WITH A CRITICAL VOTE nearing in a divided town, the Healey administration urged officials in Somerset to keep moving forward with a factory at Brayton Point that could become a major supplier to the US offshore wind industry.
At a press conference on Monday, Gov. Maura Healey was asked if she has a message for Somerset this week. She referred the questioner to Rebecca Tepper, her secretary of energy and environmental affairs, but added: “Clean energy is something this administration has been very invested in and making that work for all involved is something we’re invested in.”
Tepper issued a statement of support for the project Monday night. “The proposed Prysmian manufacturing facility is a chance for tremendous economic development that will supply wind projects along the entire East Coast,” she said. “A former dirty coal power plant can be transformed into a cutting-edge cable manufacturing facility, bringing good-paying jobs, tax revenue, and economic growth to Somerset and the South Coast region.”
Tepper’s statement echoes what many local officials in Somerset have been saying, but a group of people living in the neighborhood adjacent to Brayton Point have pressed officials to ban the use of dirty diesel engines when ships are loading cable in port and require them to run on electricity. During the loading of cable, the vessels typically operate 24 hours a day for 10 to 14 days.
Prysmian promised to retrofit all of its ships to run on electricity when in port, but it said it would occasionally need to use non-Prysmian ships and couldn’t guarantee those vessels would run on electricity.
The zoning board in September voted unanimously to require all ships loading cable at the facility to run on electricity. A week later, after Prysmian hinted the provision could scuttle the factory and promised to limit the number of non-electric ships to one a year until 2041, the zoning board voted 2-1 to reconsider its earlier vote. Reconsideration is scheduled for Thursday.
The lone board member who dissented on the vote to reconsider has resigned from the board.
Neighbors of Brayton Point for years have endured noise and dust from companies that previously operated there, including one of New England’s largest coal-fired power plants and a scrap metal export business. The neighbors are urging town officials to stand firm against idling diesel engines.
But other residents of town are focused on the benefits of the factory — $9 million a year in property tax revenue once a $20 million tax break expires after six years, 300 new jobs, and a chance to transform Brayton Point into a staging ground for the offshore wind industry.
Tepper, in a September 26 letter to the zoning board, noted that her agency granted Prysmian an environmental permit to proceed with the project without converting any of its ships to run on electricity.