Keenan, 48, was both praised and pilloried for his support of Footprint, in particular legislation he filed, and later withdrew, that would have blocked further appeals of the project.
“Yeah, that was pretty aggressive,” he said yesterday. “(But) I think it sent a message, and when it was no longer needed, I withdrew it.”
At the time, a top official at CLF called Keenan’s move “unconstitutional and unconscionable.”
“I had skirmishes with (CLF),” Keenan said yesterday, “but I do believe, at the end of the day, a good project became a better project.”
Keenan, who was chairman of the House Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, said he sought that powerful role because of the importance of the power plant to his hometown. He also pushed for the creation of the Salem Harbor Station Task Force, a state committee charged with studying the redevelopment and reuse of not only the Salem power plant, but coal plants slated to close in other communities.
In his role as state representative, Keenan also helped Salem secure a guarantee the state would cover any lost tax revenue from the plant through 2019.
Keenan said he fought hard for the new power plant because he was convinced it was “the right thing for Salem.” He added that he “would do anything in my control to make it happen.”
Keenan got high praise from Mayor Kim Driscoll, who worked with him on a number of key projects over the past eight years.
“He’s been a terrific partner,” she said. “... As someone who was a former city solicitor here in Salem, he had a firm grasp of what the issues were and was just phenomenal to work with.”
She credited Keenan for his work on the power plant, the state courthouses, the waterfront and the commuter rail station.