org/coal/downloads/0508-coal-report-fact-sheet.pdf

One in six women of childbearing age in the U.S. has mercury levels in her blood high enough to put her baby at risk, according to the page. According to the Sierra Club, the coal industry is lying when it says “clean coal” or “liquid coal” are good for the environment.

Coal power can be replaced by energy efficiency programs, and solar, wind, water and wood power.

“Thank you to everyone” who helped in the fight to close Mount Tom, said Meredith Small. “We did it!”

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