Mass. OKs Gas-Fired Power Plant In Salem

The Patrick administration has signed off on construction of a new 692-megawatt gas-fired power plant to be located the site of the existing Salem Harbor Station.

The facility is expected to be one of the most efficient and lowest-emitting large gas-fired power plants in New England, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan said Thursday.

The new plant, owned by Footprint Power LLC, is expected to be built and operational by June 2016.

The project will include the demolition and removal of the existing power plant, which will be retired by June 2014, and the cleanup of the site for the new plant and other uses.

Sullivan said the plant would be the first large gas-fired plant built in Massachusetts in more than a decade.

He said it will include technologies to reduce environmental impacts, including an efficient gas turbine, advanced emission controls, and air cooling rather than water cooling, which uses millions of gallons of water each day from Salem Harbor.

"Limiting greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring electricity reliability for the region are critical to the commonwealth's long-term environmental and economic objectives," Sullivan said in a statement.

Sullivan said the plan also includes a design to reduce visual and noise impacts in the surrounding community.

He said the plant's technology will east the New England grid's reliance on higher-emitting fossil plants. He said the plant will reduce regional carbon dioxide emissions by about 450,000 tons a year - the equivalent of taking more than 103,000 cars off the road.

During construction, Footprint will employ up to 600 workers at peak periods.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said the new facility will not only reduce carbon emissions, but also serve as the cornerstone for redeveloping the deep water port, turning Salem Harbor into "a 21st-century economic engine."

Approval of the plant comes just days after another Massachusetts power plant, cited by federal regulators as one of the state's heaviest polluters, announced it was closing down.

Owners of the coal-fired Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset filed papers Monday indicating the plant will no longer provide power to the region's electricity grid when it is retired as of May 2017.

The announcement came months after the plant was sold by Virginia-based Dominion to Energy Capital Partners, a private equity firm with offices in New Jersey and California. Dominion bought the plant in 2005.

The plant's new owners pointed to a number of reasons for the planned shutdown, including low electricity prices from a surplus of natural gas and the need to invest "significant capital to meet environmental regulations and to operate and maintain an aging plant."

Environmental groups had long sought to close the plant, which topped the Environmental Protection Agency's list for most toxic emissions in Massachusetts in 2011.

This program aired on October 11, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.


More from WBUR

Listen Live