SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 7, 2014

Column: Salem's gas plant and the low-carbon future

SAFE fully agrees with 350MA that the United States must take immediate steps to address global climate change. However, SAFE believes that the proposed quick-start, high-efficiency natural gas power plant for our city is consistent with the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act and can play a positive role in decarbonizing the electric grid in the three decades ahead.

As a seaside community, Salem should be on the forefront of addressing the climate crisis. If we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise that could risk putting a part of our own community under water, the world must reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050. Like the sponsors of the protest against the proposed gas plant in Salem, we are in search of a viable path forward.

Our vision for Salem includes a large-scale maritime wind farm off of Cape Ann — a project that would become more viable if the proposed Salem gas plant goes forward. And as advocates for solar energy, we are pleased that Salem is one of 15 communities that have been selected for the second round of Solarize Mass.

We also recognize the growing evidence that hydrofracking is severely damaging the environment and people’s lives. We strongly oppose this practice and believe it should be stopped until proven safe. To that end, SAFE supports federal and state regulation of fracking and legislation that forces utilities to prevent chemical contamination of drinking water supplies and to fully address methane leaks in the gas distribution infrastructure.

The “easy” work in reducing emissions has been done here in Massachusetts, with all coal-fired power plants scheduled to close by 2017. Going forward, the choices become more difficult. Among the steps we can take to further reduce emissions in the short run is to replace older gas generation with high-efficiency quick-start plants similar to the one proposed for Salem.

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