SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 5, 2013

Salem mayor names power plant advisers

SALEM — Mayor Kim Driscoll has named local environmentalists, community representatives and elected officials to an advisory board on the redevelopment of the Salem Harbor Station power plant.

The 13-member board will serve as a “clearing house” for information and issues involving the reuse of a 65-acre waterfront property that is both the city’s No. 1 taxpayer and its most important development.

Driscoll said the city hopes to do “something transformational here.”

The board holds its first meeting today at 2 p.m. at the Salem Five bank.

The announcement comes as the aging coal- and oil-fired plant prepares to close next year, and as plans for a new natural gas plant are being reviewed by state agencies and set to go forward at the local level.

Footprint Power of New Jersey, the new owner, hopes to open a gas plant in 2016.

“Obviously, we’ve never reviewed a power plant before,” Driscoll said, “and whatever we do on this site we’ll have to live with for several decades.”

Footprint, which bought the Salem Harbor facility last summer, has pledged to clean up the site, demolish buildings, and redevelop the waterfront property, which has a deep-water port that could make it attractive to industrial and commercial users.

The developer is donating more than $100,000 to hire consultants to work with the advisory board.

“We’re hoping to put a group of stakeholders together so we can better understand the potential impacts,” Driscoll said.

“And it’s not lost on me that we have one chance to get this right. It’s a complex project. It has layers and different permitting approvals.”

State Rep. John Keenan, a member of the advisory board, echoed the mayor’s comments.

“It’s as complicated a redevelopment as there has ever been in the city,” said Keenan, who also heads a separate state task force on the project.

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