It was most welcome news this week that a settlement is in the works between Footprint Power and the Conservation Law Foundation over the proposed new power plant on Salem Harbor.
The CLF, one of the state’s largest and most influential environmental groups, has filed suit to stop the natural gas plant, which would replace the old coal and oil plant on the site now. That plant will close this year. Now both sides have signaled that they are close to an agreement .
We understand and applaud the goals of activists fighting to reduce the use of fossil fuels. But we agree with the Salem Alliance for the Environment that the proposed plant is a useful bridge technology that can help meet the region’s power needs until a time when solar and wind sources can do the job alone. The new gas plant will be far less polluting than what’s there now.
A deal would be a big win for the city of Salem, which, unfortunately, some are content to dismiss as collateral damage in the battle over fossil fuels. If this new plant were to be blocked, the city could lose millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue, and be left with a polluted, undeveloped piece of waterfront property, owned by a private entity. This proposal is the city’s best chance to get the site cleaned up and open acres more of the waterfront to other, better development possibilities.
The willingness of both sides to hammer out a compromise is a harbinger of better things to come.