SOMERSET – Three potential options for the future use of the Brayton Point power plant property and two potential uses for the former Montaup Electric property were presented by a consultant that did a study on the reuse of the two properties at the selectmen’s meeting last week.
Kevin Hively, president of Ninigret Partners, which conducted the study for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, said that potential reuses for the Brayton Point power plant could be converting the plant into a natural gas fueled power plant, making it a green energy hub or a marine industrial use.
The Brayton Point power plant currently runs on coal fuel.
Hively said a green energy hub could include a digester, connection to offshore wind turbines and solar center.
Hively said a restraint with redeveloping the Brayton Point property is a lack of connection to rail transportation.
For the former Montaup Electric property, which no longer has an operating power plant on it, the potential reuses outlined by Hively included break bulk cargo and green energy. He said that housing and commercial uses for the former Montaup Electric property were looked at, but not included in the potential options. He said the town would need to look at parking requirements before such development could happen on the property.
Hively said a lack of access to rail transportation is also a restraint for the former Montaup Electric property. He said cargo would have to be brought there by barge.
For green energy, Hively said a digester could be located on the former Montaup Electric property.
Hively said the town could make a harbor plan to give more flexibility to potential uses for the former Montaup Electric property. He said since the town shares the harbor with Fall River, it would probably have to share that harbor plan with the city.
Hively said the town can’t get back to bringing in the $11 million to $12 million in tax revenue that it used to get from the power plant owners, so has to maximize the value of the properties.
Hively said the study was not providing definitive definitive reuses for the properties, but was giving options. The properties are privately owned. He said the study also analyzed the physical conditions of the properties, the regulatory process, zoning issues and environmental regulations that would have to be gone through to change them. Hively said his firm looked at what could be put on the sites, based on their restraints.
Hively said there are no fatal flaws to the properties, but there are some challenging situations that have to be considered. He said he wanted to be respectful to how the community felt about reuse of the properties and differences of opinion on that topic. He said the economic impact, which included both jobs created and taxes paid to the town, of different uses for the properties was considered, but said that is tough to predict because the revenues coming into the town from potential uses have to be negotiated. Hively said the economic feasibilities of projects were not looked at, just the physical and regulatory feasibilities.
The Brayton Point power plant property has 234 acres while the former Montaup power plant property off of Riverside Avenue has 26 acres.
The study was paid for with state funding.
Selectman Scott Lebeau said the reuse study is extremely thorough and will be a useful tool in making strategies to maximize tax revenue for the town going forward.
Selectman Steve Moniz applauded the hard work on the reuse study. He said the the community meetings about the reuse study did get heated at times, but he said that was because people are passionate about what they want to do with the properties.
Lebeau said the selectmen and Town Administrator Richard Brown have been communicating with the owner of the former Montaup Electric property about possible development of that property.
“There has been interest,” Lebeau said. “Whether or not it’s credible interest or comes to fruition is another story.”
Lebeau said a permit has been issued to remove the largest oil tank on the Montaup Electric property.
State Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset) said she briefed the owner of Brayton Point power plant, Dynergy, on the suggestions in the reuse study the day before the presentation to the selectmen and said she was going to send a link to the information to the owner of the former Montaup Electric site. The Brayton Point plant is scheduled to close in 2017.
Rep. Haddad said if she comes across developers looking for sites with uses she thinks can fit the power plant properties, she will ask them to contact the owners of those properties. She said she recently told someone who is developing anaerobic digestion to look at the Somerset sites. She said all she can do is make developers aware of the potential of the power plant sites. She has promoted using the power plant sites for transmission of electricity from offshore wind sites. She said a bill related to that wind energy will be coming out next February or March.
Pauline Rodrigues, a Somerset resident who lives near the former Montaup Electric property and is a member of Coalition for Clean Air South Coast, said the reuse study report made by Hively last week provided nothing new, but it certainly wrapped up the $100,000 that was paid for the study.
Connie Brodeur, another Somerset resident who is a member of Coalition for Clean Air South Coast, said the report doesn’t give people any encouraging news.
Another study on potential reuses for the power plant properties in Somerset is being done with a consultant hired by Coalition for Clean Air South Coast, Toxics Action Center and Clean Water Action. Rodrigues said she expects a report on that study in January.
“We know they’re looking at more clean options,” Rodrigues said.
Sylvia Broude, executive director of Toxics Action Center, said the Massachusetts attorney general had determined that there is not more of a need for more natural gas in the state for the next 15 years, so that does not seem to be the way to go for Brayton Point.
Somerset Economic Development Committee member Lloyd Mendes said a lot of the members on his committee look at the redevelopment of the properties as a private thing and said the community would have to decide what it supports for reuses of the properties.
“The question is will the town support private industry responding to the market, as long as they don’t endanger people’s health and follow the law,” Mendes said.
The Coalition for Clean Air South Coast passed out a written statement before the meeting started in reaction to what had been done with the study up to that point. The statement said that Ninigret’s study lacked detail and lacks a positive and compelling vision of what’s possible on the sites. The statement says the report feels narrow in scope and the coalition wishes it had better taken into account Somerset’s existing assets. The coalition also said it wishes there had been better public participation in the reuse study.
The statement said the coalition wants to see more details about each of the reuse scenarios and an effort to identify other reuse opportunities outside of the “narrow list” of reuse options considered.
The statement said the coalition is very enthusiastic about the use of Brayton Point for off-shore wind transmission because it doesn’t impact quality of life, it leverages existing infrastructure, it leaves the majority of the property available for redevelopment and it contributes clean, renewable energy for the region. The coalition’s statement said the members were disappointed to not have any estimates of the tax revenue that could be gained from off-shore wind transmission or the cost of upgrading existing infrastructure versus the costs of building brand new transmission infrastructure.
“Given the widespread interest in use of the site for off-shore wind transmission, it’s shocking that the study did not go into more detail in this area,” the statement from the coalition reads.
The statement from the coalition said the final product of the reuse study was “very depressing” and is very disempowering for a community already suffering economically. The statement said the final message was that wind transmission, solar, anaerobic digestion, industrial, shipping or a new natural gas power plant could be built on the site, however, everything was too expensive to invite investment and wouldn’t create enough tax revenue to support Somerset’s tax base. The statement said the coalition hoped that models of what other communities have done for redevelopment on old industrial, military or mill sites would be looked at.
“The purpose of this study should be to invite new economic development into Somerset and indicate to developers and investors what might be possible, and we don’t feel like it accomplished this except for developers in the narrow energy sector,” the statement from the coalition reads.