, Salem, MA

January 10, 2014

Letter: Is a gas plant the best we can do?

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

HealthLink has been asked why we no longer support gas in Salem as we did in 1997 when we first learned of the health damage from pollution. Let’s put 1997 into perspective: 1997 was four years before 9/11, 10 years before iPhones were sold, pre-Google, and Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy were in our future.

Locally, all electricity from the 750-megawatt Salem and 1,500-megawatt Brayton generating stations were needed. Today, ISO has approved the closure of Salem, and Brayton runs under 20 percent and has requested to close. Since 2007, total electricity consumption in the United States has fallen by more than 100,000 megawatts, and low gas prices due to controversial fracking methods put gas in competition with renewable energy.

Today, the additional concern is the rate climate change is happening. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced the planet would see a 1 degree Celsius temperature increase due to climate change by 2100. Just six years later, the International Energy Agency predicted a 3.5-degree Celsius increase by 2035. Weather extremes, severe property damage, skyrocketing insurance costs, tropical diseases moving north and polar vortexes moving south are a few of those consequences.

Gas is used for more than two-thirds of Massachusetts’ energy today, plenty to support the needed transition to renewable energy, and economics compel Footprint to run its plant full time, negating their much touted “quick start” benefits.

The 15-month 167-megawatt shortfall ISO has modeled does not need 40-plus years of a 692 megawatt fossil fuel plant. Enhanced transmission upgrades, needed and already planned for the region, would get us through.

There is total agreement that the site must be remediated, something the Department of Environmental Protection has the authority to require and Footprint has the funding to do, jobs must be created and the dwindling tax base not just replaced, but grown. So, we continue to ask, is this really the best we can do for Salem, the region and the state for the next 40 years?

Jane Bright