AG reaches $300,000 Brayton Point settlement

Says land owner violated federal clean air, water laws

AFTER NEARLY TWO years of negotiation, the owner of Brayton Point in Somerset on Wednesday agreed to a $300,000 settlement with the Massachusetts attorney general’s office related to allegations that its tenants violated federal laws by discharging wastewater into Mount Hope Bay and dust and particulate matter into the air.

The attorney general’s office alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act dating back to 2019, when the owner of Brayton Point leased space to two companies who began operating a scrap metal export business there.

On May 11, 2021, the attorney general’s office, then under the direction of Maura Healey, notified the owner of Brayton Point that it intended to file a lawsuit within 60 days against the company and the two firms to which it leased space for the scrap metal business.

Brayton Point is owned by Brayton Point LLC, an affiliate of Commercial Development Inc. of St. Louis. The two companies operating the scrap metal export business were Eastern Metal Recycling Terminal and Patriot Stevedoring Logistics.

The current attorney general, Andrea Campbell, finally reached a settlement with the Brayton Point companies on Wednesday, more than a year after the scrap metal operation was shut down by a Land Court judge who ruled the dust from the facility was harming neighbors of Brayton Point.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Brayton Point LLC, Eastern Metal, and Patriot Stevedoring agreed to pay $150,000 to the town of Somerset, $25,000 to Swansea, and $25,000 to the Greater Fall River Re-Creation, a nonprofit that provides recreational programs to economically disadvantage youths. The three companies also agreed to pay $100,000 to the attorney general’s office.

The consent decree released on Wednesday indicates the companies signed the document reluctantly and without admitting any guilt.

“Neither this Consent Decree, nor the terms thereof, nor the performance of the terms thereunder by Defendants shall constitute or be construed as an admission or acknowledgment by any Defendant of the Plaintiff’s factual or legal assertions in the Notice or the Complaint, and Defendants retain the right to controvert, in any subsequent proceedings, the validity of the facts or determinations underlying this Consent Decree,” the consent decree said.

The consent decree, which requires approval in US District Court, is part of a long-running saga in Somerset as Brayton Point attempts to transition from being the home of one of the region’s largest coal-fired power plants to being home to an emerging offshore wind industry.

Commercial Development purchased Brayton Point in 2018 and tore down the coal-fired power plant, but its bid to become a staging area for offshore wind stalled when the Trump administration put licensing for the industry on hold for two years. That delay led Commercial Development to lease space for the scrap metal operation at Brayton Point, which angered neighbors of the facility and triggered a fight for political control of the town by those who felt their concerns about noise and dust were not being addressed.

Now, with President Biden embracing offshore wind and making a personal visit to Somerset in 2022 to hail the industry, an Italian company called Prysmian Group has agreed to purchase 47 acres at Brayton Point for a new subsea cable manufacturing facility.

That project has a lot of momentum, but one stumbling block is a dispute over nearly $3.5 million in fines that the town of Somerset says Commercial Development owes for ignoring pleas to shut the scrap metal business down earlier.

Town officials say permits needed to move the Prysmian deal forward cannot be issued until the fine issue is resolved. Commercial Development disputes the validity of the fines. It’s another impasse not unlike the fight over the settlement with the attorney general’s office that took two years to negotiate.