What is 'Filthy Five'

The Filthy Five refers to five power plants that were located in Massachusetts. The Filthy Five were constructed before 1977 and were therefore exempt from modern pollution laws for many years.

BREAKING DOWN 'Filthy Five'

The Filthy Five emitted several times the amount of pollution created by modern plants at levels that exceeded those permitted under the revised Clear Air Act of 1990. However, these plants were exempt from modern pollution regulations because they were grandfathered in under the old laws. They produced large amounts of sulfur, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and mercury. The governor of Massachusetts came under political pressure to do something about these plants and issued an edict requiring them to adhere to modern pollution regulations. 

The last of the Filthy Five power plants was Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts, which was a 1,500-megawatt plant and the largest coal-fired plant in New England. It went dark in May 2017 as part of a shutdown that had been underway for several years. Other members of the Filthy Five included Salem Harbor Power Station, which stopped burning coal on June 1, 2014. The Salem Station generated power beginning in 1951, but shuttered due to low natural gas prices, low demand for electricity and tightening Federal pollution rules.

Transition to Cleaner Energy

As in other areas of the country, the end of coal in Massachusetts resulted not only from persistent environmental activism, but from a number of economic factors, including stricter pollution regulations, cleaner energy alternatives and a changing market in which coal use had become costly and inefficient. Cleaner energy options such as natural gas have largely replaced coal as a primary source of energy in the region since the closure of the Filthy Five. Nearly 50 percent of New England's energy now comes from natural gas, while a third comes from nuclear power, according to ISO New England, the organization that oversees the regional power grid. The same trend applies nationwide. The share of U.S. electricity generate by coal fell from 52 percent in 2000 to 37 percent in 2012 as a result of shale gas development. The Energy Information Administration predicts that natural gas will produce more electricity than coal by 2035.

This transition has not come without complications. Extended low temperatures during the winter of 2017 created extreme energy demand for heat for homes. However, natural gas pipeline capacity wasn’t sufficiently expanded to meet the demand. As the region’s natural gas delivery infrastructure increases, this concern should decrease.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Absolute Pollution Exclusion

    Absolute pollution exclusion is a commercial liability insurance ...
  2. Water Quality Improvement Act Of ...

    Water Quality Improvement Act Of 1970 expanded the federal government's ...
  3. Energy Sector

    The energy sector is a category of stocks that relate to producing ...
  4. Water Pollution Liability

    Water pollution liability refers to the legal and financial responsibility ...
  5. SEC Form 45b-3

    SEC Form 45b-3 was used to file with the SEC concerning extensions ...
  6. Environmental Tariff

    An environmental tariff is a tax on products imported to or exported ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Coal Country: Where It Is and Why It Needs Help

    Coal production is decreasing, mines are shutting down and number of employees are shrinking fast.
  2. Insights

    Opinion: Get Ready for Donald Trump’s Electric Rates Shocker

    The obscure, but powerful, reasons you soon may be paying more for electricity.
  3. Investing

    Top 4 Coal-Mining Stocks as of September 2018

    Some coal stocks have been quietly making money and may continue to do so in the final months of 2018.
  4. Investing

    Why Fossil Fuel Divestment Matters More Than Ever

    The withdrawl by the U.S. from the Paris Agreement won't stem the deflation of fossil fuels.
  5. Investing

    Clean Energy Puts the Squeeze on Natural Gas

    Clean energy sources are crimping natural gas, but fossil fuels still have a major foothold on the global energy market.
  6. Investing

    Top 4 Natural Gas Stocks as of July 2018

    These four companies that develop natural gas may be strong in the rest of 2018.
  7. Investing

    Do Oil and Natural Gas Prices Rise And Fall Together?

    Do the prices of crude oil and natural gas affect each other? Investopedia explores price patterns and provides analysis.
  8. Insights

    The 6 Biggest Chinese Mining Companies

    Here are six of China's largest mining companies, making the country a major player in the mining industry and supplying a huge portion of global metal and coal demand.
  9. Investing

    The world's top 10 utility companies

    Learn who the Top Ten utility companies in the world are, along with tips for investing in the utilities sector.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What are the main substitutes for oil and gas energy?

    Read about some of the major substitute sources of energy that compete with fossil fuels – oil, natural gas and coal – in ... Read Answer >>
  2. How do government regulations impact the oil and gas drilling sector?

    Find out how government regulation of the oil and gas sectors is often positive for the large companies, but may be negative ... Read Answer >>
  3. What percentage of the global economy consists of the oil and gas drilling sector?

    The oil and gas exploration and production sector currently makes up something between 2% and 3% of the global economy. Read Answer >>
  4. What are examples of some of the major global companies in the utilities sector?

    Learn some helpful information about the three largest electric utility companies in the world, as measured by market capitalization. Read Answer >>
  5. What is property, plant, and equipment?

    Property, plant, and equipment are physical or tangible assets that are long-term assets that typically have a life of more ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center