Conservation Law Foundation
CLF Vows to Challenge Flawed, Rushed Decisions on Proposed Footprint Power Plant
BOSTON, MA February 5, 2014 – Late yesterday, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) announced a Tentative Decision that proposes to grant seven out of the eight state and local approvals that the proposed natural gas-fired Footprint Power Plant project still needs in order to go forward. The power plant project is proposed for the site of the Salem Harbor Station plant, which will close this summer. On January 30, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued decisions that unlawfully attempt to grant both state and federal air permits for the proposed Footprint Power Plant.
The EFSB’s and DEP’s decisions conflict with the requirements of the Commonwealth’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) to reduce Massachusetts greenhouse gas emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050. The Footprint Power Plant, as proposed, would lock in decades of greenhouse gas emissions of up to nearly 2.3 million tons per year under the DEP air pollution permits—a significant portion of total Massachusetts emissions allowed under the GWSA. DEP’s and the EFSB’s decisions fail to address how the new power plant could be consistent over its anticipated 40-year lifespan with the deep emissions reductions established by the GWSA.
In response to the decisions, Sue Reid, Vice President of the Conservation Law Foundation and Director of CLF Massachusetts, said: “The rushed and flawed approvals process for the Footprint Power Plant threatens the progress Massachusetts has made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Not only are the EFSB and DEP denying the public the thorough vetting that a major new fossil fuel power plant like this deserves, the Patrick Administration is setting a terrible precedent for how similar projects are addressed—fast-tracking a major new source of greenhouse gas emissions while acting in violation of federal and state law. CLF plans to challenge these deeply flawed decisions in order to hold Massachusetts environmental and permitting authorities accountable for upholding the law.”
Reid added: “While natural gas will remain a part of the Commonwealth’s energy mix in the near term, it is crucial to manage and limit future expansion, reduce emissions through innovation, and ensure that any new projects are in full compliance with existing state and federal laws, including permitting procedures and the Global Warming Solutions Act.”
In February 2012, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and HealthLink secured an enforceable commitment from coal-fired Salem Harbor Station power plant owner Dominion to shut down all four units at the 60-year-old plant by 2014. In addition, as partial remediation for the years of pollution created by the plant, Dominion was required to spend $275,000 to support projects that will reduce air pollution in the communities that have been most impacted by the plant’s emissions.
The plant closure is the result of a 20-year campaign led by the Conservation Law Foundation and HealthLink, along with numerous other environmental and community organizations, public health advocates and political leaders, to end Salem Harbor Station’s polluting legacy on the North Shore of Massachusetts and bring cleaner air and power to the region.
During that time, CLF fought multiple successful legal and policy battles to curb water and air pollution from the plant, one of Massachusetts’ so-called “Filthy Five.” At the same time, CLF has leveraged its role as a participant in the New England energy markets to advocate for regional system planning that will hasten New England’s transition to clean, renewable energy.
In August 2012, shortly after the developers of Footprint Power Plant filed its first application for environmental review, CLF raised issues regarding the need to provide analysis of the proposed project’s impacts on the Commonwealth’s ability to meet the mandates of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 (GWSA). At every stage of the process, CLF has pushed for meaningful analysis and review to ensure compliance with the GWSA. As the first major fossil fuel power plant to be proposed in Massachusetts since the passage of the GWSA, this project is likely to establish a precedent that will guide consideration of future energy infrastructure and play a role in determining whether or not Massachusetts will meet the greenhouse gas reductions required by law.
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.