Community Benefits Agreement

A Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is a contract between a large developer and the host community. SAFE has made the following proposal to the Mayor’s office, to begin working on a CBA through the Mayor’s stakeholder group.

Community Benefits Agreement Proposal, June 13, 2013

Salem began its life as a world-class city, with a globe-spanning impact. It today faces the opportunity, and the imperative, to again show itself as a world-class city, demonstrating how a cutting-edge city in the 21st century shapes an energy future through approaches that are sustainable, responsible, and visionary. The future well-being of Salem depends on vigorous steps to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a path that must now be embraced by every nation, every city, and every citizen. Given the progressive leadership of Mayor Kim Driscoll, and the commitment to responsible corporate citizenship articulated by potential developer Footprint Power, Salem today faces a unique opportunity to shape itself into a model energy city. Central to any such vision is a robust plan for mitigating carbon emissions.

In discussions with SAFE, Footprint indicated its willingness to sign a community benefits agreement (CBA). This CBA should include Footprint’s contractual agreement to fund GHG mitigation activities in the city of Salem. The first step is for Footprint to fund a study to shape a professional mitigation plan.

Our proposal, in summary, is this:

We ask that the Mayor form a CBA subcommittee of the Mayor’s Stakeholder Committee, and that this subcommittee be empowered to jointly, with the Mayor, hire a subcontractor to do a 30-year GHG emission mitigation plan. We ask that the subcommittee have direct access to the subcontractor, helping to craft the guidelines of the proposed study, and helping to oversee the study itself. The stakeholder committee, as a whole, would then act as a third party signing the CBA with the mayor and Footprint. Experience shows that the CBA process is most effective when three parties are involved: developer, city, and community. SAFE believes that the execution of a CBA must be a condition of permitting by the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission.

The proposed gas plant on Salem Harbor has the potential to be a model high-efficiency gas plant that enables and opens up the pathway to a low- or no-carbon future. Footprint has said publicly that it sees natural gas as a transitional fuel. If the energy future of Salem includes high-efficiency gas, it must also lay a path to zero-carbon that leads through a scale-up of renewables and energy efficiency.  We believe it is time to put this vision into a contractually binding plan that commits Footprint to funding a mitigation plan that shapes a sustainable energy future for Salem.

We would like Footprint to fund the Mayor’s committee to commission an analysis that examines how rapidly Footprint might achieve GHG reductions  or offsets of 20%, 50% and 100% of its projected peak GHG emissions, under various scenarios that incorporate public policy considerations, levels of investment, carbon prices and other relevant factors.

A well-crafted CBA for a natural gas plant should focus on prevention and mitigation of environmental and health impacts as a result of GHG emissions.

Potential Community Benefits Agreement Elements

Below is a list of potential items to be included in a CBA:

  1. Greenhouse gas emissions mitigation plan and activities funded by Footprint
    1. Fund professional GHG emissions analysis and mitigation plan to offset Footprint’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
    2. Identify future opportunities to share heat processes, gray water, and other resources with South Essex Sewage District (SESD) and Salem State’s Cat Cove Marine Laboratory. 
    3. Provide funding for an Energy Manager/Sustainability Manager within the City of Salem to continue to work on energy efficiency programs, renewable energy projects, and education. 
    4. Fund renewable energy projects, such as the Winter Island wind turbine, a large-scale photovoltaic project, or more electric vehicle charging stations.  
    5. Support large offshore wind farm, including:
      • Contract to provide firming power with an entity that is currently developing a wind project in the ISO New England region.
      • Make sure the new power plant site is maritime wind farm-ready; this includes reviewing the proposed design to ensure no new construction would make it difficult to connect to a wind farm later; reserving land for staging and deployment of offshore wind.
      • Lay a realistic financial plan for this plant to function as one that can “firm” power generated by an offshore wind farm.

F. Provide plug-in power for visiting cruise ships, so they can shut down bunker oil burning.

G. Provide funding for Climate Impact/Adaptation planning and implementation for the City.

H. Fund solar panels on a substantial number of Salem homes and municipal buildings

I.Assist the City of Salem to transition to electric vehicles.

J. Provide funding for energy efficiency projects, as part of the City of Salem’s continued efforts under the Green Communities Program

K. Fund the initial startup costs for a local city-wide community electricity purchase program.

L. Subsidize public transportation programs, including ridership programs, discount commuter passes, and the North Shore Transportation Management Association (TMA).

M. Have Footprint take a strong public stand and advocate for strong regulations of hydraulic fracturing at the state and federal levels.

