SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 11, 2013

Our view: CLF actions hurt city, region

City and business leaders, local legislators, environmental advocates and state officials have worked for years to figure out how best to replace the coal-and-oil burning plant at Salem Harbor Station. The result is a widely supported plan that protects tax revenue, opens a large swath of waterfront to its citizens, helps ensure a steady source of energy for the entire region and, most importantly, represents a huge step forward for the environment.

This is what the Conservation Law Foundation wants to kill.

In recent weeks the CLF has used a series of legal appeals to slow the approval process for the new plant (which has made it past every major regulatory obstacle so far). Delay the project long enough, and the funding for the new plant will fall through, leaving the city holding the coal-dust-streaked bag.

State Rep. John Keenan has been criticized in some corners for his response to CLF’s tactics, including his move to add language he said would end “frivolous appeals likely to halt the plant’s timely development” to an unrelated gas leak bill making its way through the Legislature.

Keenan’s amendment won’t win him any friends in Marblehead (whose representative, Lori Ehrlich, is the author of the gas leak bill and an opponent of a power plant in Salem) but it underlines how high the stakes are for Salem and the region at large.

Footprint Power of New Jersey bought the 65-acre site last year and will shut down the current coal-and-oil burning plant there by May. The hope is to open its $800 million, 692-megawatt natural gas plant by June of 2016.

The bulk of the resistance to the new plant centers around the use of natural gas. Shouldn’t we be moving away from fossil fuels, toward greener sources of energy?

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