Don’t Water Down Massachusetts’ Global Warming Pollution Limits!

By Marc Breslow

(Lexington Minuteman – February 23, 2006)

Hurricanes are increasing in intensity. Glaciers and the polar ice caps are melting. 2005 was the hottest year on record worldwide. Our weather is becoming more volatile. All around us the signs of climate change’s increasing dangers are evident.

But Gov. Romney wants to water down the state’s leading-edge regulations to cut global warming emissions (carbon dioxide, or CO2) from electric power plants. Passed in 2001 by Gov. Swift, these rules would require the state’s six most polluting power plants (often called the “Filthy Five”) to cut their emissions about 10 percent by 2008.

These six plants account for 70 percent of all CO2 emissions from power plants in the state and 13 percent of all emissions in the Northeast U.S. Most of them burn coal, which releases twice as much CO2 per unit of electricity generated as does natural gas.

Romney says he is worried that the 2001 regulations will cause higher electricity rates for consumers and harm the state’s economy. The governor makes this claim even though the rules already contain a major concession to the plant owners. Instead of cutting emissions at the plants themselves, the owners are allowed to pay for other means of reducing global warming emissions that might be cheaper, called “offsets,” such as planting trees or subsidizing energy efficiency improvements.

But Romney wants to create additional loopholes for generators that would weaken the regulations. These include:

The governor wants to make these changes even though $10 per ton is less than half the price that reductions currently sell for in Europe’s emissions trading market. Moreover, the state’s own data shows that the existing regulations would have minimal impacts on electricity costs, and that most of these costs would be absorbed by the owners of coal-fired plants. Based on the state’s data, MCAN estimates the impact on consumers would be less than $1 a year per person – certainly not too much to help protect all of us and our descendents from the ravages of global warming.

It’s likely that Gov. Romney is actually more concerned about the profits of companies who own coal-fired plants – which will be harmed by the Filthy Five regulations – rather than the needs of electricity consumers in the state. Having decided not to run for re-election, he is also more interested in other voters than those in Massachusetts – since residents here overwhelmingly support our taking a leading role in stopping climate change.
What can you do? Tell the DEP and Gov. Romney that we are proud our state issued the nation’s first regulations requiring electric power plants to cut their global warming emissions, and we oppose any weakening of those regulations.

Comments on the proposed rules must be sent by March 6, to Sharon Weber at or DEP, Bureau of Waste Prevention, One Winter Street, Boston, MA 02108. E-mails can be sent to Gov. Romney through the state’s website,

P.S. – to cut your own global warming emissions from consuming electricity, buy Clean Power. Go to and sign up today.

Did You Know: Methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, is produced by plants, especially forests? Are forests net contributors to global warming? Read the next GWAC column for the answer

Marc Breslow is the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network.

Brought to you by Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition. Contact us at