Deadly Coal: Health Impacts from Brayton Point

New Report Details 2012 Healthcare Costs and Loss of Life from Somerset Coal Plant,Projects Billions of Dollars of Harm in the Next Decade

Emissions from Brayton Point Station in 2012 caused between 15 to 39 premature deaths and a host of additional health impacts from heart attacks to emergency room visits according to a new analysis released today by Coal Free Massachusetts. Although the aging plant has been operating less than in years past and has undergone a significant retrofit, health damage associated with Brayton Point’s emissions continues to cast a heavy shadow on local communities as well as the region as a whole.

“Brayton Point’s continued operation presents a grave threat to our communities. From days lost at work to asthma attacks to hospitalization and death, the burning of coal at Brayton exacts a multi-million dollar toll every year,” said Becky Smith, MA Campaigns Director at Clean Water Action and co-author of the report. “If we act now, we can transition our communities from Brayton’s deadly toll. Failure to do so is unacceptable: the cost of coal burning is simply too great.”

The report, “Brayton Point Coal Plant: Operating at Our Expense,” features analysis from MSB Energy Associates and the Clean Air Task Force that examines the plant’s 2012 emissions of fine particles, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Using a sophisticated model that incorporates pollution dispersion and health impact data, researchers estimate health costs that burden the economy with between $120 to $294 million in health care dollars for one year’s operation. Averaging emissions from 2010 – 2012, researchers estimate that on-going plant operation for the next decade would translate to $2.6 – 6.3 billion dollars in health expenses related to the plant’s emissions.

“As a parent, I’m here to speak up for the families of the South Coast,” said Fall River resident Mike Sylvia. “We know that when bad air days strike, our children and elders suffer the most. We don’t want to bear the burden of coal any longer.”

"The burning of coal creates significant negative health effects in the people who live in the Greater Fall River Area," said Dr. David S. Weed, Executive Director of Partners for a Healthier Community. "Emissions from Brayton Point contribute to our high rates of asthma, heart disease and other illnesses in this area. It's time that we move away from this unhealthy way of generating power and find healthier alternatives."

“What we have now is the worst of both worlds: a power plant that is failing economically while still polluting the region," said Joe Lazzerini, Grassroots Coordinator at the Coalition for Social Justice. "We can do better. By phasing out coal and planning ahead, we can get a transition for workers, a stable tax base for the host town, and air that doesn't make families sick."

Residents of the South Coast and surrounding regions currently face a triple conundrum of health, wealth and workforce: those who have borne the devastating health burdens caused by coal are now threatened, economically and socially, by the dissolution of jobs and municipal revenues. The report compares Brayton Point’s downward financial trajectory to that of other coal plants nationwide, and offers recommendations on regulatory, legislative, economic and energy solutions for a just transition beyond coal.

Coal Free Massachusetts has also backed House Bill 2933, An act relative to a Clean Energy Commonwealth, would help steward the transition process. The bill requires the state to phase out coal-burning by 2020, while providing for a fund to assist workers and host communities. Currently in the state’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, H2933 was cosponsored by over fifty members of the Massachusetts Legislature.

To read the report, visit http://bit.ly/Braytons-Price or http://coalfreemass.org.

Who else is speaking out on Brayton Point?

“Air pollution from Brayton Point can exacerbate respiratory disease and their side effects in Bristol County and well beyond,” said Casey Harvell, Massachusetts Director of Public Policy at the American Lung Association of the Northeast, “A reduction in emissions would help protect the most vulnerable populations, especially children, the elderly, and those with existing, chronic lung and cardiovascular disease.  In a state with higher than average asthma rates, it is crucial that we take steps to prevent asthma attacks that can be triggered by air pollution.”

“This study once again confirms the harmful effects of emissions from coal-fired power plants on the health of our fellow citizens,“ said former Fall River city planner Al Lima of Green Futures. “The air that surrounds the earth belongs to all of us.  It is our common property.  It is not owned by utility corporations who find it more convenient and cheaper to pollute our air than to clean up their plants.”

“We are proud to see an end to coal burning in our community, and proud to stand with our allies on the South Coast, who have worked with us for so long to protect the health of families in Salem,” said Pat Gozemba of Salem Alliance for the Environment. “We know that Brayton Point is polluting air across New England, and contributing to climate change and severe weather events that threaten all of us.”

“The evidence mounts more every day that coal is a bad investment on all fronts, and Brayton Point Station is no exception.  It is time for Massachusetts to move beyond coal to protect both public health and the economic vitality of our communities,” said James McCaffrey, Senior Campaign Representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

“This report shows that even with drastically reduced operations, the Brayton Point coal-burning power plant continues to pose a serious threat to human health,” said Sylvia Broude, Executive Director of Toxics Action Center, a New England-wide public health and environmental non-profit that has organized with Somerset-area residents for much of the past decade. “We know that coal is on its way out, and this is more evidence that we need to plan now to transition away from coal and diversify Somerset’s economy with healthier industries.”

Coal Free Massachusetts Coalition Platform

  • Phase out all of Massachusetts' coal-fired power plants by 2020;
  • Advance energy efficiency and clean renewable energy like responsibly sited wind and solar to support the transition from coal electricity generation in Massachusetts
  • Partner with and empower community leadership and vision for clean energy and clean-tech development for our host communities, including:
    • robust transition plans focused on the long-term health of the community
    • innovative opportunities for growing the green economy
    • support for workers and municipal revenues