LETTER: There are better choices for Salem plant site
GateHouse Media, Inc. Posted:  12/09/2013  
Wicked Local Marblehead

The Salem coal plant is closing in May. Hooray!

Oops! A New Jersey corporation, betting on a windfall profit, has submitted applications to build a $800 million gas plant on the site.

Local residents should know that this oversized plant is not necessary. The small shortfall in power can be met by a mix of distributed energy — small installations which send their extra power back to the grid — and by demand management like off-peak pricing and smart-grid technology.

The gas plant emits 2.5 million tons of greenhouse gases per year into the atmosphere, it will emit a low-level noise, and it is large — the stack is shorter but wider than the previous coal plant. And worse, this gas plant will emit tiny particulates into the air, which end up deep in human lungs and cause a wide range of lung diseases, according to the EPA.

Large, expensive and potentially dangerous high-pressure  gas lines must be installed to provide the fuel. The gas in these oversized new pipes will be piped from states where lax regulations allow the poisoning of drinking water and streams from toxic chemicals used in fracking. Nor do regulations prevent large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from escaping into the air.

Commissioner Norris of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated in Boston last week that the energy sector is in a crucial time and that the systemic transformation of this sector should be undertaken thoughtfully. Building huge, long-term generators for a short-term solution is not the way to safe and sustainable energy future.  Salem’s neighbors should speak out for a better choice for this site rather than saddling the next generation with 40 more years of fossil-fuel emissions in a world already suffering the effects of fossil-fuel extraction leading to climate disruption and dirty air. — Lynn Nadeau, Surf Street