By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Although it may take years before a developer looking to build a 350-megawatt natural gas power plant can buy water from desalination water provider Aquaria LLC, Brockton city councilors are indignant that Aquaria’s general manager did not inform them a potential deal was in the works and instead had to learn the details from the media.
“With all due respect, I see it as a slap in the face,” said Councilor-at-large Thomas Brophy during Monday night’s City Council Finance Committee meeting when Aquaria’s general manager Alfredo Andres attended the meeting to talk about the potential sale of 1.7 million gallons of water to cool the turbines that would power the proposed natural gas plant on Oak Hill Way.
Andres and Aquaria came under fire at the end of last month following a state hearing with the Energy Facilities Siting Board that upheld the city’s denial of drinking water for the power plant’s turbines.
The power plant project has been mired in controversy, lawsuits and a grassroots uprising against it that includes 10 of 11 city councilors and the city’s state legislators.
The water issue is seen as a linchpin in the plant’s construction and along with denying the plant drinking water, the city has rejected the plant’s request to pay for the use of treated wastewater—the plant’s first choice in the approval process.
When the waste water was denied, power plant officials sought approval from the state to use the city’s drinking water.
The Siting Board’s decision upholding the city’s drinking water denial was seen as a major victory until word spread Advanced Power—the power plant’s developer—had signed a letter of intent to get the needed water from Aquaria which was somewhat of a shock to councilors because Andres had met with the council just days before the Siting Board hearing and did not mention the possible deal with Advanced Power.
Andres said when he was in front of the council in September they had not asked questions that were specific to a deal with Advanced Power, however Ward 1 Councilor Timothy Cruise disagreed.
”I think you were very disingenuous that night,” Cruise said. “I’m very offended over how we were treated that night,” he said, adding he believed Andres did not tell the council the whole truth because Andres knew what the council’s reaction would be.
Councilor-at-large Robert Sullivan also disagreed with Andres’ assertion the board was not specific in its questions about the possibility of the plant using Aquaria’s desalinated water.
“I feel that the questions you were asked were pointed—I asked them myself,” Sullivan told Andres. “I’m extremely disappointed that wasn’t disclosed,” Sullivan said.
Andres, who did more listening than talking, told councilors that the letter of intent was agreed upon about two or three months ago and initial talks with Advanced Power began 6 to 8 months ago in January or February.
He said there was little to no talk about how much it would cost Advanced Power for the water, only that the power company would have to pay what Brockton pays as a minimum.
Andres characterized the two meetings as discussions and not negotiations—a point Cruise disagreed with—and that Advanced Power would have to be characterized as a public utility or wholesaler by several state agencies before Aquaria could sell water to the plant. Such a process could take years, if at all. (SEE BROCKTONPOST.COM'S INTERVIEW WITH ANDRES BY SCROLLING DOWN TO SEPT. 26)
According to Catherine Williams, a spokeswoman with the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, thus far, Advanced Power has not submitted an application to be declared a wholesaler or public utility.
Andres said he understood councilors were angry about the matter, but said he had to meet with Advanced Power because they were a potential customer interested in buying 1.7 million gallons of water—an issue heightened by the need for the company to sell a surplus of its water.
Councilors have requested a copy of the letter of intent. Andres said he was unsure if Aquaria has received that request yet.
City Councilor Philip Nessralla said Aquaria has only recently been asked for a copy of the letter and will inform the council when the request is answered.
Andres, who was interviewed by BrocktonPost.com following the Siting Board hearing and subsequent anger over the letter of intent was asked by BrocktonPost.com for the letter, also. During that interview Andres said he was not certain if the letter was a public document and suggested a copy of the letter might be obtained through Advanced Power.
Advanced Power has not responded to BrocktonPost.com’s requests for comment or information since the Siting Board hearing held Thursday, Sept. 22.