Lobbying firm, Brayton Point near settlement
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.
UMass, senator at odds: Language inserted in the Senate budget demanded a meeting between lawmakers and the UMass board, which is strange because lawmakers with control over the purse strings of public institutions usually get a meeting whenever they want and don’t need to use state law to arrange it.
- Documents released by UMass in response to a public records request suggest there’s a rift between Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and the university. The documents also suggest Rodrigues is pushing for a former legislative colleague to be named chancellor of UMass Dartmouth.
- A UMass statement called the budget bill language “unnecessary and redundant” and raised concerns about outside interference. Some of the documents released by UMass were redacted based on a claim of attorney-client privilege, suggesting an attorney has been called in to help deal with the situation.
Beacon Hill budget spat: Everyone on Beacon Hill seems to agree that $100 million in federal funds should go to the communities of Chelsea, Everett, Methuen, and Randolph, but the cash isn’t moving while the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker wrangle over who should control the funds. Baker has been deferential to the desire by lawmakers to have more control over the funds, but he has also raised concerns about the slow pace of the Legislature. “We need to put this money to work relatively quickly,” he said. Read more.
Flavored cigarette ban called failure: Jonathan Shaer of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association calls the state’s ban on flavored cigarettes a total failure — a huge loss of tax revenue with no offsetting health benefits. Read more.
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