SALEM — The chess match between state Rep. John Keenan and a powerful environmental organization continued this week when Keenan abandoned a legislative attempt to block appeals of a proposed $800 million natural gas power plant on the Salem waterfront.
On Christmas Eve, Keenan, who is chairman of the House energy committee, wrote to Rep. Brian Dempsey, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to announce that he was withdrawing a provision he added to a bill on natural gas leaks.
Keenan’s controversial “no appeals” amendment was added a few days after the Conservation Law Foundation filed an appeal with the state Supreme Judicial Court of a key permit granted to Footprint Power, the plant developer, by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board.
A strong supporter of the plant, Keenan accused the environmental group of filing a frivolous appeal in an effort to drag out the approval process and kill the proposed plant, which he said needs to secure all its permits before it can obtain financing, order equipment and begin construction.
The Salem representative said he abandoned his legislative maneuver after the state’s highest court granted a request to hear CLF’s appeal in an expedited, or timely, manner, possibly as soon as March.
“I am pleased that the SJC has recognized the urgency of this matter,” Keenan said in a statement. “The timing for this review has been my concern from the get-go and really the impetus for including this language.
“Although I am hopeful that an agreement can be reached between the parties, a timely SJC decision on the merits is certainly the next-best alternative, and I have asked for this language to be withdrawn from the bill.”
Keenan was harshly criticized by plant opponents and environmentalists for attempting to prevent legal appeals.
Shanna Cleveland, a senior attorney at the CLF, called the move “unconstitutional and unconscionable.”