ISO-New England: Stuck on Fossil Fuels

ISO New England (ISO-NE) has a record of artificially propping up more expensive coal, oil, and gas power plants at the expense of affordable, cleaner energy. Their “forward capacity market” serves to give huge subsidies to legacy power plants by granting funding three years in advance. (The Merrimack Generating Station in Bow also receives these subsidies.) The forward capacity market currently has a “minimum price offer rule” that limits clean energy projects in New England from bidding. According to Sabrina Shankman’s article in the Boston Globe, the rule was “created to help insulate fossil fuel power plants from having to compete against renewables that cost less due to state programs and subsidies that exist to help foster clean energy development. It created a floor below which a developer cannot bid, meaning that those less expensive energy supplies, like large-scale offshore wind or solar, aren’t able to compete.” It is absurd that this rule exists in the first place – if wind and solar are cheaper energy sources, then they should be prioritized in order to lower utility costs for ratepayers.

ISO-NE made a decision behind closed doors in early February 2022 to keep this rule for at least two more years – delaying renewable energy’s ability to enter the forward capacity market this year and severely limiting how much renewable energy will eventually be allowed in this process. Adding renewable energy to their forward capacity market is the bare minimum they could do to increase renewable energy capacity.

ISO-NE claims that their decision to bar renewable energy from the forward capacity market is to “ensure grid reliability.” There is little to no data proving that bringing more renewable energy into this system would disrupt grid reliability. What this decision does, instead, is feed into the greed and corruption of the fossil fuel industry. Shankman wrote, “In May of last year, ISO-NE announced its plans to eliminate the rule for New England, with a plan to lift it by an auction planned for February 2023. A few months later, in July, Dynegy, Calpine and Nautilus — all companies that own gas-fired power plants — offered up an amendment to that, asking that the rule be allowed to stay in place for two extra years to protect the reliability of the grid.” 

It appears that ISO-NE decided to keep their “minimum price offer rule” in place after bribes from gas companies. Keeping the rule in place is not for “grid reliability” as ISO-NE claims, but it is to serve the interest of coal, oil, and gas power plants that are destroying the climate. ISO-NE claims to put the interests of New England residents first, but they are showing us time and time again that their decisions are made in the interest of their wealthy stakeholders and fossil fuel companies. 

ISO-NE’s forward capacity market system is set up to serve dirty fossil fuels and stand in the way of New England’s transition to clean, renewable energy. Allowing renewable energy to take part in this system by eliminating their “minimum price offer rule” is a compromise from advocates and climate activists across the region. The forward capacity market upholds climate-destroying capitalist practices and will not allow us to complete a just transition to renewable energy. If ISO-NE can’t even give clean, CHEAP, renewable energy a chance in their market system, then their market system should not be allowed to exist. It is time for ISO-NE to stop listening to fossil fuel executives and listen to the ratepayers who do not want their utility bills to prop up dirty fossil fuels any more. ISO-NE: end the forward capacity market now, so that New England has a chance for a just transition to renewable energy.



Over 150 people gathered in Bow, 50 took to the river in boats and 18 were arrested building a garden at the Merrimack Generating Station.

image of a crowd of people in t shirts that say "no coal no gas" walking behind a big banner that says "Tear it down." The people are carrying plants and buckets of soil

(image credit: Candace Hope)

BOW, NEW HAMPSHIRE— Over a hundred and fifty people descended on Bow this Sunday to take direct action to shut down the Merrimack Generating Station – the last coal-fired power plant in New England. The Merrimack Generating Station is destroying the river, the land and the water and making the Bow community sick. It is contributing to the escalating climate crisis. The No Coal No Gas campaign is taking action to end the use of coal in Bow. The group gathered in the field across from the coal plant for a rally demanding a shutdown date for the coal plant.

“There’s a boat ramp across the way [from the coal plant] with a sign that reads ‘Merrimack Station is pleased to share this boat ramp with the Bow community, please use this property safely and responsibly,’” recounts Mary Fite, resident of Bow. “When I first read this sign, I felt like crying. Is operating a coal-fired power plant on the banks of the Merrimack River safe? Is polluting our air, land, and water responsible?”

