Rendering courtesy of Footprint Power
Gas-fired plant's start-up time will average about 10 minutes, versus existing plant's 12 to 16 hours.

Construction of a new, 692-MW natural-gas-fired powerplant in Salem, Mass., is moving forward following a novel arrangement between a New England environmental foundation and a New Jersey-based company that incorporates stringent global greenhouse-gas emission reductions to comply with state climate law.

On Feb. 21, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) granted final approval for construction of a new, $1-billion plant to replace the 63-year-old coal- and oil-fired Salem Harbor Power Station, scheduled for decommissioning in June.

The plant will be built on a 20-acre site, and though "timing will be tight," completion is expected by 2016, says Scott Silverstein, Bridgewater, N.J.-based Footprint Power's chief operating officer. At less than a third of the size of the existing plant, the project is expected to free up 45 acres for development, he says.

The Feb. 19 settlement between the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), a non-profit group based in Boston, and plant developer Footprint Power resolves a lawsuit, filed on Nov. 8 in the state's Supreme Judicial Court, over the plant's siting. The foundation claims this is the first time in the U.S. that a new gas powerplant has been subjected to annual greenhouse-gas reduction requirements.

The stringent provisions under the settlement are intended to dramatically reduce annual greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions over the life of the new facility, which Footprint agreed to retire by Jan. 1, 2050. Specifically, it requires Footprint to reduce or offset its annual GHG emissions to achieve, approximately, an 80% reduction by 2049 relative to the project's GHG emissions in 2016, when it will go online, according to Patrick's statement.

This settlement marks the first time the state Environmental Facilities Siting Board has required deep emission re- ductions under the Global Warming Solutions Act for gas-fired generation facilities, Patrick stated.

Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, a Boston-based trade association, says he is concerned that concessions were made not to the state, which has carbon mandates, but to a private organization when the plant is going into commercial operation and will be in compliance with the law.

"I worry about a precedent being set with a state prejudging how a powerplant will meet some future regulation for anything—in this case, carbon. He worries it could send a message that the same requirement could be imposed upon any future powerplant developer.

"Natural gas is often viewed as a bridge to the clean-energy future," says Shanna Cleveland, CLF attorney. "This settlement ensures there is an end to that bridge."