Another part of the settlement mandates that Footprint work with CLF to obtain information from Algonquin Gas regarding the Salem Lateral, the 1.2-mile pipeline the company intends to build to bring natural gas to the new power plant.
The information will be used to “ensure that the construction methods will appropriately protect the environment and will demonstrate that the construction of the lateral will not serve to increase the capacity of Algonquin’s system,” according to the settlement.
“Upon receipt of such satisfactory information ... CLF agrees not to protest or appeal or otherwise delay any approval of such lateral.”
Local officials had worried that CLF’s legal maneuvering could derail the Footprint project altogether, leaving the city without its largest taxpayer and with an abandoned industrial site on its waterfront. Supporters of the incoming plant also argued that replacing a coal- and oil-burning plant with a natural gas-fired one amounted to environmental progress, and ISO-New England, the regional power grid operator, argued that there could be blackouts should the new plant not get built.
Opponents of the plant, including state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, argued that the plant’s supporters were playing down its environmental hazards and playing up how much it’s needed to support the power grid.
Salem Harbor Station is slated to close on May 31, though half of its generators have already been shut down. In addition to building the new power plant, the Footprint project would clean up the 65-acre waterfront site and repurpose 40 acres of it.
Two Salem residents have mounted a legal challenge to the plant on a local level, hoping to overturn approvals from Salem’s Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals. The status of those challenges, or what effect the settlement might have on them, is unclear.
CLF had previously lobbied that the Salem Harbor Station be closed and alleged in a 2010 lawsuit that it had violated the Federal Clean Air Act nearly 300 times between 2005 and 2009. As a result of that lawsuit, the plant agreed it wouldn’t burn coal past 2014.
Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.