SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 2, 2013

Keenan: Myth vs. fact on Salem Harbor Station

(Continued)

Myth: The natural gas plant that Footprint is proposing is at odds with the commonwealth’s greenhouse gas reduction goals as set forth in the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA).

Fact: In order to implement the GWSA, the Patrick administration developed the “Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020.” The plan allows for the construction of new, efficient, natural gas power plants in order to achieve our goals. Despite the outline in the plan, and conclusion by the state’s Siting Board that there is no doubt that the plant will result in an “overall trend of reduced (greenhouse gas) emissions,” CLF is advancing an appeal of the decision to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Myth: Any regional shortfall of electricity capacity in the area can be met with transmission upgrades that would be cheaper and less carbon intensive than the Salem Harbor facility.

Fact: Transmission alternatives would not be ready in time to prepare the grid for contingency events. Anyone paying attention to the National Grid cable replacement project in Salem realizes these are not necessarily simple upgrades. Additionally, transmission lines bring power from other sources of the grid, which means that these lines allow current generators throughout New England to generate more electricity. Since the average plant in New England emits significantly more carbon than the proposed Footprint facility, a transmission alternative to the power plant would actually result in higher carbon emissions than if the plant is built. Regarding cost, transmission companies pass the whole cost of constructing their lines to ratepayers. Footprint, however, recovers its cost from the energy markets, and studies have shown that the plant would decrease regional electricity prices by injecting more efficient power generation into the grid.

Myth: CLF is concerned about the citizens of Salem.

Fact: CLF fails to appreciate what real impacts retiring coal plants have on the host communities. For many communities, these power plants pay a large portion of annual taxes and water rates (to the tune of $4.75 million in tax revenue for Salem). Frankly, I do not think that CLF has a grasp on the reality of the scope of the clean up and remediation necessary for the site. And despite CLF’s assertion otherwise, our state’s environmental agency lacks the clear authority and/or resources to require the retired plant’s demolition.

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