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October 11, 2013

Natural gas plant gets green light for Salem

SALEM — The natural gas-fired power plant proposed for Salem Harbor took a big step toward becoming a reality yesterday.

While several more permits and approvals are needed, yesterday’s OK from the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board means the project has cleared a major hurdle. The board had been reviewing Footprint’s petition for the past year.“This is a historic morning,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who attended the state board’s hearing in Boston. “This is the largest and most important permit. Without this, there is no plant ... We’re excited to be at this point.”The coal-fired Salem Harbor Station power plant is scheduled to close in May. New Jersey-based Footprint Power purchased the property last year and plans to redevelop the site, building a 670-megawatt, $800 million natural gas-fired plant.Roughly seven hours after the siting board’s vote yesterday, another state entity held a public hearing — this time, on an air quality permit for the proposed plant — at Bentley Elementary School in Salem.Roughly 50 people attended the state Department of Environmental Protection’s hearing last night. DEP representatives heard close to two hours of public comment, a mix of both pro and con.

ISO New England, which operates the region’s power grid, has OK’d Footprint’s plans and said the power the new plant would generate will be needed by 2016.

Scott Silverstein, Footprint Power president and chief operating officer, said yesterday they plan to have the new plant built and operating by June 1, 2016.

The plant will be a “quick start” facility, meaning it will be able to generate nearly half of its output to the power grid in 10 minutes, with the remainder available in the course of an hour.

The facility is proposed to use 18 acres of the 65-acre site. The property, a deep-water port next to the city’s ferry landing, has been a power plant since the 1950s.

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