After a rally across the street from the coal plant, the group broke into three groups – one went to the Merrimack River with kayaks, one marched down River Road chanting, and a third headed towards the entrance of Merrimack Station holding signs, plants, and gardening tools. No Coal No Gas activists blockaded the entrance to the coal plant and tore up the pavement to plant a garden in its place to begin to heal the polluted soil from toxic coal. 18 people were arrested. 

image of a group of individuals sitting on concrete in front of a banner that has flowers on it and the text "Tear it down." The coal plant in Bow, NH is in the distance and cops in riot gear are approaching the group.

(photo credit: Candace Hope)

“The Merrimack Generating station only stays open because it receives millions of dollars in forward capacity payments – essentially fossil fuel subsidies” explains Rebecca Beaulieu, Communications Director with 350NH Action. “We must end this unjust system that pays polluters to destroy our environment. Our politicians and the plant owners think that they can ignore the problem and just let people in Bow keep getting sick. We are here to say enough is enough. If our elected leaders won’t end the use of destructive fossil fuels, then we will take matters into our own hands and keep coming back until we end the use of coal once and for all.”

The No Coal No Gas campaign formed in 2019 with the goal of forcing the Merrimack Generating Station to shut down. Since then, the campaign has built a large community of supporters, taken direct action at the coal plant, blockaded six coal trains heading for Bow, and targeted ISO-New England, the regional grid operator responsible for the coal plant’s subsidies. At this event, No Coal No Gas activists started the process of remediating the land by planting native NH plants that will absorb toxins from the coal. 

“The owners of this plant, Granite Shore Power, which is owned by Atlas Holdings and Castleton Commodities, are getting rich, destroying lives and entire communities. But while they and the ISO do nothing to prevent the harm happening in Bow, we are ready to act. We are ready to decommission and dismantle this coal plant ourselves. And we will replace it with the seeds of a better future,” said Leif Taranta, Organizer with the Climate Disobedience Center.

image of a group of kayaks and canoes in the Merrimack River, holding various signs that say "shut it down" and "no coal no gas." The big looming coal plant is in the background

(photo credit: Noah Harrison)

“What do I have to lose fighting for climate justice? Nothing. I have nothing to lose. My future and the future of the planet are on the line. If we are complicit in the climate crisis, my generation will have nothing left. I will fight with everything I have for a just transition to renewable energy in New England, the United States, and the world, and I hope you all will join me,” Said Kai Parlett, organizer with No Coal No Gas and freshman at UNH, in her speech at the rally.

Millions of people and the planet continue to suffer from the effects of the climate crisis. We will keep fighting for a shut down date for the coal plant and for an end to fossil fuel use and expansion until we run the world on 100% renewable energy.

image of a group of people standing along the side of a bridge overlooking railroad tracks and a big coal plant. They are carrying yellow painted flowers and signs that say "no coal in bow." one person wearing a yellow vest stands in front of them.

Youth Climate Activists Call For Dinosaur Fossil Fuels to Go Extinct

MANCHESTER NH – On Saturday February 13th, a group of youth organizers from 350NH, a local climate justice organization, staged an art installation outside a Liberty Utilities facility. This action was in solidarity with the No Coal No Gas campaign, a grassroots coalition working to end the use of fossil fuels in New England and transition to 100% renewable energy, beginning by securing a shut down date for coal-fired coal-fired Merrimack Generating Station in Bow, NH. 

The organizers painted and hung posters and banners on the chain link fence outside the office. Their messages included, “It’s time for diNOsaur fossil fuels to go extinct, and, “tell the ISO it’s time for coal to go extinct.” ISO is shorthand for Independent Systems Operator of New England, the entity that manages the region’s electricity grid. The group also made cardboard dinosaurs to illustrate the concept that “dinosaur” fossil fuels are antiquated and dangerous. 

One of the organizers, Olivia Kreps, a senior at Coe-Brown Northwood Academy and Social Media Lead and Youth Fellow with 350NH, was motivated to participate in this action because she “will be moving on into the world and [she does not] want that world to be one where we still use coal.” 

