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February 7, 2013

ISO sees need for Salem power plant

(Continued)

The Footprint CEO got the good news from ISO late yesterday, hours after he had been the guest speaker at the monthly breakfast meeting of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce.

In yesterday’s speech, Furniss said a natural gas plant would have significant environmental and economic benefits, allowing the state to avoid “massive” amounts of pollution from dirtier fossil fuel plants and saving ratepayers millions of dollars from the lower-cost fuel.

He also told the audience at the DoubleTree hotel in Danvers that a recently completed environmental investigation of the property showed relatively little pollution. A contractor did borings, dug test pits and set up monitoring wells to determine how extensive a clean-up is needed. The results were sent to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Furniss said there are “no reportable groundwater issues,” and limited contamination.

“The site is in good shape and we are going to make it even better,” he said.

Furniss showed the audience a rendering of the proposed plant, revealing a single smokestack less than half the height of the tallest of the plant’s three current stacks, which is nearly 500 feet in height.

In response to a question about how well the proposed new plant could withstand a weather event like the recent Hurricane Sandy, Furniss said that following that destructive storm they decided to raise the level of the plant’s foundation by several feet to ensure it could withstand any future storm.

As for future development of the site, Furniss said that in addition to a power plant they are considering industrial facilities, loading docks, cruise ship terminals and other waterfront-related businesses.

The Footprint official noted that they are talking to Driscoll about the city using the power plant’s deepwater port to bring cruise ships here “as early as this summer.”

The current power plant, which is running at less than full capacity, is scheduled to shut down next year.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.

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