More than 200 residents, community groups petition Solutia to end coal-burning

Springfield facility is violating air quality standards

June 4, 2013

Arise for Social Justice today launched a campaign calling for an end to the burning of coal at Solutia’s Indian Orchard facility.  The group has mailed a letter to Solutia and Eastman Chemical, the owner of Solutia, laying out community expectations that the plant will reduce its pollutant emissions. The letter was signed by over 200 area residents.

 View the letter here.

“The American Lung Association has given Springfield’s air an “F” for a number of years, and our asthma rate is twice the state average,” said Bill Gibson, the community activist who spearheaded the letter to the company. “The company should not inflict hundreds of tons of air pollution on residents each year — Eastman should live up to the environmental goals they have posted on their own website.”

 The Solutia factory in Indian Orchard is the largest chemical manufacturing plant in New England.  The factory is powered by one of the last industrial coal-burners in Massachusetts, and is one of the largest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases in Western Massachusetts. The plant does not use a scrubber – a type of air pollution control technology – to control sulfur dioxide. An independent study commissioned by the environmental group the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) determined  that sulfur dioxide emissions from Solutia’s coal plant likely exceed EPA’s health standards.  Emissions of other air pollutants, including hydrochloric acid and the ozone precursor nitrogen dioxide, are also high, and may pose a risk to local residents.

 Arise and PFPI filed a demand letter with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in February 2013, requesting that the agency revise Solutia’s outdated air permit to reduce allowable emissions limits. The DEP took action, requiring Solutia to conduct its own air quality modeling to demonstrate that it is able to operate without violating air quality standards.  If the company can not make such a demonstration, they will be compelled to install a scrubber or switch to a cleaner fuel at the facility.

 “Solutia burned more coal in 2011 than the Holyoke Mt. Tom Power Plant, with fewer pollution control technologies installed” says Michaelann Bewsee, director of Arise. “Switching away from dirty coal will immediately reduce air pollution. While the clear fuel alternative, natural gas, is less dirty than coal, it isn’t better from a greenhouse gas perspective.  Therefore we want the company to take steps to reduce facility-wide greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than entering into protracted negotiations with DEP about its air emissions, the company should be a good neighbor and switch away from coal immediately.”

 The former Monsanto plant covers 180 acres and employs 500 people. The groups do not advocate for plant closure or downsizing. Eastman Chemical, which purchased Solutia in 2012 for $4.7 billion, is a member of “Responsible Care” ( a chemical industry sustainability initiative) and the community groups expect the company to live up to its promises.

 A community meeting to discuss the Solutia facility is scheduled for Monday, June 24th  at 6 pm at the Indian Orchard Citizens Council building, 117 Main St., Indian Orchard. Residents of Indian Orchard, East Springfield and other city neighborhoods are invited to attend.

Partnership for Policy Integrity