SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 13, 2013

Power plant facing new hurdle

Environmental group appeals state board's approval

SALEM — The Conservation Law Foundation, one of the leading environmental advocacy groups in New England, has appealed a state board’s approval of the proposed Salem power plant.

The Conservation Law Foundation’s Nov. 8 appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which could take months to hear, has raised concerns about possible financing and construction delays for Footprint Power, the New Jersey firm that is on a tight timeline to open a 692-megawatt natural gas plant on the Salem waterfront by June 2016.

“Anything that would delay ... financing and the beginning of construction is a cause for concern,” said Footprint President Scott Silverstein. “... Certainly, we have a very limited time window to get this plant built.”

Footprint officials hope to have all the permits they need by January in order to secure final financing. Silverstein estimates it will take 29 months to build the plant, which means preliminary construction would have to start in February.

As part of this complex project, Footprint will demolish most of Salem Harbor Station, the coal and oil-fired plant slated to close in May.

In its filing, the Conservation Law Foundation said the Energy Facilities Siting Board made a number of errors in its ruling, which it contended was made without credible evidence that the Salem plant could comply with the tough greenhouse gas emission limits established in the 2008 Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act.

Footprint Power, the CLF noted, is the first developer to try to construct a power plant under the new law.

The Global Warming Solutions Act requires a statewide reduction of carbon emissions of 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

State Rep. John Keenan of Salem, chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, took issue with CLF’s action.

“I’m not even sure our local Salem psychics could predict with any degree of certainty sea level rise, carbon emissions and other regulatory mandates in 2050, yet this is what CLF seems to demand of Footprint and the Patrick Administration,” he wrote in an email.

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