Thursday, February 20, 2014

Massachusetts Approves a Gas Power Plant with an Expiration Date

A plan by Footprint Power would replace power from oil and coal generators at Salem Harbor in Massachusetts with natural gas, adding to a downward trend in greenhouse gas emissions as gas power plants have taken off in New England. Photo courtesy of the Conservation Law Foundation. Click to enlarge.
For years, proponents of natural gas, including President Obama, have promoted it as a “bridge fuel,” cleaner than coal but not clean enough to solve the climate problem.  On Thursday, regulators in Massachusetts, in an unusual vote, put that theory into practice when it approved a new gas-fired power plant with only a limited life span.

In a hearing in Boston, a state siting board voted 5 to 0 to accept a proposal by a major New England environmental group and a company that wants to build the plant that would allow the plant to open, but require it to emit less and less carbon dioxide until it closed by 2050.

The Conservation Law Foundation and Footprint Power reached an agreement over a proposed $800 million plant to be built in Salem Harbor, at the site of a coal plant that will shut this year.  The new plant would generate 630 megawatts — although in later years, it would either have to limit its hours of operation, install carbon capture or make investments in renewable energy to stay under the declining emissions cap.

The agreement for progressively lower output and a definite retirement date is a first, according to Jonathan Peress, a vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation.  Gas cuts carbon dioxide emissions by about half compared to coal, but it is still far too high in carbon to meet the ultimate climate emissions requirements, he said.

Massachusetts Approves a Gas Power Plant with an Expiration Date

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