Lobbying firm, Brayton Point near settlement
Suit alleged developer reneged on payment deal
A MESSY LEGAL dispute between the state’s top lobbying firm and the St. Louis company that bought and razed the coal-fired power plant at Brayton Point in Somerset appears to be coming to an end.
Court records indicate the lobbying firm of Smith, Costello & Crawford and Brayton Point LLC, a subsidiary of Commercial Development Inc. of St. Louis, have reached a settlement. The settlement, which is awaiting final approval from the parties, would mark the end of a lengthy court battle that has raised questions about the ethics of the company that is now in a battle with town officials and residents over the future use of the property.
According to court filings, Brayton Point LLC hired Smith, Costello & Crawford in February 2018 to help develop the 308-acre property. The lobbying firm, which specializes in energy development, said it introduced Brayton Point to offshore wind companies, a gas power plant developer, and a solar developer. The firm says it also successfully lobbied for a $15 million state appropriation to dredge the area around the pier at Brayton Point to support future offshore wind development.
Smith, Costello & Crawford said it was to be paid a monthly retainer of $5,000 plus 1 percent of any sales, leases, or other revenue from the property up to a cap of $300,000.
Brayton Point LLC denied the allegations and the two sides have spent the last several years preparing to go to trial, first in state court and then in federal court. Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, and probably won’t be.Brayton Point LLC has come under fire in Somerset for sending mixed signals to the town, promising offshore wind development at the property and, when that didn’t materialize immediately, leasing space in mid-2019 to scrap metal and road salt operations that neighbors complained were dirty, noisy, and caused a lot of heavy truck traffic.
The town and Brayton Point are now in court and residents have mobilized against the business, although one promising sign recently was the announcement by Mayflower Wind that it plans to bring ashore at Brayton Point electricity produced by any future offshore wind farms it constructs off the coast of Massachusetts. (Mayflower is currently moving ahead with one wind farm, but the electricity from that project is coming ashore on Cape Cod.) The Mayflower announcement could trigger development at Brayton Point, but there is no guarantee Mayflower will win future power contracts from Massachusetts. Even if Mayflower does, a project is unlikely to get off the ground for years.