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.