SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 21, 2014

State OKs settlement between Footprint, CLF

SALEM — The deal Footprint Power reached this week with the Conservation Law Foundation over its proposed $800 million natural gas-fired power plant has been approved by the state.

The Energy Facilities Siting Board yesterday voted unanimously to approve the settlement, which ends a lawsuit CLF filed against the New Jersey developer last year.

In doing so, the board approved issuance of all state and local permits and approvals that Footprint needs to proceed with its 630-megawatt facility, according to a statement from the state energy department.

The approval means Footprint can move ahead with securing financing and ordering supplies in anticipation of what is expected to be a 29-month construction process. Footprint’s president, Scott Silverstein, has said previously that while the lawsuit put pressure on the construction timetable, he still expects the plant to be operational by June 2016.

Among other things, CLF had argued in its lawsuit that Footprint hadn’t proved that the new plant would adhere to emissions standards set by the 2008 Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act. Under settlement terms, Footprint agreed to keep carbon dioxide emissions beneath a certain level until 2025, at which point the allowable amounts would drop each year.

The cuts will amount to an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2049, relative to the plant’s emissions when it starts running in 2016.

The plant will be allowed to meet those limits either by reducing emissions itself or by acquiring emission allowances or renewable energy certificates from elsewhere.

As another part of the settlement, Footprint agreed to end plant operations by 2050 and to decommission the site within two years.

The deal was applauded by local officials and environmental groups alike. Rick Sullivan, the state’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, praised the two sides for coming to an agreement.

“This agreement is forward-thinking as it not only ensures electricity reliability for the region, but requires greenhouse gas reductions,” Sullivan said. “The Patrick administration has some of the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets in the nation, and today’s decision will help us achieve those targets.”

Also this week, the Historic Commission gave Footprint the go-ahead to tear down the Salem Harbor Station. The plant is scheduled to close on May 31.

Along with constructing a new power plant and tearing down the old one, Footprint plans to clean up the 65-acre site, 40 acres of which will be repurposed.

Neil H. Dempsey can be reached ndempsey@salemnews.com.

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