NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

December 17, 2013

Our view: Plant shutdown could leave region in dark

ISO-New England, the independent organization that oversees the electric grid in New England, last week made its clearest statement yet that the proposed Footprint plant in Salem is needed to ensure a steady, reliable source of power to the region’s homes, schools and businesses.

Maybe it’s time those opposed to the new, state-of-the-art plant paid attention.

If the $800 million plant is not ready by 2016, ISO general counsel Roy Hepper wrote in a court filing last week, “the (Northeast/Boston) are is expected to to face an electric capacity shortage, will not meet federal reliability criteria and could face rolling blackouts.”

The filing with the state Supreme Judicial Court comes in response to a series of legal appeals from the Conservation Law Foundation that threaten to slow the approval process for the 692-megawatt plant. ISO wants an expedited hearing on those appeals, saying a delay in building a new plant threatens the reliability of the regional power grid.

Footprint Power bought the 65-acre site last year and plans to shutter the coal-and-oil burning plant there by May, replacing it with a much cleaner gas-burning plant. The project calls for a complete cleanup of the waterfront site, a large portion of which would be open to development.

While city officials are understandably concerned that CLF’s delaying tactics will kill the project by causing its financing to dry up – taking a taxpaying property off the rolls and leaving a decaying, contaminated chunk of buildings – the rest of the region has something to worry about as well. Rolling brownouts are nobody’s idea of proper energy management.

The CLF and other opponents rather blithely state that there are other ways to handle potential power shortfalls, citing everything from upgrading transmission lines to energy conservation measures.

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