 2. Dispute resolution process

 A clear and binding dispute resolution process should be created between the city and the plant owners, at which community representatives have a seat at the table.  Rather than force the community to go to court over every small issue, the process will provide for consideration and resolution of neighborhood and resident complaints on a wide-range of construction and operation issues such as:

  • Demolition process – timing, techniques.
  • Site remediation – scope (entire site, above and below grade), level, technology, process, timing, independent monitoring and review.
  • Noise limits, monitoring, mitigation—concern during both construction and operation.
  • Plant layout – to ensure minimum local impacts.
  • Visual impacts—provisions that future alterations to site screening and landscaping will be adequate and well maintained; possible joint planning with community.
  • Air emissions – monitoring and reporting (anything additional to DEP requirements).
  • Traffic – designated routes, especially during construction; roadway or signaling improvements. Creative use of water transportation to lessen traffic congestion.
  • Water and wastewater – impact on local systems.
  • Wetlands – impacts, remediation.
  • Chlorine and ammonia – transportation, storage, management.
  • Emergency response – protocol and responsibilities.
  • Gas pipeline – location, operating parameters.
  • Climate change – ensure all site planning and facility design considers the latest data regarding climate change impacts and best practice adaptation.
  • Payments for burden of hosting regional facility.
  • Independent monitoring and technical assistance – various environmental and operational provisions; annual fund for ongoing technical assistance.

Construction and Decommissioning

  1.  Site status if gas plant not constructed – provisions to prevent inaction and “site banking,” so the site will not end up simply fenced without development proceeding. Consideration of trigger for escrow payments if schedule milestones not met.
  2. A detailed description by Footprint of the condition in which the remainder of the former power plant site will be left upon the completion of the proposed new gas plant–including the level of cleanup planned under the MA DEP remediation program, and any Activity and Use Limitations (AULs). 18 to 20 acres of the 58 acres will be used for the gas plant.  What will the remaining approximately 38 acres look like once the proposed plant is completed?
  3.  Escrow account for proper future closing.
  4. Term of CBA – stipulate contract endures for life of plant and includes proper closure.

 Public Access and Inclusion

  1. Creation of an established collaborative process by which the community will have input into how the remaining 38 acres of the larger site are developed. Should include specific procedures for decision making; timing; serious consideration of public preferences for entities on the site (for example, renewable energy generation or clean energy park); and prohibitions. SAFE would like the developer, for example, to explore the possibility of creating a renewable energy park on that site, similar to developments in the towns of Ellensburg, WA and Hampstead, NY, as a way to attract responsible industry, enhance the tax base, and generate green tourism.
  2. Developing remaining 38 acres in such a manner as to enable future port usage, including such practical aspects as vehicular and pedestrian access to the pier.
  3. Right to public access that will remain in place and cannot be reduced by further site development.  No activity and use limitations (AULs) that would prevent the general public from access to all of the grounds, or all of the remaining portion of the site, nor to prevent access at the dock areas that will be needed for cruise ships.
  4. The formation of a community foundation funded by the developers and owners of the facility (as is called for in the CBAs prepared for other cities hosting a new, gas-fired generation plant). The focus of the community foundation would be to fund projects related to environmental and health impacts from past and present power plants.
  5. Commitments to local hiring at living wage during construction and operation. Preference given to Salem residents, possibly minority hiring provisions, or provisions for internships or apprenticeships for low-income youth.


  1.  Create successors and assigns clause so the CBA agreement endures for the life of the plant and applies to future parties, successors, and assigns.
  2. Provisions to make the CBA enforceable, with penalties for violations. These might include schedule violations and redevelopment efforts. Enforcement and dispute resolution should both include consideration of long-term operations of the plant, 10-20 years into the future.
  3. Make CBA a condition of Planning Board and Conservation Commission permitting.
  4. Term of CBA – stipulate the contract endures for life of plant and includes proper closure.

 SAFE looks forward to working as part of the Mayor’s Stakeholder Committee to develop a CBA that will work for the community of Salem.

A gas plant like the proposed one can be a part of the larger transition to a low-carbon economy and society, but this does not happen by accident.  Decisions and agreements now will frame the path of future development.  There are times when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine and tides are not flowing.  During such moments, we will need a plant like this one over the next 30 years.

SAFE thanks the following organizations and individuals for offering counsel and in some cases providing a  forum or public process  for comments on effective mitigation of environmental and health impacts caused by GHG emissions: Conservation Law Foundation, James Goldstein of Tellus Institute,  MA Department of Environmental Protection, the MA Energy Facilities Siting Board,, and Clean Water Action.

To learn more about CBAs, check out the following resources:

CBAs-Making Development Projects Accountable [pdf]

Community Benefits Agreement with Power Plant « Romick in Oakley [pdf]

Baxamusa_2008_Empowering Communities [pdf]

Los Angeles Community Benefits Agreement 2005 [pdf]

PSEG Agrees to Cut Hours at New Haven Plants — HEFN [pdf]

Community Benefits Resources

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