Salem Harbor Power Station to Close — What Now?
Though Dominion has announced the plant's closure, Salem will still need to overcome a blow to its tax base and make plans for future use of the site.
Dominion has officially announced plans to close its coal- and oil-fired plant, Salem Harbor Power Station, by June 2014.
On Wednesday, officials from Dominion said units 1 and 2 will shut down by the end of 2011. Two additional units and the entire station will close by a June 1, 2014 deadline.
Environmental/Health Advocates React
Immediately following the announcement the plant would close, some, including John Kassel, president of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), which has long pushed for the plant's closure, said the plant's retirement is a move toward "a healthier energy future for this region and beyond."
"At last, technology has caught up with these polluting vestiges of the past, making them uneconomic and impractical to run," he said in a press release.
“This is a tremendous victory for Salem’s embattled residents, particularly those most vulnerable to the devastating health effects of burning coal, including children and the elderly," CLF staff attorney Shanna Cleveland said in the same release.
State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, a resident of Marblehead, said: "This news is a long time coming for North Shore residents who have spent their lives downwind from this filthy coal plant. For 60 years this plant has fouled our air, land and drinking water and for that reason it will not be missed."
Though many celebrated the positive environmental and health implications, Salem's administration, while optimistic about effects the plant's closure will have, acknowledged challenges the City must overcome.
Salem's Tax Base in Question, Site Usage in Question
On Wednesday, Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll said "the power plant is — far and away — the largest taxpayer in the City and its ceasing operation will have real impacts to the City's finances."
In November 2010, after it was reported Dominion would no longer invest in the plant, Driscoll told the City Council the power plant was paying the city $3 million in taxes and $1.75 million in pilot host fees.
"I doubt anything will generate the revenue they currently do," Driscoll said at the time.
The City has received a $200,000 grant from the Clean Energy Center, which will be used to fund studies on site usage. Though Driscoll called the grant "fortuitous" in November, on Wednesday she acknowleged the tight timeframe — three years — to come up with a gameplan for future site usage.
Driscoll said she is eager to explore "waterfront related redevelopment options that may exist."
THE MARBLEHEAD SIDE
What does this mean for Marblehead energy rates?
According to recently re-elected Municipal Light Commissioner Charles O. Phillips, the power station's closure will have no direct affect on the rates local residents pay for electricity. However, if ISO New England determines that the transmission lines currently in place are unable to sustain the town's energy needs during the hottest months of the year, Phillips said the plant may not close at all.
"ISO of New England will determine whether there is adequate transmission capability and on that basis we will be assessed an increasing amount for our (peak periods) and that will be seen in the rates,” he said, adding,“The ISO could determine that the transmission lines are not up to it and then the plant might be put into a must run condition whereby they will not be allowed to shut down and the rest of us will have to subsidize their activity and that will certainly affect our rates.”
Be sure to stick with Salem Patch as we bring you complete coverage of the Salem Harbor Power Station closure and redevelopment discussions. If you have questions about how this closure affects you, ask in the comments or email Editor Aubry Bracco at email@example.com — we'll try our best to get all your questions answered.