Climate pollution from New England power plants on the rise

May 18, 2016

Bad news for efforts to combate climate change emissions in the power sector.  For the first time in five years, power plants across New England are producing more carbon dioxide emissions.  This is a major setback to Massachusetts’ legally mandated efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The primary reason for the increase in emissions is the shuttering of the region's nuclear power plants, which has increased reliance on fossil fuel power stations.  

This news comes as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court finds that Massachusetts is failing to comply with its obligations under the Global Warming Solutions Act.  This case, Kain et al. v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, was brought by 4 youth plaintiffs, the Conservation Law Foundation and Mass Energy Consumers Alliance.


Last year, New England’s power plants released 5 percent more carbon dioxide than the year before.  This is the first year-to-year increase since 2010, according to ISO New England, which operates the region’s power grid.

Meanwhile carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants totaled 1,925 million metric tons in 2015, the lowest since 1993 and 21% below their 2005 level.

This development calls into question the Baker administration's "combo platter" approach to energy.  While the admnistration has claimed to favor renewable energy, it's support of solar and offshore wind has been, at best, lukewarm.  At the same time, Baker is believed to support the expansion of natural gas in the region and is pushing hard on Beacon Hill for the import of Canadian hydropower.  The former will only contribute to further emissions increases and there is no guarantee the latter will ever materialize (and let's not forget that hydropower isn't emission free).

[Boston Globe] [EIA]