Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim Delivers Remarks at the ALI-CLE Environmental Law Conference in Washington, D.C.
National Grid has agreed to pay $5.38 million to federal and state natural resource trustees to resolve claims for natural resource damages from releases of hazardous chemicals connected to the former Gloucester Gas Light Company located in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Between 1854 and 1952, the former Gloucester Gas Light Company operated a manufactured gas plant along the Gloucester waterfront. The plant used industrial processes to produce manufactured gas from coal and oil. Manufactured gas plants, which were common before the development of natural gas pipelines, often yielded by-products such as tars, sludges, and oils. Production at the gas plant ended in the early 1950s, and ownership changed to the North Shore Gas Company, a predecessor of the current owner, National Grid. Hazardous chemicals released by the former manufactured gas plant contaminated soils and groundwater, as well as sediment in the adjacent Gloucester Harbor. Those contaminants resulted in injuries to natural resources in Gloucester Harbor.
“This settlement will provide funding for federal and state agencies to undertake critical habitat restoration work in the coastal areas in the vicinity of the former impacted by Gloucester Gas Light Company’s plant,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“Coastal wetlands provide vital habitat for many species of fish and wildlife as well as protect neighboring communities from storm surges and rising sea levels from climate change,” said Acting Regional Director Kyla Hastie of the Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region. “The settlement will allow the trustees to fund restoration projects in Coastal Massachusetts to make communities safer and improve wildlife habitat for impacted species.”
“This settlement is an important step toward addressing years of pollution in Gloucester Harbor that injured the community's natural resources,” said Director for Habitat Conservation for Fisheries Carrie Selberg Robinson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “We look forward to working with the other trustees to restore habitat that will support Gloucester well into the future.”
“Gloucester Harbor provides vital maritime, recreational, and ecological services to the public. This settlement will ensure that the public is compensated for the natural resource injuries that resulted from the decades-long release of hazardous substances into the Harbor,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell. “We thank our state and federal partners for working with us to achieve this important outcome.”
“This settlement will meaningfully address decades of environmental harm and restore wetlands and other aquatic resources. The Commonwealth and its trustee partners will ensure that stakeholders and officials in Gloucester will be active participants in the process to utilize these funds for restorative environmental projects,” said Secretary Rebecca Tepper of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. “We appreciate the work of the Department of Justice and Attorney General Campbell in bringing about this resolution for the Gloucester Harbor.”
Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, parties that have disposed of hazardous substances at a site are liable for damages, injury to, destruction of, or loss of natural resources. The natural resource trustees for the site are the U.S. Department of the Interior, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NOAA, and the Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Massachusetts state law affords the Commonwealth a similar right to recover damages for injuries to natural resources. The trustees determined that the hazardous substances released from the former Gloucester Gas Light Company’s manufactured gas plant contaminated waters and sediments in Gloucester Harbor, resulting in injury to these natural resources that serve as habitats for fish and wildlife species. National Grid is remediating those contaminants under Massachusetts state law.
In settlement of the trustees’ natural resource damages claims, National Grid has agreed to pay $80,000 to reimburse federal and state trustees for damage assessment costs and $5.3 million to compensate the public for natural resource injuries to Gloucester Harbor, which the trustees, working with the public, will use to implement one or more natural resource restoration projects. The defendant previously paid about $475,000 to reimburse federal and state trustees for prior damage assessment costs incurred at the site.
The Justice Department is seeking public comments on the settlement for a period of 30 days from publication of a notice of the settlement, which will appear in the Federal Register. View a copy of the settlement here. For more information about the Former Gloucester Gas Light Company case, see www.darrp.noaa.gov/hazardous-waste/former-gloucester-gas-light-company.