For Immediate Release - February 21, 2014

Patrick Administration Grants Final Approvals for New Gas-Fired Power Plant to Replace Salem Harbor Station

Approval Includes Landmark Agreement for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions

BOSTON – Thursday, February 20, 2014 – Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan today announced the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) approved the issuance of all necessary state and local permits and approvals for Footprint Power’s proposed 692 megawatt gas-fired power plant at the site of the existing Salem Harbor Station. The new plant is expected to be built and operational by June 2016. 

In its decision, the EFSB accepted a settlement agreement between Footprint Power and the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) that resolved a number of legal and administrative appeals.  The settlement requires Footprint to reduce or offset its annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, achieving an approximate 80 percent reduction by 2049 relative to the project’s GHG emissions in 2016 when it will go online. 

“This agreement is forward-thinking as it not only ensures electricity reliability for the region, but requires GHG reductions,” said Secretary Sullivan, who chairs the EFSB. “The Patrick Administration has some of the most ambitious GHG reduction targets in the nation and today’s decision will help us achieve those targets.”

The settlement marks the first time that an EFSB decision has incorporated deep GHG emission reductions under the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) for gas-fired generation facilities.  The settlement also makes Footprint the first gas-fired plant in the nation to be approved with such stringent provisions, intended to dramatically reduce carbon emissions over the life of the facility.  The highly efficient Footprint plant will also play an important role in facilitating greater levels of intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar power in the New England energy mix.

The settlement allows Footprint the flexibility of either reducing emissions on site or using market-based mechanisms such as regional GHG emission allowances or renewable energy certificates to obtain the necessary reductions from other generators in New England.  The settlement also requires the Footprint facility to shut down by 2050 with decommissioning of the plant within two years of that time.  The EFSB noted in its decision that the settlement provisions apply only in this case, and that future petitions to the board will be decided on a case by case basis.

In a related commitment letter, EEA announced new initiatives intended to further the Commonwealth’s compliance with the GWSA. These provisions include a directive to EEA agencies to focus on elimination of methane leakage from local natural gas distribution lines through accelerated infrastructure replacement. In addition, with other closures of coal-fired power plants on the horizon, EEA is committing to offer funding for renewable energy projects in municipalities where coal-fired plants are currently located. Up to $2 million per community for these renewable energy investments would be made available from existing funding sources.

The Footprint project will include the demolition and removal of the existing coal-fired power plant, which will be retired by June 2014, and the remediation of the site for the new plant and other uses. During construction, Footprint will employ up to 600 workers at peak periods. Given the densely populated and historic area near the plant, the EFSB is imposing a number of protective measures to reduce the impacts on the surrounding community during both construction and operation of the plant.

The EFSB is a nine-member board, chaired by EEA Secretary Rick Sullivan, which includes Commissioners from the Departments of Public Utilities, Environmental Protection, and Energy Resources, the Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, and three public members.  The EFSB has jurisdiction over the siting of large energy infrastructure projects, including power plants (over 100 megawatts), high voltage transmission lines, intrastate gas pipelines and large natural gas storage facilities.

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