State Siting Board Rejects Brockton Power Plant Developer's Petition to Bypass City Zoning Rules
Energy Facilities Siting Board conditionally grants Brockton Power Company's license to construct 350-megawatt plant but leaves veto power to city of Brockton
The decision marks the first time the Siting Board has denied all zoning exemptions requested by a project proponent. As a result, unless local Brockton officials decide to grant the necessary relief from municipal zoning requirements, developers of the power plant will be unable to build the facility. In deciding not to grant the exemptions, the Siting Board concluded that the proposed project's environmental and energy supply benefits do not outweigh expected local impacts. In previous cases, the EFSB has required plant developers to seek the exemptions at the local level, but said they could return to the Board if local authorities fail to provide zoning relief. In the Brockton case, the EFSB foreclosed that possibility.
"In holding that the potential energy benefits of the Brockton plant don't outweigh the potential local impacts, the Siting Board has left the final determination to local officials and upheld the home rule powers of a municipality," said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Undersecretary for Energy Ann Berwick, who chairs the Siting Board as EEA Secretary Ian Bowles' designee. "Governor Patrick and the Legislature have established an overriding public interest in the development of renewable power generation and set strict new greenhouse gas standards for the Commonwealth. The Brockton plant doesn't clear the hurdle to warrant granting a zoning exemption."
The Siting Board also imposed a number of conditions on the plant, which would apply if the city of Brockton ultimately decides that it can be built. The conditions include measures relating to conservation of water resources needed for plant operation; mitigation of visual impacts of the project ; limiting weekend construction hours; and a requirement to work with Brockton and West Bridgewater officials on routing and related safety issues associated with delivery of fuel to the plant. The decision also requires project developers to return to the Board for further review and approval if the plant is built and intends to use potable water rather than treated wastewater for its operations.
Today's decision culminates an exhaustive adjudicatory process that included 20 days of evidentiary hearings and three Siting Board meetings to discuss the case. Brockton Power Company, an affiliate of Advanced Power Services, filed a petition with the EFSB in July 2007 requesting approval to build a 350-megawatt combined-cycle duel fuel (natural gas and ultra-low sulfur diesel) electric generating plant on a vacant 13.2-acre site within Brockton's Oak Hill Way Industrial Park.
Interveners in the case included National Grid, the Taunton River Watershed Alliance, the town of West Bridgewater, the city of Brockton, Custom Blends LLC, and 26 residents of Brockton and West Bridgewater. In addition, six others were admitted to the proceeding as limited participants: Alliance Against Power Plant Location, Brockton City Councilors Linda Balzotti and Thomas Brophy, State Senator Robert Creedon, and State Representatives Geraldine Creedon and Christine E. Canavan.
The Energy Facilities Siting Board is a nine-member review board charged with ensuring a reliable energy supply for the Commonwealth with a minimum impact on the environment at the lowest possible cost. The Siting Board's primary function is to review applications to construct major energy infrastructure in Massachusetts, including large power plants, electric transmission lines, natural gas pipelines and natural gas storage facilities.