Yesterday more progress was made in the effort to move the state of Massachusetts beyond coal and towards a clean energy revolution. The Utility and Telecommunications Committee had open public hearings for several proposed bills which call for an end to fossil fuel dependence in the state, one of which was written by students from Students for a Just and Stable Future (http://justandstable.org/). The hearing started with an introduction of the bills by Rep. Eherlich from the 8th Essex District, who continued to explain how organizing around the coal power plant in her community is what drove her to first become civically engaged.The hearing was well attended by concerned community members, public health advocate groups as well as students from across the state.
After Representative Eherlich spoke, members from Environmental League Massachusetts and the Sierra Club outlined the health risks posed by coal power plants. The Sierra Club also offered reference to their recent publication on how renewable energy sources can replace the base load power for the grid which is presently generated by fossil fuels and nuclear power. Four members from Students for a Just and Stable Future then spoke on behalf of their drafted legislation, house docket #2625, which is entitled “An Act to Phase Out Coal Burning and Use”. Unlike other bills in front of the committee that ask for this to be done by the year 2020, Students for a Just and Stable Future believe that the issue demands more urgency and should be accomplished by 2015. The students who spoke addressed the many externalities pushed onto local communities and the environment throughout the coal commodity chain covering everything from the devastation due to mountain top removal to the effects emissions are having in the form of acid rain and global climate change.
This all comes in the wake of last week’s announcement that Dominion Resources will not be challenging ISO New England’s decision and will be closing the Salem Harbor Power Station just north of Boston before June 1, 2014. This announcement is a great victory for community organizations and their partners who have been calling for a closure of the plant.
The continued effort by Students for a Just and Stable Future, and students across the country, shows how important to role of the youth movement is in getting our country off of dirty fossil fuels. Campuses must continue to work with their local communities in order to ensure a healthy safe future for the people and the environment.
At the hearing industry representatives from New England Power Generators Association spoke out against the bill explaining that the free market was well suited to determine which fuel sources are best, and that government intervention will only cause harm. They later denied to comment on the environmental injustices or social injustices brought on by the continued operation of the power plants.
What Should Be Our Next Steps?
On campuses across the country students are realizing that something needs to be done. We can play a pivotal role in the organizing and networking of different communities. Humanity needs someone to stand up and stop the destruction of society. Right now we are destroying nature. It is nature that we are very dependent on as a means of our survival. With its’ collapse we are only asking for the same. The world is changing at a very fast pace as the ice at our poles melt, the ocean is becoming unbalanced, our forests are disappearing, while communities are being forced to face bioaccumilation of chemicals that they never asked for. It is time to start taking a stand like never seen before. Malcolm X said “We declare our right, on this earth… to be human being, to be respected as human being, to be given the rights of a human being, in this society on this earth, in this day and we need to intend to do this by any means necessary. This is exactly what needs to be done. The youth environmental justice movement is constantly being referenced as the revolution of our generation as was Malcolm X’s civil rights movement to his generation. This however is not the civil rights movement. Like the civil rights movement we have organized and a created a vast grassroots network. Like the civil rights movement we also have realized that those in power, our elected officials, are failing us. What we have not started to use is a tool that was used to great success in their struggle, the judicial system. This goes further then taking the lead corporations of the polluter industrial complex to court over regulation infringements but actually putting ourselves into the system. We need to use it as a theater to tell our public narrative and start to frame how these issues are discussed.
By organizing a mass resistance movement on every stage of the coal commodity chain, we may be able to achieve the system change that many envision. Communities may not be able to stand up to industry funding however they do have more numbers then industry does. Not only should the infrastructure that supports this system be targeted but also an effort to discredit the public relations industry that helps to support it. This is an effort that crosses environmental and social justice lines. Literally everyone is being effected in some form as well as contributing to the issue. It is time that people reclaim power from the polluter industrial complex back to where it rightfully belongs.