State Rep. Ehrlich Talks Salem Power
Marblehead State Rep. Lori Ehrlich takes on the proposed construction of a diesel-and-gas-fired power plant in Salem.
The following was written by Marblehead State Rep. Lori Ehrlich:
“It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” - Helen Keller
For 60 years, our region has paid for the state’s energy needs with polluted drinking water, polluted air, asthma, soot, damaged health, damaged property and a damaged harbor. For six decades, each successive owner of the Salem Harbor Power Plant promised scrubbers and that never happened. For decades, many of us have resorted to rallies, education and lawsuits to demand better for the region.
Now that the latest owner, Dominion of Virginia, has finally driven its coal plant into the ground, the doors will finally close on June 1, 2014.
As the dust and soot settle, one question remains: What next?
Whatever is next should be carefully evaluated. It’s much more complex than just comparing the old plant to a new one. It should stand on its own merits.
As I have said many times before, this is a pivotal time for vision. Our region can finally engage in a creative process that frees us to imagine something other than fossil-fuel burning on that site. This is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Unfortunately, Dominion seems to be obsessively focused on repeating history as it forges ahead with a proposal by Footprint, a New Jersey startup, to build a diesel-and-gas-fired power plant of near equal output to the old plant. Footprint’s deal with Dominion is not signed yet, but it has filed to connect to the grid.
This Footprint proposal fails on several levels for both the city of Salem and the region:
- It commits us to decades more of fossil-fuel burning on our coast.
- It’s a waste of valuable waterfront property with a deep port. Gas plants do not need to be built next to a water source.
- It makes us reliant on foreign and domestic natural-gas extraction. Domestically, there is an estimated six-year supply remaining of the Marcellus shale in New York and Pennsylvania.
- ISO requires that the plant burn diesel for fuel diversity. Diesel is a filthy fuel that requires on-site storage brought in by barge or truck. Fuel diversity is needed because we already count on gas for 60 percent of our state’s power generation.
- It is yet to be determined if the pipeline has enough capacity to fuel a plant of this size and if the plant can be connected.
- It’s oversized. The proposal calls for a 720MW baseload power plant to be built next to the old baseload 745MW power plant, with both plants running simultaneously for a while.
- Demolition of the old plant is not guaranteed unless a performance bond is demanded by the city that should include pro-forma financials for the project and its startup developer.
- It precludes development potential of the property for Salem and the surrounding communities. With two oversized power plants on the shore, there is little chance of more beneficial development occurring. The whole area and Salem’s tax basis will miss out on the chance to boost its revenue-generating potential.
- The power is no longer needed. The old plant is barely running, and ISO, the region’s reliability-cautious grid operator, said that power production on that site is no longer needed. Why such an enormous plant?
While replacing the tax base is a Salem-only problem, managing the site for the future along our shared coastline is a regional challenge. Is there not another developer out there with a beneficial vision for this beautiful, central site that does not saddle Salem and the region with more energy generation than we need? Is there a company out there not so blind that it cannot see?
State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, represents the 8th Essex District, which includes Marblehead, Swampscott and two precincts in Lynn.