SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 5, 2013

Keenan stresses need for gas plant

State rep says rolling brownouts possible

PEABODY — State Rep. John Keenan told the North Shore Chamber of Commerce that “rolling brownouts” in the region are a real possibility in 2016 should plans for the redevelopment of Salem Harbor Station into a natural gas power plant sputter out.

Keenan, a Salem Democrat and chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, suggested to North Shore business leaders that those communities in state Rep. Lori Ehrlich’s district be the ones to suffer brownouts should the power plant project fail to come to fruition. Ehrlich, a Marblehead Democrat and environmental activist, opposes plans for a new power plant.

“I’m sincere in that,” said Keenan to a scattering of applause in a ballroom at the Peabody Marriott during a packed executive breakfast yesterday morning.

New Jersey-based Footprint Power bought the coal-and oil-burning power plant last year and plans to build a new natural gas plant by mid-2016. The current plant is set to shut down in May. It’s a project Keenan said could total $1 billion when one factors in site remediation, the cost of the power plant and redevelopment of other portions of the site.

Keenan said the new gas plant is necessary not only for Salem, but for the region in terms of making sure there is a reliable source of power in years to come.

“If you live in Marblehead and you live in Swampscott, call (Ehrlich) and tell her you don’t want to lose your power in 2016,” Keenan said.

Keenan also urged business leaders to contact Conservation Law Foundation board members and advocate in favor of the plant’s redevelopment. The nonprofit environmental advocacy group has filed legal appeals against various approvals for the project.

After the meeting, Keenan said his talk about targeting rolling brownouts was purely rhetorical.

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