Pittsfield Generating Air Quality Permit


*Pittsfield Generating on Merrill Road has just filed with Mass DEP (Dept. of Environmental Protection) to renew its Air Quality Permit.

» Pittsfield Generating’s Air Quality Permit application
Filed with DEP on April 19, 2021

We’re in touch with DEP, requesting a public hearing. They’ve stated that they will hold a public hearing via Zoom, with the date and time to be determined once a draft permit is available. Thought a Zoom hearing is the most common method for hearings right now, we’re concerned that many households in the most impacted neighborhood might not have internet access that can easily access Zoom meetings. BEAT has filed this concern with DEP.

» BEAT’s letter of concern regarding DEP hearing

The problem:

  • Peaking power plants in Berkshire County are old, inefficient and run on fossil fuels, not only adding to the climate crisis, but also driving up pollution to local neighborhoods.
  • The Pittsfield plants are located near densely populated Environmental Justice neighborhoods, impacting their health. They’re both within a ½ mile of elementary schools with several other schools within a 3 mile radius.
  • The Lee plant (Woodland) is within 2 miles of all of Lee’s public schools and within 3 miles of Lenox’s schools and several elderly care and housing complexes.
  • Current emissions allowed by these plants will soon be in violation of new climate regulations.

The solution:

  • There are much safer, cleaner alternatives available, including means by which plant owners can convert to a clean energy storage business model under the Clean Peak Standard and by which towns and cities can operate storage facilities that act as “Virtual Power Plants” as well as demand reduction.
  • Payback period for these programs is measured in years, not decades, and will eventually provide a revenue stream from energy incentives

The urgency:

  • The state’s new climate legislation, S.9 New Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy is going to pass, with or without Gov. Baker’s approval. These plants will need to eventually change to clean energy storage or shut down by these new regulations.
  • Peaking power plants in Berkshire County are old, inefficient and run on fossil fuels, not only adding to the climate crisis, but also driving up pollution to local neighborhoods.
  • Peaking power plants are extremely inefficient, even when compared with fossil fuel baseload plants. This is partially because of their intermittent nature, taking more energy to start up and wind down. They are also all decades old, and much less efficient than newer plants.
  • Pittsfield Generating only runs 5% of the time, it generates 15% of Pittsfield’s stationary annual emissions. It runs on natural gas or oil, depending on availability.
  • Doreen and Woodland are 51 and 61 years old respectively, and run on kerosene, which carries a high pollution load including high nitrous oxide emissions.
  • Because of these inefficiencies, peaker power plants are the most expensive plants on our grid and drive up the wholesale cost of electricity for our region when they run – directly impacting electric ratepayers across western Massachusetts.
  • They are paid millions of dollars per year to remain on stand by 95-99% of the time.
  • These plants are located in environmental justice neighborhoods already bearing the brunt of air pollution; they do not need polluting industry to continue harming residents when other solutions are available.
  • These plants cost more to run than any others on the grid and drive up the wholesale price of electricity for all customers when they run. We also pay them millions of dollars per year to remain on standby 95-99% of the time.
  • With Massachusetts legislation and regulations regearing toward zero emissions, their current fossil fuel business model will soon be phasing out.
  • Clean air is a right! No one should have to live in a community where their health is at risk simply from the air that they breathe. 
  • There are ample alternatives available.

    Actions: DEP should not renew a permit to allow fossil fuel emissions for this plant.