, Salem, MA


May 13, 2014

Our view: The legacy of the last lump

There are likely very few people upset to learn the Salem Harbor Station power plant burned its last lump of coal last week.

The massive plant burned coal from the time it opened in 1951 to 1968 and again from 1982 onward, angering environmentalists and North Shore residents near and far. The coal dust would often coat homes and cars in nearby neighborhoods, and advocacy groups such as HealthLink decried myriad health and environmental problems linked to coal fuel emissions.

The coal-and-oil plant is expected to be replaced by a much more efficient and environmentally friendly gas-burning plant scheduled to open in June 2016.

That’s good news. But let us also take a minute to recognize what the plant, in its heyday, meant to the city and the region. At its height, it was Salem’s biggest taxpayer, with payments nearing $5 million a year. It gave hundreds of residents steady, good-paying jobs, meaning generations of North Shore residents could afford to live here, spend their money in local stores and send their children to college. It helped keep the lights on across New England during a period of great growth.

That’s no small thing.

Yes, the switch from coal had to happen. But in the years to come, we should all make sure to remember the plant’s entire legacy and its role in the life of the North Shore.

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