Baker administration breaks silence on Brayton Point

The Baker administration, after months of silence, issued a cryptic statement suggesting it is reviewing the legal status of a controversial scrap metal operation using a state-owned pier at Brayton Point in Somerset.

Brayton Point is the 308-acre site of a former coal-fired power plant that was purchased and torn down by Commercial Development Inc. to make way for the redevelopment of the property as a base for offshore wind development. Offshore wind has been slow to arrive, so the company leased space to a business hauling scrap metal to the site and using the pier to ship the metal to Turkey.

Kathy Souza, the leader of a local group opposed to the noise, dust, and truck traffic caused by the scrap metal operation, is running for a seat on the Somerset Select Board. At a debate last week, she said her group’s research indicated the state owns the pier and adjacent 12 acres and urged the Baker administration to shut the scrap metal operation down.

Officials at the Department of Conservation and Recreation have declined to comment for months on whether they own the pier and whether the scrap metal operation is an acceptable use. But late last week the agency broke its silence by issuing a short statement. 

 “The Department of Conservation and Recreation is aware of concerns regarding ongoing activities at Brayton Point, and is currently engaged in a review of the site history and associated requirements created for the property as part of its development,” the statement said. 

The pier and acreage were originally leased in the 1950s to the company that built the power plant on the property. Rights to the pier and acreage were subsequently transferred when ownership of the land changed hands – but, according to the lease, the pier can be transferred only “for use in connection with a power plant.” With the power plant now gone, critics of Commercial Development say the lease is invalid.

Brayton Point is seen as one of the more attractive locations on the East Coast for serving the emerging offshore wind industry because of the property’s deep-water pier, its vast expanse of ocean-front land, and the existing connection to the power grid left over from when the power plant was located there. 

Mayflower Wind, which has already secured a contract to build a wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, has saidthat if it wins another contract it will bring the electricity ashore at Brayton Point. Given the long lead times on offshore wind farms, that could take years to materialize.

In the meantime, the town is reeling, with its largest taxpayer – the power plant—gone, replaced by a business that is alienating many local residents. Brayton Point is also facing other hurdles, including a potential lawsuit by Attorney General Maura Healey, who has warned that she is preparing to sue Commercial Development and the scrap metal business for violating the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.




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