By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Opponents of a proposed power plant in Brockton are crying betrayal following a meeting Tuesday night when Brockton City Councilor-at-large Jass Stewart voiced the idea of talking with power plant representatives about concessions and money Brockton Power might give to the city if the courts give the green light to the controversial project.
“I felt betrayed. I couldn’t believe it. I lost my breath,” said Eddie Byers, one of the leaders of the anti-power plant group that has a following of more than 500 residents from Brockton and the Bridgewaters.
Since the meeting Tuesday night held in City Council chambers, Byers and others in the group against the power plant have been angry and trying to figure out why Stewart would propose negotiating with power plant officials, especially since June 9when the state Energy and Facilities Siting Board by a 4-3 vote rejected Brockton Power’s plan to use city water to cool the proposed power plant’s turbine—a big victory for anti-power plant forces.
“He ripped my heart out,” Byers said.
Stewart said he knew bringing up the idea of negotiating with Brockton Power would be “dangerous,” but believes it is a topic that needs to be discussed as a “worst case scenario” strategy.
“I was looking at it as an opportunity to go into the conversation with more leverage—we are in a position of power because of the June EFSB decision—rather than coming from a position where we don’t have any leverage,” Stewart said.
Stewart said he brought up the idea of getting concessions from power plant officials because power plant opponents have to be ready for the possibility that the plant may receive approval from the courts, even though the EFSB decision about the water maybe a hurdle the power plant cannot overcome.
He said when he raised the issue at the Tuesday night meeting it did not go over well with the 8-12 people who attended, including city councilors Michelle DuBois and Paul Studenski.
“They wanted to burn me alive,” Stewart said of the reaction in the room.
Stewart said weeks before the meeting he polled power plant opponents like environmental lawyer Eugene Benson, who is representing opponents in hearings against the plant, and certain, unnamed city officials about the chances opponents have of winning the fight against the plant.
Stewart would not divulge what the percentage was but said it was low and that prompted his thinking that a worst case scenario strategy had to be formed.
Stewart said that ad-hoc poll was before the EFSB ruled against Brockton Power using the city’s water to cool the plant’s turbines.
Stewart said he has met with former Mayor John “Jack” Yunits several months ago and during that meeting Yunits tried to persuade Stewart to negotiate with power plant representatives a mitigation package that would include money and other needs the city might have that Brockton Power might help with.
Stewart said he was willing to listen to Yunits’ arguments, but he is still not in favor of the plant and he is only trying to cover the bases if the plant receives approvals.
“I am still 150 percent against the power plant,” Stewart said. “I am not at all changing my position and I don’t want people who value my opinion to think I’ve changed my mind. I haven’t and I don’t want people who might value my opinion to think I have and maybe change their mind,” Stewart said.
Stewart said he thought the issue would remain private among those who attended Tuesday night’s meeting and believes Byers might be using the meeting and its reaction as a political argument because Katherine “Kate” Archard, a vocal opponent of the power plant and close associate of Byers, is running for one of four city councilor-at-large seats.
Stewart, who is up for reelection to his councilor-at-large seat, has not taken out nomination papers for reelection and is considering a possible run for mayor.
Stewart said he would make a decision whether he will run for mayor or reelection to the City Council sometime before the July 29 deadline to pull nomination papers.
Bill Carpenter, a school committee member, said he is waiting for Stewart to make a decision about running for mayor or city council before he decides what seat he will run for.
“I’ll be in line right behind you on July 29,” Carpenter said to Stewart during a conversation about the election last night. “I’m waiting to see what you do,” Carpenter told Stewart.
It was Carpenter’s radio show on WXBR 1460AM Wednesday morning when Byers made public his and other power plant opponent’s belief Stewart might be changing his mind toward the power plant.
Byers said the election and Archard’s run for city council has nothing to do with his feeling that Stewart maybe betraying the power plant opposition.
“This is a war…there’s going to be winners and losers…there’s no negotiation,” Byers said.
Byers said he did not reach out to the media to make the issue public. He said he was contacted to speak on Carpenter’s show.
“I didn’t initiate the call,” Byers said.
Byers said Stewart’s presence at the Tuesday meeting was a surprise, as was the topic of conversation.
Byers said he thought the meeting was going to be similar to those held periodically by opponents when legal issues and strategies have been discussed.
Byers said the other meetings have been held at the Davis Elementary School and Stewart has not been present during those meetings.
Byers said he did not know who called the meeting, but believed it was Stewart who initiated the meeting by contacting the opponents’ lawyer Benson who sent emails about 7 to 10 days ago about Tuesday night’s meeting at City Hall.