Solar developer to pay $1.14 million settlement over environmental damage


A Pennsylvania-based solar developer agreed to pay approximately $1.14 million to settle allegations that its violations of federal stormwater requirements damaged protected wetland resources in the town of Williamsburg, Mass., and polluted the West Branch Mill River, according to Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) Maura Healey.

The consent decree, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and pending court approval, settles an April 2020 lawsuit filed by the AG’s office alleging that Dynamic Energy Solutions LLC disregarded pollution control requirements for construction sites when it constructed an 18.5-acre solar array on a steep hillside above the West Branch Mill River.

In an announcement, Healey said, “Developers must abide by our important state and federal laws designed to protect precious natural resources.”

Under terms of the consent decree, Dynamic must comply with state and federal laws to protect water quality and natural resources at the solar array, restore impacted resources at an estimated cost of $530,000, and place a parcel of 24 acres near the West Branch Mill River into conservation at an estimated cost of $210,000.

The company must also pay $215,000 to fund the acquisition of land by a trust to benefit water quality in the Mill River, pay a penalty of $100,000 to the state’s general fund, and pay $80,000 to the AG’s office for costs, including attorney fees.

According to a local report, a Dynamic Energy representative said the developer is happy to resolve the matter. Dynamic’s general counsel wrote, “We look forward to completing restoration work at the site, and to placing land into conservation to help protect Massachusetts’ natural resources.”

In its complaint, the AG’s office alleged that Dynamic caused sediment-laden stormwater to flow off the array site, eroding a hillside, scouring out stream beds, and filling in nearby wetlands with sediment.

The AG’s office alleged that Dynamic’s failure to comply with construction stormwater pollution control requirements altered around 97,000 square feet of protected wetlands and more than 41,000 feet of riverfront area and covered the bottom of the West Branch Mill River with the equivalent of more than an acre of sediment.

Dynamic also allegedly failed to comply with an enforcement order issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) requiring site stabilization, stormwater controls, and restoration of damaged resources. MassDEP’s western regional office investigated the case and referred it to the AG’s office for further enforcement.

Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP’s western regional office in Springfield, called the environmental impacts “egregious” and “entirely avoidable.”

“Solar energy is an important part of the state’s long-term energy strategy,” said Gorski. “However, projects must be sited, designed, and constructed in a thoughtful manner.”

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