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March 10, 2014

Salem power plant hit with new appeal

SALEM — The legal battle over the proposed natural gas-fired power plant on the waterfront did not end with last month’s landmark settlement between plant owner Footprint Power and the Conservation Law Foundation, a powerful environmental group.

Four area residents who had been part of the Conservation Law Foundation’s action filed an appeal on March 3 with a federal agency, the Environmental Appeals Board of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.

It is not clear what impact this action will have on Footprint, which settled with the Conservation Law Foundation on Feb. 18, in large part, to clear the way to finance the $800 million plant, demolish the current facility and build a new plant.

“We are disappointed by this last-minute appeal,” Footprint President Scott Silverstein said last week in an email. “For four years, we have worked with neighbors, activists and respected advocacy groups to gather support and understanding for our project.

“We are confident that our project’s immense benefits to energy reliability and the environment will outweigh the baseless objections of these four people. We will continue to finalize our construction and financing plans, while the board reviews this appeal.”

Salem Harbor Station, the current coal and oil-burning plant, shuts down May 31. The new plant is scheduled to open in June 2016.

The petition seeking review of a permit issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection was filed by a group that includes Jeff Brooks, a Salem resident who lives near the Fort Avenue plant. Brooks has actively opposed the new plant’s construction by posting protest murals on his garage and forming his own group, Grassroots Against Another Salem Power Plant.

He was joined on the appeal by Andrea Celestine, William Dearstyn and Linda Haley, all of whom were part of previous appeals. Haley, who moved to Marblehead recently, is a former Salem resident and longtime opponent of the plant. Dearstyn, a Salem resident, also appealed an approval granted last year by a Salem board.

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