This action comes a week after thirty activists from the No Coal No Gas campaign gathered at the ISO-New England headquarters in Holyoke, MA. The activists delivered a letter accompanied by two wheelbarrows full of coal, and demanded the regional grid operator cease funding for coal and other fossil fuels. The next day, ISO-NE held its annual forward capacity auction to determine how much funding fossil fuel plants like Merrimack Generating Station will receive to stay operable through 2025.

As one of the youth activists at this Saturday’s protest, Jordan King, a senior at Milford High School and member of the 350NH Youth Team, stated, “Because I’m a young person, my future is on the line and I don’t want to be the next thing to go extinct.” 

The group hopes to gain visibility for and bring more people into the No Coal No Gas campaign. Further, they aim to draw attention to an upcoming period from public comment on the ISO-NE auction results expected to take place between late February and April. 

[Photo: From left to right: Jordan King, Oliva Kreps, and Jake Vogler]


Tired of Inaction: Climate Activists Descend on Coal Plant in Bow, NH

BOW, NEW HAMPSHIRE — The Merrimack Generating Station has polluted the air, water, and climate in New Hampshire for decades while the plant’s out-of-state owners benefit from millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to keep the plant running. As a part of the week of Climate Action happening around the globe, hundreds of activists from New Hampshire are taking matters into their own hands in an effort to stop the climate crisis and force a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030. The Climate Disobedience Center and 350NH Action are two members of the No Coal No Gas coalition who planned this rally and action. 

Over 60 individuals participating in nonviolent direct action walked into the plant through the train tracks. There was a large police presence at the plant and on the surrounding roads. As soon as they crossed the barricade into the plant property, half the group was arrested. Not long after, police wearing what appeared to be riot gear descended on the group and arrested the rest of them. They were taken out of the plant in four County Sheriff vans and a school bus and escorted to Merrimack County Jail. The latest count was 67 individuals arrested.

While those individuals were being arrested, a rally of over 300 people sang, chanted, and cheered on the action takers from a nearby baseball field. Various speakers and musicians participated, giving their perspective on the need for the Merrimack Generating station to be shut down.

Barbara Peterson, member of Nonviolent Citizen Action, says:

“The fossil fuel industry doesn’t care about clean air, water, and soil.“Their priority is profit. It’s our job to say no to coal and other unsustainable energy sources. If we don’t stand up, put our bodies in the way of them destroying our ability to live on this earth, who will?”

This action sends a message to the owners of the coal plant that it is unacceptable to profit off of the destruction of the climate. Individuals in positions of power have failed to protect the climate and it is now up to ordinary people to make the changes necessary in the time we have left. We hope that people in power will follow our lead and make change in a direct way to stop the climate crisis in its tracks.

Lila Kohrman-Glaser, an organizer with 350NH Action, says:  “Last year ratepayers paid $50 million just to keep this plant open even though it provides only about 1% of our electricity. The out-of-state owners are getting rich off of the destruction of our climate and environment and our elected officials have done nothing to stop them.  We won’t stand for decision makers’ corruption and collusion with the fossil fuel industry anymore.”

“For years I’ve worked as an organizer trying to stop the climate crisis. It wasn’t until taking direct action to shut down Merrimack Station that I saw a shift in our community,” explains Emma Shapiro-Weiss, Organizer with 350NH Action. “Folks on the ground in New Hampshire know the health, environmental and economical impacts that this plant has on our state and we won’t stand for it anymore.”

This is just the beginning of the fight to end the use of fossil fuels in New Hampshire. The climate crisis is hurting people here and around the world. Moving forward, the No Coal No Gas coalition will continue to take matters into their own hands if leaders continue to fail to act.


Climate Rally for a Coal-free New Hampshire

New Hampshire held a “Climate Rally for a Coal-free New Hampshire” in Market Square, Portsmouth, NH on Saturday, August 10, 2013. The three-hour rally aimed to inform residents and passers-by of the harmful impacts of fossil fuels, particularly coal, on our state, our nation, and the planet.

A petition was circulated, asking Gov. Hassan and the NH legislators to direct the Public Utilities Commission to do everything possible to encourage closing the coal-fired Bow and Schiller power plants.

