Groundbreaking Settlement Reached on Salem, MA Natural Gas Facility

In a groundbreaking settlement with Footprint Power on its proposed natural gas facility in Salem, MA, the plant developers agreed to emissions limits and a future shutdown date to comply with Massachusetts mandates. The settlement ensures that, for the first time ever, a proposed natural-gas-fired plant must comply with conditions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and over-reliance on fossil fuels.

Our press release about the settlement is below. Look for more analysis about this settlement in future blog posts. 

BOSTON, MA  February 18, 2014 – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) today announced that the organization has reached a groundbreaking settlement ensuring that for the first time, a proposed natural gas-fired power plant must comply with conditions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and over-reliance on fossil fuels, including enforceable annually declining emissions limits and a date certain for future plant retirement. The agreement between CLF and the developers of the natural gas-fired Footprint Power Plant proposed at the site of a retiring coal-fired plant in Salem, Mass., has been filed for final review and approval with Massachusetts state authorities.

“At a time when many across the nation and the world see unrestricted growth of natural gas as a climate solution, this is the first settlement providing a pathway for new natural gas infrastructure to help enable rather than undermine a clean energy future,” said CLF President John Kassel. “By recognizing the need to limit greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas-fired plants, this agreement reaffirms that natural gas and other fossil fuel projects must comply with state climate mandates, and has important implications for similar projects in the region and nationally.”

Since summer 2012, the proposed Footprint plant has been at the center of legal battles over concerns raised by CLF and residents of Salem and surrounding communities, on the grounds that neither the plant’s developers nor the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had demonstrated how the proposed facility could be consistent with the deep emissions reductions established by the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in 2008, requiring emissions to be cut at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Under the settlement announced today, the developers of the Footprint plant agreed to the first ever set of binding conditions for a natural gas plant that establish decreasing annual emissions limits and a retirement date of no later than January 1, 2050. These conditions will help to ensure that the new plant will not hinder Massachusetts’ progress toward reducing emissions. In addition, in connection with the settlement, the Patrick Administration has committed to provide support to municipalities with active or retired coal plants with up to $2 million in funding to build renewable energy facilities and transition to clean energy rather than relying on new fossil fuel plants.

“This agreement shows how natural gas can be a tool for reducing greenhouse emissions if it is appropriately conditioned and constrained in a manner that is consistent with the need to decarbonize our energy system,” said Shanna Cleveland, attorney for CLF. “Natural gas is often viewed as a bridge to the clean energy future; this settlement ensures that there is an end to that bridge. CLF will continue to advocate for sound legal frameworks around energy projects for the benefit of the citizens, communities, economy, and environment of Massachusetts and the entire region.”

The settlement will only take effect if the Siting Board incorporates the entirety of the agreement into the Final Decision as a condition of the approval that the Siting Board is proposing to issue for Footprint Power’s plant. A public meeting will be held at the Siting Board at 10 a.m. at One South Station, Fifth Floor, Hearing Room A in Boston, Massachusetts on Thursday, February 20.

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. Using the law, science and the market, CLF creates solutions that conserve our natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy region-wide. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization with offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

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