Monthly Archives: January 2014

Proposed Gas Plant Could Help Reduce Emissions Regionally

SAFE co-chairs Patricia Gozemba and Jeff Barz-Snell respond to a recent article in the Boston Globe:

RE “NEW Salem plant a test case for state climate law: Utilities call power vital; environmentalists alarmed” (Page A1, Jan. 19): The implication in Erin Ailworth’s article is that all environmentalists oppose the Footprint Power project in Salem. Salem Alliance for the Environment, a leader in the fight to end coal-burning at the power plant, is supportive of Footprint’s efficient, quick-start natural gas plant. At the same time, we continue to speak out against special favors for Footprint, such as a recent amendment in the Legislature, since pulled back, that would have ended all review at the state level for the proposed plant.

As a group of progressive environmentalists — whose membership includes engineers, scientists, and environmental policy experts — SAFE believes we need to be practical in building a bridge to a renewable future. We are active in promoting a wind farm off Salem Sound, one or more wind turbines in our city, increased renewable capacity through the Solarize Salem initiative, and city-wide energy efficiency.

The proposed plant would reduce regional carbon dioxide emissions while providing the high certainty of available energy when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. SAFE believes that it is too simplistic to draw a line in the sand with a cry of “no more fossil fuels.” Highly efficient gas plants, such as the one proposed for Salem, would help reduce emissions now as we scale up much-needed renewable energy projects going forward.

Advertisements

Plant can be part of renewable energy future

SAFE members recently published two letters in the Salem News.

From Karen Kahn:

David Pelletier, in his Dec. 31 column (”They got their wish, and now they don’t want it”), unfortunately undermines his credibility by implying that climate change concerns may be overblown. Over the last 15 years, the risks from fossil fuels have increased, and many credible people now are concerned about our reliance on natural gas, as well as coal and oil for electricity production.

What makes Healthlink’s position ingenuous is a refusal to look at the specifics of the Footprint proposal. The SAFE board, of which I am a member, has studied the proposal and concluded that it is not only good for Salem but a positive step forward for the environment.

The proposed gas plant has many features that make it a good transition to a renewable energy future. Its quick-start technology allows for half of its full capacity to come online in just 10 minutes, reducing the amount of carbon pollution that older plants spew during the full day that it takes them to get online. Moreover, this type of plant can provide “firming” power for renewables, quickly getting up to full production when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.

Reducing the risks of climate change is a goal we should all share. It is unfortunate that our communities are fighting with each other over a good proposal, rather than seeking common ground in addressing the crisis that we all face.

From Stan Franzeen:

In his Jan. 8 letter to The Salem News (“Are wind and solar energy the answer?”), Robert D’Entremont vividly points out the real-world challenges of replacing Salem’s massive coal-burning power plant with solar or wind technologies.

The following day, Commonwealth Magazine revealed that “data compiled by New England’s power grid operator indicate plants running on coal and oil have been producing between 14 and 21 percent of the region’s electricity over the last few days. During all of 2012, coal accounted for 3 percent of the region’s power output and oil just 1 percent. The recent shift to coal and oil sharply increases carbon emissions, but it keeps the lights on.”

Although I believe that non-carbon energy sources are critical to solving our growing climate crisis, the above report is a perfect illustration of SAFE’s position that until sustainable technologies take up the slack, gas will be needed to meet the energy requirements that ISO New England has so forcefully concluded we need.

It’s a bitter pill to take, but what are the real-world alternatives?

CLF challenges climate impact of new gas plant

The Conservation Law Foundation has taken Footprint Power to court, arguing that the proposed quick-start combined cycle gas plant cannot meet the high standards set by the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. The controversy over the plant is laid out in a January 19 Boston Globe article by Erin Ailworth. SAFE continues to support the proposed plant as a bridge to a renewable energy future.

SALEM — Nearly 100,000 tons of coal piled four stories high sprawl across a section of the waterfront occupied by Salem Harbor Power Station, the 63-year-old plant that burns this dirtiest of fossil fuels to generate electricity for hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts homes.

A decade ago, replacing the aging plant with a far cleaner natural gas facility would have thrilled environmental and public health advocates, who designated Salem Harbor as one of the state’s worst polluters. But now that it’s about to happen, environmental advocates are challenging the state’s approval of a gas-fired power plant for the site after Salem Harbor shuts down in June.

The lawsuit, now before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, is one of the first to be brought under a 2008 state law aimed at dramatically reducing greenhouse gases, which are produced by fossil fuels — such as coal, oil, and natural gas — and blamed for rising global temperatures. Its outcome could not only test the state’s commitment to fighting climate change, but also its ability to site new plants to meet the demand for power.

Already, the operator of the region’s power grid is warning that even a delay in completing the new Salem plant over the next two years could lead to electricity shortages, and possibly rolling blackouts. In addition, the power industry says a decision that overturns the Salem project’s approval would discourage developers from building other plants, leading to even more acute energy shortages.  Read more.

Salem Recycling Program Saves $20,000

The Salem News reports that in the first six months of mandatory recycling Salem has diverted 300 tons of trash to recycling, saving the City $20,000.

SALEM — The new mandatory recycling program has enjoyed a relatively smooth rollout, with the city having already diverted about 300 tons of waste for a savings of $20,000, program enforcement coordinator Jeff Cohen said in a recent interview.

The recycling ordinance was approved by the City Council in May and took effect on July 1. It requires residents to set out recycling with their trash at least once every two weeks. The ordinance included a three-month grace period during which Cohen and the city tried to educate the public about recycling, including through face-to-face meetings with residents and an advertisement campaign that aired on Salem Access Television.

Cohen was hired to his 18-month contract via monies from the Department of Environmental Protection and the city’s trash budget. During the grace period, he canvassed the city, measured “set-out” rates and educated people about recycling.

“I went to approximately 13,000 addresses and posted about 6,000 door hangers,” he said. “During that period, I spoke to about 2,800 people face-to-face and a lot of other people on phone calls.”

The city pays a little more than $60 a ton to dispose of trash, with the average person producing about that much each year. Recycling plastic, metal or glass costs the city nothing, and paper and cardboard can be sold for a profit of $20 a ton. Read more.