The fabulous Leftist Marching Band started the rally off with lively music that drew people toward toward the rally as they walked by. They played a variety of tunes, including, “Which side are you on?”

Four speakers addressed the gathering of about 50 people. Doug Whitbeck of 350 New Hampshire provided detailed background information about the costliness of coal-fired plants and the need to shut down the coal plants and develop other sources of energy in the state.

Kim Richards crossed the river from Eliot, Maine, to speak about her work. Through persistence and determination, Kim and other citizens formed “Citizens for Clean Air”, a grassroots group that led a successful petition drive, asking the EPA to investigate the air pollution caused by the Schiller coal-plant. Although the Schiller plant is located in Portsmouth, NH, the prevailing winds often carry the coal dust, smoke and other pollutants across the river to Eliot, ME.

Many in the crowd found inspiration from Jay O’Hara as he spoke about his decision to commit an act of civil disobedience out of his concerns about global warming. In May 2013, Jay and Ken Ward anchored their 32-foot lobster boat in the path of a massive tanker that was scheduled to deliver coal at Brayton Point coal plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. Jay will be appearing in court later in August on charges stemming from his actions. (For more information about Jay, see his website, coal is stupid dot org.

Doug Bogen spoke passionately about the urgent need to wean ourselves from fossil fuels and transition to sustainable, clean energy. He highlighted the potential for building wind turbines in New Hampshire, and gleaning energy from the off-shore winds along the coast. Doug has been an environmental organizer and advocate for more than three decades. He is currently director of Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, promoting renewable power alternatives and watch-dogging the clean up of superfund toxic waste sites at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

350 New Hampshire was grateful for the assistance given by the NH/VT and Maine Climate Summer teams. The two Climate Summer teams each consist of 6 young adults who spent more than a month traveling entirely by bicycle around Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, spreading the message that we need to get off fossil fuels now! Prior to the rally, the Climate Summer teams made posters and other visual aides. They led chants and brought passionate energy to the rally.

A short skit brought a touch of street theater to the rally. “Mr. Coal” (Doug Whitbeck) initially dominated “Mother Earth” (Judy Elliot) and her children (Climate Summer), as their source of energy. However, the “Spirit of the Wind” (Michelle Combe) offered a healthy, sustainable alternative. The coal workers (Climate Summer) expressed concerns about their coal-related jobs. The Spirit of the Wind emphasized the need for a “just transition” from fossil fuel energy sources to sustainable energy sources – a transition that includes worker training for the new jobs.

skit photo 1

Shut Down Brayton Point Action

On Sunday, July 28, 2013, five members of 350NH traveled to Somerset, Massachusetts to participate in the action to Shut Down Brayton Point coal plant. About 400 people attended the action from all over New England including Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

The day started out cool and cloudy which obscured the tops of anything taller than a tree but as the day progressed, the morning fog burned off and the stark reality of what we’re against came into full view.

The crowd was greeted by the band Melodeego, followed by then inspirational speakers such as Paula of Mountain Keepers, the daughter of coalminers, who told the heartbreaking story of how “‘coal killed my grandfather, my father, and my brothers. Now they’re asking for my sons.'”-Paula (tweeted by Pragmactivis99). Other speakers explained how this is the time for the US to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

After rallying the crowd, the march to Brayton Point began. With cooperation from the police, and from the clouds which parted but allowed the ambient temperature and humidity to rise significantly, we walked on the sidewalk for about a 1/2 mile to the coal fired plant.


Once at the plant, the crowd gathered, sang songs, and watched as 44 red-shirted activists were voluntarily arrested, including members of the group Mothers Out Front.

Due to the excellent preparations and organization by Better Future Project and 350MA the day went without a hitch. The police cooperated with protesters. One officer was seen laughing with the two women his grandmother’s age whom he arrested. The day was peaceful and nonviolent, the way we like our protests!

This video features Michelle of 350NH talking about the little league field which abuts the power plant and what that means to the kids playing ball there.

350NH is hosting its own anti-coal event called Climate Rally for a Coal Free New Hampshire on Saturday, August 10, 2013 from 10a-1p in Market Square, Portsmouth. Join us as we educate the public about the high cost of coal, sign a petition against coal power, listen to music, and catch some street theater!