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In the Air and Afield, and On the Waterfront.


Continuing to Press for Improvements at PG&E's Salem Harbor Power Plant

The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that air pollution from the Salem plant (the state's third worst polluter) is responsible for 53 premature deaths, 14,400 asthma attacks, and 570 emergency room visits annually, with a per capita mortality risk five times greater for those living within 30 miles. Add in a 30 mile death zone for PG&E's Brayton Point plant (the state's worst polluter), in Somerset, near the Rhode Island border on Mt. Hope Bay (100 premature deaths, 30,000 asthma attacks, 1,100 emergency visits), and most of eastern Massachusetts is imperiled by PG&E. CLF will not let that continue.

Our April 2000 lawsuit resulted in a $21 million settlement with PG&E. It forced the company to stop leaching heavy metals into Salem's groundwater and harbor, and into the bay and groundwater in Rhode Island, and to change its waste management practices. And we've kept the pressure on. When PG&E proposed building a new coal-fired plant at Salem, we voiced strong opposition. The new plant would generate toxic metals-rich coal waste at up to twice the current amount. It would also double emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief climate change gas.

We have long judged the Salem plant's air pollution to be unacceptable in the extreme, but it's only one of Massachusetts' "Filthy Five." One of our goals for 2001 was to secure Massachusetts regulations forcing their cleanup. In April, Acting Governor Jane Swift announced she was releasing new power plant pollution reduction rules. Pollution from the five plants will fall by 50% or more. A loophole will also be closed that allowed PG&E to average emissions from Salem and Brayton, so that either plant could have polluted at more than twice the rate allowed at other Massachusetts plants.

CLF is pleased to have assisted in getting the rules released, but our work isn't done. We must stop construction of the new Salem plant, and force PG&E to dean up the old one, at least to the levels of the new rules. (See "Standing Up to Our Worst Polluter," page 39.)

Making "Breathing" and "Buses" Compatible Words

Soot and sulfur from diesel bus engines is carcinogenic and toxic; it can trigger potentially lethal asthma, especially in children. CLF has long urged the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to clean up its bus fleet, and this year the authority announced that it will begin using Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel for its entire fleet. Only half the buses will be switched by next May, though. That's not fast enough. Switching the whole fleet now would reduce the fleet's sulfur dioxide emissions by 38 percent, its emissions of toxic particulates by 20 percent.

Seeing That Waterfront Landowners Obey the Law

A subsidiary of Modern Continental (MC) is constructing an office building adjoining Fort Point Channel, calling it "Independence Wharf." MC has built an illegal 14th floor, bringing the building to a height of 169 feet. Chapter 91 (Public Waterfront Act) regulations limit heights to 55 feet. And MC is installing a second floor parking garage, despite a waterfront ban on above ground parking.

MC applied for a Chapter 91 license, requested it be placed in abeyance, then proceeded with construction. In March, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed issuance of a license to MC, despite the two violations. During the public comment period, CLF objected in writing, but DEP failed to address our contentions, claiming that the project will provide "public benefits." If compliance with the law is to be waived, CLF believes it should be through a proper process. If DEP is allowed to ignore Chapter 91 regulations because of "public benefits," the decision making process risks becoming one of favors, payoffs, and "pull."

Helping Massachusetts Farmers

Our farmers tend nearly 600,000 acres of open space. CLF believes that their tenuous economic position poses a significant threat to a fresh, local food supply, and to our rural landscape. We're working with farming advocates, legislators, and the public at large to generate support for a Food and Farmland Protection Act. It would help to improve and ease market relations between farmers and consumers, and to ensure farmers of marketplace success through tax relief and other provisions. It would also provide incentives and strategies to preserve working farms for future generations.

Saving the Northern Right Whale

Only 295 right whales remain on the planet. Since 1998, seven of them have been seen entangled in gillnets and lobster gear off New England. CLF has reached a settlement that significantly strengthens the whales' protection. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts must propose and finalize the following regulations -- in critical habitats of Cape Cod Bay -- by year's end:

1. By 2002, during peak right whale activity (May 1 to May 15), lobster gear will have to include devices that reduce risk of whale entanglement. By 2005, the regulations will hold for all Cape Cod Bay.

2. By 2003, floating lines between lobster traps in multi-trap trawls will be prohibited; by 2004, throughout the Bay.

3. By 2002, the whole Bay will be closed to gillnets (unless constantly tended) from May 15 to year's end -- if three or more right whales are present. (Critical bay habitat is currently closed to gillnets from May 1 to May 15.)

For more information, see: and click on Massachusetts.
--Stephanie Pollack
Massachusetts Advocacy
Center Director
COPYRIGHT 2001 Conservation Law Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:various articles on air pollution cases and species conservation
Author:Pollack, Stephanie
Publication:Conservation Matters
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Jun 22, 2001
Previous Article:A Guardian Where Land Meets Sea.
Next Article:Redefining Progress.

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