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Cape Wind developer pulls plans for oil-powered plant

Chelsea project drew charges of hypocrisy

Email|Print| Text size + By Peter J. Howe
Globe Staff / November 15, 2007

After months of denunciation by many of the same environmentalists who have cheered his Cape Wind project, Boston energy entrepreneur Jim Gordon abandoned his plan yesterday for an oil-fueled power plant in Chelsea.

In a notice filed with the state Energy Facilities Siting Board, lawyers for Chelsea Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Gordon's Energy Management Inc., like Cape Winds Associates LLC, said the company "no longer intends to develop the project at the proposed site in Chelsea" and withdrew its applications for approval.

The move followed months of often harsh criticism of Gordon for proposing a 250-megawatt plant, large enough to serve about 180,000 average homes, just 1,000 feet from the main elementary school in economically struggling, predominantly-minority Chelsea.

Gordon, who has often described his 130-turbine Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound as one of the most important steps Massachusetts could take to combat global climate change, was branded a hypocrite for backing an oil-burning plant in Chelsea.

"There are a lot of reasons this didn't go forward, and I think a significant reason was that this was going to cut all the good will he'd built up with environmentalists with respect to Cape Wind," said Eloise Lawrence, an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, a Boston environmental group that fought Gordon on Chelsea Energy but backs Cape Wind.

Eugene B. Benson - counsel for Alternatives for Community and Environment, a group that focuses on battling pollution in poor and minority neighborhoods - said, "This victory by an environmental justice community is a victory for equity and fairness."

About 23.3 percent of Chelsea's 34,000 residents live below the poverty line, compared with 9.3 percent statewide, according to the Census Bureau.

Dennis J. Duffy, vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Energy Management, said that "we are now considering alternative uses of that site" in Chelsea and have made no decisions about building the power plant in another location north of Boston.

Duffy denied that Cape Wind political considerations caused Gordon's company to drop the Chelsea proposal.

"There were two very different projects to meet very different needs," he said.

Cape Wind, which has been mired in years of federal environmental reviews, would run year-round to generate the equivalent of at least half of the power consumed on Cape Cod.

The Chelsea unit would have run no more than 1,600 hours a year, or roughly 18 percent, to cover peak electric demands such as hot, summer afternoons or winter evenings.

In May, state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian A. Bowles warned that the Chelsea project appeared unlikely to be able to get state environmental approval.

Peter J. Howe can be reached at howe@globe.com.

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