, Salem, MA

December 21, 2013

Letter: Slowing plant approval process a mistake

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

For greater Salem’s residents, the opponents of the new gas fired power plant are ready to cut your nose off to spite your face.

While they were obfuscating about the existing coal fired power plant’s pollution, they never stated that it was one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants that put out some 800-plus megawatts of reliable electrical energy for more than 50 years. They also make no effort to mention the good air quality in towns surrounding Salem. They grossly overstate the results of pollution and work to have the EPA establish regulations lowering the pollution specifications so that even one of the cleaner coal-fired power plants could no longer operate.

Who are the opponents? They are those “environmental groups” that want no power plant in the region? The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and HealthLink said they were all for a gas-fired plant when they were trying to force the Salem Power Station to close. The CLF also gets paid by the government when they win a suit against people like the power plant. It is sort of like having the fox in the chicken coop. Lori Ehrlich, then of HealthLink, worked to show that the power plant was the largest polluter in the area. When their study showed that the pollution from vehicles, as well as in people’s homes from cleaning solutions, out-gassing from carpets and other plastic products was a much greater threat to people, Lori Ehrlich commented that all of the vehicles and homes were difficult to address. She said that the power plant was easier to go after.

The Rev. Jeffrey Barz-Snell, who pushed for the existing power plant shutdown, is agreeable to the idea of a new, more efficient and less polluting (about 50 percent less) gas-fired plant. Not only will it create power at a much lower pollution rate and at greater efficiency, it also allows for the removal of the existing coal-fired plant, as financed by the new owner Footprint.

ISO-New England, which controls the distribution of electrical power in the Northeast, clearly states that the region needs the new gas-fired power plant.

The CLF has been financed by a group of people who are trying to naively achieve zero pollution. We all want “no’ pollution, but we need to work with what is reasonable in order to provide reliable electrical power, as efficiently as possible, while working toward the use of all available forms of renewable energy.

The last thing that we need here in greater Salem is another government-regulated operation that does not perform properly. Allowing the CLF to slow down the process will not improve anything with regard to pollution or reliable energy production. Slowing the process will jeopardize the generation of reliable electricity while increasing costs.

Paul LaBrie