THE SOMERSET Select Board is preparing to send a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker calling on him to take action against the companies that are using state land at Brayton Point to run a scrap metal operation opposed by many town residents.
The letter was on the agenda at Wednesday night’s Select Board meeting, but members put off final approval of the letter to do some additional editing. Officials said approval of the letter could come as early as next week.
Allen Smith, a member of the Select Board, said after the meeting that the Department of Conservation and Recreation has acknowledged that it owns the deep-water pier at Brayton Point and the adjacent 12 acres. Smith said the board intends to ask the governor to step up like a landlord and deal with the companies improperly using the state’s land.
“Your tenants are creating negative impacts in our community and we’d like you to do something,” said Smith, characterizing the gist of the letter.
Commercial Development Inc. bought the 308-acre property, tore down the coal-fired power plant that had operated there since the 1950s, and prepared to redevelop the land as a base for offshore wind development. When offshore wind stalled under the Trump administration, Commercial Development began looking for other ways to use the land and subleased part of the property to companies gathering scrap metal in the region and exporting it to Turkey by ship.
The noise, dust, and truck traffic caused by the scrap metal operation has turned much of the town against the business and prompted a series of lawsuits. Two members of the Select Board won election with strong backing from a community group opposed to the scrap metal operation and a leader of the community group – Save Our Bay Brayton Point – is now running for the third seat on the board in a special election scheduled for Monday.
The Select Board candidate, Kathy Souza, called on the state to intervene at Brayton Point last week at a debate with her rival for the seat. Rep. Patricia Haddad of Somerset, who was moderating the debate, also called on the state to intervene.
Later in the week the Department of Conservation and Recreation issued a cryptic statement on the controversy after dodging questions for months.
“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.
Smith said Commercial Development appears to be operating in violation of the lease, and Baker should step in to address the situation – “no different than any other landlord,” he said.