SALEM — Footprint Power and the Conservation Law Foundation, who have been slugging it out over a proposed $800 million natural gas power plant on the waterfront, are close to a deal that could end their high-stakes fight.
In a joint motion filed yesterday with a state board, the New Jersey power plant developer and the Massachusetts environmental organization said they “believe that they may be able to reach a settlement” in the contentious case that has been fought at public hearings, before state boards, in court filings and at private meetings.
At stake, local officials say, is not only the construction of a power plant that would be the No. 1 taxpayer in Salem, but the redevelopment of the remaining 40 acres of the Salem Harbor Station waterfront site, a key piece of the city’s harbor plan.
City officials warn that without a deal, Salem Harbor Station could be padlocked after it closes in four months and the long-awaited cleanup and redevelopment put on hold.
Plant opponents contend Salem officials have been crying wolf, that the need for the plant has been exaggerated and the threat to the environment has been largely ignored.
Technically, CLF and Footprint have asked for another week to hammer out the details of a proposed settlement agreement, which they would present to the state Energy Facilities Siting Board by next Tuesday.
Both parties declined comment yesterday.
Mayor Kim Driscoll called it a “promising sign” that the two sides are trying to reach an agreement. “We look forward to the next two weeks and the follow-up on their discussions,” she said.
On a larger scale, this pact could give CLF the guarantees it seeks from the state on lowering greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts. It could also open the door for Footprint to secure financing and begin demolition of the current power plant and construction of a new 674-megawatt gas plant.