Clean Energy Center offers help on Brayton Point

$18,000 grant to explore offshore wind possibilities

THE MASSACHUSETTS Clean Energy Center is putting up some grant money to help the town of Somerset build consensus around the development of offshore wind at Brayton Point, but the funding is not exactly the assistance the municipality was seeking from the Baker administration.

Somerset is struggling to figure out what to do with Brayton Point, a massive 300-plus acre property on the Taunton River across from Fall River. Brayton Point was once home to a coal-fired power plant that was the community’s largest taxpayer. The plant went out of business in 2017 and was bought by a redeveloper, who tore the plant down and was counting on the offshore wind industry to replace it.

Offshore wind, however, was delayed by the Trump administration so the redeveloper in the meantime sought to make some money by leasing space to tenants running scrap metal and road salt operations on a portion of the property. Both businesses, but particularly the noisy and dirty scrap metal business, angered town residents, who mobilized in an effort to shut them down. They also elected allies to the Board of Selectmen to take control of the town politically.

The Clean Energy Center in June agreed to provide an $18,000 grant to the town to support the “facilitation, mediation, and an assessment of community perceptions and perspectives on future uses of the former Brayton Point Power plant property to gauge potential implications for longer-term use of the property by the offshore wind sector.”

No one at the Clean Energy Center would talk about the grant. The information that was released came in the form of a background statement.

The background statement said the award hasn’t been finalized yet because a new project manager needs to be identified in the wake of the recent departure of the town planner and the pending retirement of the town manager. The chief of police and building inspector have also left, with the building inspector saying he departed because of the toxic atmosphere in the community.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

While Rep. Patricia Haddad of Somerset said she welcomed the Clean Energy Center grant, it’s not what the Board of Selectmen in Somerset and Swansea were asking for in recent letters to Gov. Charlie Baker. They asked him to take control of the state-owned pier and adjacent acreage at Brayton Point and shut down the scrap metal and road salt operations.

Baker so far appears to be ducking that request, uninterested in wading into the local controversy over the future of Brayton Point.