Rep. Haddad is star of energy documentary

REP. PATRICIA HADDAD of Somerset, long a powerful figure in the Massachusetts House, is now also the star of a new documentary written, directed, and produced by California-based filmmaker Kiki Goshay about America’s love affair with energy.

The documentary’s strength is the long look it takes at the country’s haphazard energy evolution from one president to the next, and from one crisis to the next. The story is told using Haddad and Somerset as the laboratory where those twists and turns play out – often with devastating personal and environmental consequences.

“It is a microcosm of all of America,” Goshay says of Somerset on The Codcast.

Somerset is a small community located on Mount Hope Bay across from Fall River. Electricity has long been its chief export, but the fuel used to produce the power has changed with the times. At Brayton Point, the power plant started with coal, shifted to oil when that fuel was cheap and plentiful, and then reverted to coal with the formation of OPEC and the run-up in oil prices in the 1970s.

Then came the environmental movement and the discovery that the Brayton Point plant was polluting the air and killing off the fish in the bay. That led to expensive scrubbers and cooling towers, which made the plant too costly to operate when cheap fracked natural gas came along. The plant was torn down and the cooling towers were imploded in April 2019, paving the way for a turn to offshore wind that has taken far longer than planned with the foot-dragging of the Trump administration finally giving way to the full-speed-ahead approach of the Biden administration. (CommonWealth has written a lot about this segment of the town’s history.)

What gives the documentary poignancy is its look at how the twists and turns of American energy policy have been felt in Somerset. Haddad recalls how she kept the windows closed on one side of her house to keep the coal dust out, yet accepted that inconvenience and others because the plant kept the town going financially. Indeed, she fought for the coal plant right up until it was torn down.

“I fell in love with her when I met her because she’s so open and honest,” said Goshay, “Her personal arc is really interesting to me because she first said she was the queen of coal and now [she says] ‘I’m the witch of wind.’ She is proud to have changed her stance as a politician and a leader to adapt to the reality of what was happening. That’s what we need in leadership, people who will adapt to what’s happening right now, not be stuck in a certain position.”

Goshay adopted a very unconventional approach to shooting her series of documentaries over the last three years. She raised enough money to do the filming and editing, using her daughter as the narrator, but she had no commitment from any cable or streaming platform to eventually carry the series. She held a screening of the Somerset episode last week at the local high school.

Goshay said she felt she needed to push ahead with the project for personal reasons as she watched the country fail to wake up to the dangers of climate change. She interviewed scientists, entrepreneurs, and policymakers like Haddad and came away far more optimistic about the nation’s future.

“I called [the documentary series] ‘Empowered’ because it’s exactly how I felt personally,” she said. “When I did this deep dive and met all of these people over the course of two years, I felt this excitement for the future for the first time. I really thought, wow, things are going to be better in five years and even better than that in 10 years because I met the people that are doing the work and I realized we have the tools.”

One of the people she interviewed was Phil Colarusso, a marine biologist with the Environmental Protection Agency in September 2002. While investigating the environmental impact of the Brayton Point power plant, he went on a dive in Mount Hope Bay and over the course of 50 minutes didn’t see a single fish.

Goshay said she asked Colarusso more recently if the fish will ever return. He reminded her of the cleanup of Boston Harbor and its startling return. Goshay said she now believes Mount Hope Bay has a chance to recover.

“If we give nature a chance, and back off from fighting it, it comes back,” she said.



Housing pushback: Gov. Charlie Baker’s push for new housing is facing strong pushback in the suburbs, with some communities saying they are willing to forego state aid if it means they don’t have to build 750 units of multifamily housing. Read more.

Shrinkage: The state’s fiscal 2021 annual report indicates the workforce has shrunk to 2012 levels, with the biggest cut occurring in the UMass system. Read more.

Children’s vaccine: Baker writes a letter to President Biden urging the Food and Drug Administration to give speedy approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for children. Read more.


Get used to it: Evan Horowitz of the Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University says inflation is having a major impact on state policy as spending more doesn’t always add up to more. Read more.

Children’s expansion: Paul A. Hattis, a fellow at the Lown Institute, says the acquisition of Franciscan Children’s Hospital by Boston Children’s Hospital makes a lot of sense. Read more.

Free prison calls: Rep. Chynah Tyler and Bianca Tylek of Worth Rises say providing free phone calls to prison inmates will improve public safety. Read more.




Senate Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to get a gas tax suspension and elements of Gov. Charlie Baker’s tax package into the state budget. (Eagle-Tribune)

Senate President Karen Spilka says she would have voted “yes” had sports betting gone to a roll call vote. (GBH)


A Berkshire Eagle editorial urges the City Council not to provide funding to the Board of Health for a legal battle with Verizon over a cell phone tower. “We repeatedly underscored the specious grounds on which city health officials picked this ill-advised fight with a telecom giant armed with plenty of reasons to push back — logic, legality, regulatory precedent and self-interest among them,” the editorial said. 

Thousands gathered on Boston Common on Saturday to support abortion rights. (GBH)

More evidence emerges of Everett City Councilor Anthony DiPierro – who is the son of a cousin of Mayor Carlo DeMaria – making racially insensitive comments. (Boston Globe


The Veterans Affairs secretary says the recommendation to close the Northampton VA hospital may have been based on faulty data, according to US Rep. Jim McGovern. (MassLive)

Leaders from business, academia, and government are planning to mount an effort to have Massachusetts land a coveted new federal biomedical research agency. (Boston Globe


Grief and anger are coursing through Buffalo following a racist gun attack that mowed down 13 people, 10 fatally. (New York Times)

The ruling parties in Finland and Sweden now both say they back seeking membership for their country in NATO, a seismic shift for the long-nonaligned Scandinavian countries. (Washington Post)


Labor market shifts are making it much harder for employers to find workers. (Salem News)

A skeptical state Rep. Michael Moran, who thinks Harvard has held back details of various development plans, is proving to be an obstacle to the university’s hopes for smooth sailing on its ambitious plans in his Allston-Brighton district. (Boston Globe


Brookline school teachers go out on strike. (WBUR)

The Globe takes stock of the lackluster record of state takeovers of school districts. CommonWealth had a deep dive on the same topic last month, reporting that the interventions have been “no silver bullet.” 


New Bedford plans to make its largest ever investment in working artists: $1.2 million. (Standard-Times)

Brockton names its first youth poet laureate, 16-year-old Ayanna Blake. (The Enterprise


Free rides on the Worcester Regional Transit Authority are set to end at the end of the year, but some activists hope to make free rides permanent. (Telegram & Gazette)

The head of the union representing MBTA transit police says the police are operating at two-thirds strength due to lots of resignations, and low base salaries make it hard to attract new officers. (MassLive)

A man fell on to the tracks at the MBTA’s Park Street Station in Boston and died when he came in contact with the electrified third rail. (WBUR)


Cardinal Sean O’Malley calls Roe v. Wade “a very flawed decision.” (MassLive) Boston Mayor Michelle Wu called the Supreme Court majority that appears prepared to overturn Roe a “fringe group” of unelected officials. (Boston Herald


Abington High School senior Katelyn McCarthy dies weeks before graduation when she is hit by a commuter rail train. (WCVB-TV)