News

Frontline, Environmental Justice Communities Urge Northeast States to Take Stronger Action Against Pollution

Contacts

Jesse Lederman, Arise for Social Justice, 413-351-6785, jesselederman2016@gmail.com

Rachel Mulroy, Coalition for Social Justice, 508-718-9845, mulroy@coalitionforsocialjustice.org

Katelyn Parady, Toxics Action Center, 617-747-4362,  katelyn@toxicsaction.org

For Immediate Release-November 22nd, 2016

Massachusetts – Representatives of nine states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic met yesterday to discuss taking stronger action to cut global warming pollution. These states, which are part of a regional program that limits pollution from power plants called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, are preparing to make a decision about how much to cut pollution from 2020 to 2030. Expressing disappointment with the implications of the scenarios discussed at yesterday’s stakeholder meeting, low-income and frontline community groups are urging the states to be more ambitious in order to protect public health and and meet global warming goals.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the first binding cap-and-trade program in the US, and aims to limit carbon dioxide from the power sector. Since 2005, the states in the region have collectively reduced power plant pollution by an average of 5 percent per year since 2005. Frontline and environmental justice groups have called for the RGGI states to mandate that rate of emissions reductions from 2020 to 2031. Based on materials released before yesterday’s meeting, however, the states are considering cutting pollution from power plants at a slower rate, between 2.5 and 3.5 percent per year. 

“All of us who live in Springfield know firsthand that pollution hurts our communities”, said Jesse Lederman, Environmental Organizing Consultant with Arise for Social Justice and the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. “Our families are struggling with everything from low wages to asthma to the threat of climate change. The state should be using RGGI as a tool to protect communities like ours, and to help Massachusetts meet its climate goals. That means setting a cap on carbon pollution that goes down by 5% every year.”

“People living in Somerset, Fall River, Taunton, New Bedford and Brockton have been on the frontlines of fossil fuels and other pollution threats for decades”, added Rachel Mulroy, community organizer with the Coalition for Social Justice. “They know that burning coal, oil and gas threatens public health and leaves kids and adults alike struggling to breathe. It also drives global warming. The longer we keep burning dirty fuels, the worse these problems are going to get -- and we know that people living on the margins are going to bear brunt of all of it. The states have a duty to protect all of their residents, especially the most vulnerable, and a 2.5% or 3.5% cap isn’t going to get us there.” 

Earlier this month, nearly 100 people living in some of the state’s most polluted communities turned out to public hearings about RGGI in Springfield and on the South Coast. The meetings were organized in response to requests from frontline community leaders who are working to make sure that RGGI is as strong as possible and that low-income communities, communities of color, and communities living in the shadows of power plants and other environmental hazards have a meaningful say in the program and benefit from it. 

“At the recent hearings, community member after community member spoke up at thanking MassDEP for publicly supporting a 5% cap on emissions reductions” says Katelyn Parady, Communications Director with Toxics Action Center. “These latest developments are disappointing.We are calling on Governor Baker to recommit to protecting communities from pollution, leading on climate and accelerating the shift to clean energy. Reducing pollution from the power sector 2.5 percent per year is not enough. We need to double the strength of RGGI, and cut pollution by 5 percent per year.”

The public can learn more about making the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative stronger and more just, and take action, at www.toxicsaction.org/rggi.

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ARISE for Social Justice is a multi-issue low income rights advocacy organization serving Springfield for over 30 years. 

The Coalition for Social Justice is dedicated to progressive social change, accomplished by building people power at the grassroots level in Southeastern Massachusetts.

Toxics Action Center is a New England-wide public health and environmental nonprofit working side by side with communities to clean up and prevent pollution.