What is 'Filthy Five'

The Filthy Five was a series of power plants 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. Having generated power since 1951, Salem Station succumbed to low natural gas prices, weak electricity demand growth and tightening Federal pollution controls. Then Governor Mitt Romney held a press conference in Salem in 2003 and declared, "That plant kills people." The Mt. Tom power plant in Holyoke shut down in July 2014.

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. Coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation fell from 52 percent in 2000 to 37 percent in 2012, thanks to a boom in shale gas development. The Energy Information Administration projects that by 2035, natural gas will generate more electricity than coal.

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. Plant Patent

    A plant patent is an intellectual property right that protects ...
  2. Absolute Pollution Exclusion

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

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

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

    Water pollution liability refers to the legal and financial responsibility ...
  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

    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.
  4. Investing

    Top 4 Coal-Mining Stocks as of April 2018

    Some coal stocks have been quietly making money and may continue to do so in 2018.
  5. 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.
  6. Investing

    Top 4 Natural Gas Stocks as of April 2018

    These four companies that develop natural gas may be strong in 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. 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.
  9. 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.
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 -- ... Read Answer >>
  2. How does government regulation impact the oil & 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 is comprised of the oil & gas drilling sector?

    Read about a rising industry that already composes as much as one-twentieth of total global economic output: the oil & gas ... Read Answer >>
  4. If interest rate swaps are based on two companies' different outlook on interest ...

    See how two companies can swap interest rate payments and mutually benefit. See how these swaps arbitrage differences in ... Read Answer >>
  5. 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 >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Inflation

    Inflation is the rate at which prices for goods and services is rising and the worth of currency is dropping.
  2. Discount Rate

    Discount rate is the interest rate charged to commercial banks and other depository institutions for loans received from ...
  3. Economies of Scale

    Economies of scale refer to reduced costs per unit that arise from increased total output of a product. For example, a larger ...
  4. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet its short-term obligations with its most liquid assets.
  5. Leverage

    Leverage results from using borrowed capital as a source of funding when investing to expand the firm's asset base and generate ...
  6. Financial Risk

    Financial risk is the possibility that shareholders will lose money when investing in a company if its cash flow fails to ...
Trading Center