Dirty energy pollutes our air and water, impacts our health, and contributes to climate change. Over the past 30 years, Toxics Action Center has helped communities all over the northeast retire dirty power plants responsibly, halt dangerous new fracked gas pipelines and win clean, local, renewable energy solutions.
Fossil fuels like fracked gas, coal and oil are bad for our health and bad for our climate. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), fossil fuels have provided more than 80% of total U.S. energy consumption for over a century. Due to our reliance on these forms of dirty energy, we are facing harmful effects on our health and environment. We believe that it’s time to transition off fossil fuels entirely.
Dirty energy pollutes the air we breathe and the water we drink. A study published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found air pollution caused by dirty energy causes 52,000 premature deaths per year.
Fracking, a process in which fluid is injected into a drilled hole to obtain oil and gas from rock formations, is extremely detrimental to the health of surrounding communities. Fracking has the potential to contaminate water supplies, as the chemicals used for fracking often move through the cracks and make their way into the water systems. A study by the EPA shows this water contamination can result in cancer, organ damage, nervous system damage, and death. Air quality is also negatively affected by fracking, as the toxic chemicals have the potential to become airborne. A publication from the Concerned Health Professionals of NY explains fracking areas show increased health problems such as asthma, bronchitis, and cancers.
- Massachusetts: Our organizers worked with community groups throughout the state to oppose the 96-mile Access Northeast Expansion Pipeline project. Our organizing resulted in unanimous opposition from Massachusetts state senators and 97 state representatives against the “pipeline tax,” meaning it was only a matter of time until this project got shelved.
In the case of coal burning, circulatory, respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, as well as birth defects have all been found to be heightened in coal-mining regions. Studies also confirm children living in proximity to petroleum refineries experience premature mortality rates from leukemia and other cancers. These are only a percentage of the countless health issues that accompany dirty energy.
From increasing superstorms to raging wildfires, we know we need to take action now to protect our environment and the communities most vulnerable to these climate-fueled disasters. Frontline communities will be hit first and worst by the effects of the climate crisis, and we can’t afford to wait. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have just over a decade to limit devastating global warming. If we continue on the path of dirty energy, we are only worsening this crisis.
The burning of fossil fuels produces large quantities of carbon dioxide. These emissions then trap heat in the atmosphere leading to climate change. According to the EIA, the burning of fossil fuels in the U.S. accounts for about three-quarters of carbon emissions, which is only accelerating the climate crisis. It has also been proven coal-fired power plants generate two-thirds of sulfur emissions in the country, contributing to acid rain and soot.
- Middletown, Connecticut: Residents were burdened with six dirty power plants collectively known as the Sooty Six. We worked with frontline activists in these communities and built a statewide coalition that was ultimately successful in passing a state law to protect air quality.
“Today, it’s a big deal to people who live around there, because they breathe easier. And that was the whole goal.”
- South Portland, Maine: We worked with the citizen activists in South Portland to reject a dangerous plan to make their community a shipping hub for tar sands oil. Canadian tar sands is one of the most carbon intensive and polluting forms of energy on the planet. The potential local impacts included increased air pollution and the threat of spills along the path of the pipeline. We worked to pass a local law to stop the project in its tracks.
While not a fossil fuel, nuclear energy is not a safe or viable solution to meeting our energy needs, as nuclear waste remains radioactive for tens to hundreds of thousands of years. Currently, there is no secure place to store the waste, forcing hundreds of communities across the country to house spent radioactive fuel rods that often do not have secure enough facilities. Studies also show those who live near a nuclear plant are more susceptible to childhood cancers like leukemia.
- Vernon, Vermont: The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant had a decades-long history of controversy and dispute. Starting in 1971, anti-nuclear protests began on site. In 2007, a cooling tower collapsed, in 2009, an underground pipe leaked, and throughout this entire time, there were radiological safety concerns. Thanks to the hard work by anti-nuke activists, a vote of no confidence by the Vermont legislature, and sustained activism, the plant was powered down in 2014. We are now working with the groups on the ground to safely decommission the site.
We believe it’s possible to transition to clean, local, renewable energy to protect our health and climate. But as old polluting power plants go off-line, the dirty energy industry is pushing to replace them with new forms of fossil fuels, especially fracked gas. We are working with frontline communities to resist dirty energy and promote clean energy solutions instead.
In Massachusetts, we have brought together a coalition of over 150 organizations, community groups, and businesses to push for clean energy. This movement is called Mass Power Forward. Together, we passed a clean energy law in Massachusetts that increases renewable energy in the state and the work continues today.
We’ve also been working toward a coal-free northeast, and we’re proud to say that as of 2017, Massachusetts has become coal-free! While we work to clean up our environment, we also work for cleaner forms of energy that will benefit our communities and their environment in the long run.
- Holyoke, Massachusetts: We helped turn a coal plant into a solar farm. Residents and the community group Neighbor to Neighbor were able to redevelop the site and retrain the workers making Holyoke more healthy and economically vibrant.
We are thinking globally and acting locally to put the brakes on climate change and polluting energy and transition to a cleaner energy future. In order to ensure a healthy world for our children, dirty energy needs to go. It is our job to rectify the damage dirty energy has had on our communities and environment while paving the way to healthier lives for all.