Monday, July 21, 2008

Salem's Power Plant: Bye Bye?

There's a good story in today's Salem News about the movement to close down the Power Plant in Salem, which was originally meant to have an expiration date in the 1980s. It's lived well past its time, no longer producing nearly as much electricity as other plants in the state, all the while becoming the 2nd highest power plant polluter in Massachusetts (one of the "Filthy Five" that even Mitt Romney threatened to close!). Did I mention 3 of its workers recently died due to unsafe working environment, or that the coal-based pollution isn't exactly healthy for people in the area?
The plant pumps out 2 tons of Mercury and Lead annually. It also emits nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases that lead to global warming

A recent Harvard study concluded that those living within 30 miles of the plant are at greater risk of premature death, respiratory illnesses and cancer. There were 14,400 asthma attacks per year related to the plant's emissions.
Well, of course it isn't. It's an ancient, coal-based power plant that can't even manage to cover the mounds of coal sitting out in the open by the windy Salem Harbor, ready to be sprayed all across Salem, Beverly and Marblehead. The Power Plant's been forced to clean their soot and coal remnants beyond the historic 'header Old Town.

Yet, if people were to read some of the comments in the Salem News article, you'd think it was a Moonbat rebellion or something. Apparently, people like me won't be satisfied until every last American is eating nuts, fruits and berries, living in caves. Not.

So, let's clear up some popular misconceptions.

But, Ryan, I've lived here all my life - and I'm not sick!

Just because you have no known diseases caused by the pollution coming out of the Salem Power Plant doesn't mean everyone's fine - and it doesn't mean you won't get sick in years to come. People are effected by things differently. Some people, after living near the plant for years, may develop cancer - while others could have lived there their entire lifetimes and been fine. Just like smokers - some people get cancer and die in their 30s, then there's people like my Grandmother who have been smoking two backs a day for most of their 80 years in existance and still manage to (somehow) breathe. Just because you're not sick, doesn't mean others aren't. Try to use your brains!

But, Ryan, if you close down the plant, where will all the electricity come from?

What, you think Salem is the only source of power in this area? We've managed to survive six months without Salem's power quite well, with no forced outages because of the plant's closure (and let's not forget that it was closed because it killed people). Surely, the North Shore won't suddenly be reduced to the Stone Age because an ancient power plant that should have been closed decades ago finally rests in peace. Meanwhile, a bigger, better, more efficient facility will take its place somewhere nearby, because that's how the economy works.

But, Ryan, there's 147 jobs at stake! We can't lose them!

We need not shed tears - we're not going to lose any jobs here, even if some people will be inconvenienced. These are highly skilled workers that will be sought after from companies all across Massachusetts, New England and the country. Now, no one wants to lose a job - and I'm never thrilled with the prospect that people occasionally become unemployed, but 147 is a number we can eat, with a lot of other power plants out there. Rest assured, we're not condemning 147 people to a life of misery and poverty. The community can work with Dominion, the owner of the plant, to relocate these jobs among the many other plants across the state, as well as several new ones in the planning stages as we speak, with more to come. We can't hold a community hostage over 147 jobs, especially jobs that won't really be lost, when a dangerous facility needs to be closed.

Furthermore, let's gain some perspective here. The Power Plant isn't Salem's largest employer, or anywhere close to it. Salem employs over 23,000 people in the city, with the power plant representing less than 1% of that. Salem will do just fine in the jobs market. In fact, things could grow. Whatever comes after the Salem Power Plant will assuredly create hundreds of new jobs - both permanent and in construction. So, in effect, by closing this plant, it may soon end up being a net-plus for jobs in Salem and across Massachusetts.

But, Ryan, the Power Plant pays Salem more than $4 million in property taxes! Whatever will it do without those taxes?

Well, the power plant used to pay $8 million+ in property taxes. Salem's still here, $4 million shy of old numbers. Here's the good news: the Salem Power Plant is on acres and acres of water-front property.

Let's take a nice, aerial view.

View Larger Map

One word comes to mind: Jesus! The site's roughly as large as 1/3rd of Marblehead Neck (just scroll southward), with absolutely killer views and potential for harbor space. Who in their right mind doesn't think such a large slot of coastal land, in Historic Downtown Salem and on the Harbor, with millions of tourists a year and inside the nation's 7th largest metropolitan area, wouldn't attract hundreds of millions in investments? Or millions of tourists and costumers a year?

Seriously, it's the real estate development chance of a lifetime. Properties like this aren't even supposed to exist. Whatever comes after the plant will be paying millions in property taxes, quite likely even exceeding the $4 million figure if its ever divvied up into many commercial properties that all have to pay taxes. In fact, Salem Power Plant is quite possibly not only costing Salem and the area in terms of health and the environment, but even in jobs and tax revenue. We're a bright species - we should be making better use of our space.

But, Ryan, you must be a moonbat or something!

Thanks, Howie Carr, for completely poisoning our state. Who needs a bright, hopeful society looking to the future - when we can breed a large base or residents to tear down any new and good idea, no matter how necessary it is or how much it makes sense. But, thanks, really, for protecting us from all those Moonbats!

The simple fact is Power Plants aren't built to last forever. This plant is particularly old, one of the most nefarious in terms of pollution, and doesn't bring much in return for the costs we put up with - its paltry sum of electricity could easily be replaced by a Wind Farm, or we could create more electricity, cleaner and efficient, through Natural Gas or even a newer coal plant (though, please, anything but coal!). However, none of those things can happen if we cling to our old ways, reject any new ideas and plan for the future. If we want a better society, we have to build it, which sometimes means tearing down our old, outmoded and inefficient ways that aren't contributing to society today.


Dirty Coal's Dirty Salem Plant said...

Ryan, good post and hopefully, this dirty plant will remained closed. The potential to create clean, alternative sources of energy and to reduce consumption are endless! Carpe Diem!

Anonymous said...

Very refreshing and answers all the outstanding questions. It is a shame that so many are against change-- even when it is positive change. Salem has been blighted by this power plant since 1951. Just because someone made the bad decision to open this back then does not mean it has to stay there forever. Bravo for a thoughtful site.

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