FERC Orders ISO-NE to Plan for Close OF Salem Harbor Station

Shanna Cleveland

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (known as “FERC”) has delivered a clear message: the time to plan for a future without coal is now. This comes in response to a protest submitted in October by CLF that challenged a decision by the New England Independent System Operator (ISO-NE) that could have kept the 60 year old Salem Harbor Station running for years longer, despite the damage it causes to public health and the environment and the huge costs it imposes on ratepayers.

CLF argued that ISO-NE, the overseers of the regional electricity system under FERC’s supervision, should have developed an alternative to retaining units at Salem Harbor Station to meet the area’s reliability need.  CLF therefore asked FERC to step in to expedite the planning process. Today, the FERC issued a decision directing ISO-NE to find a solution that would allow shutdown of the Salem Harbor power plant – a dirty, obsolete and unprofitable plant that has long outlived its lifespan and has requested to leave the market.

We…order ISO-NE to submit a compliance filing within 60 days that either identifies alternatives to resolve the reliability need for Salem Harbor Units 3 and 4 and the time to implement those solutions, or includes an expedited timeline for identifying and implementing alternatives.”

The news that FERC is mandating action to ensure that this dirty coal plant can retire without impacting reliability is a game changing development of national significance. The Chicken Little warning that old coal is needed to keep the lights on—brandished by coal interests primarily to delay long overdue emissions reductions requirements—simply isn’t true.  Today FERC concurred that the sky will not fall – the lights will not go out without old coal – if we envision a future without it and plan for that future.  That future starts here in New England with a concrete plan and timeline for life without Salem Harbor Station.

Students from the Environmental Law Clinic at Columbia Law School provided excellent research in support of CLF’s filing.

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