Counsel: Grafton & Upton Railroad Verdict May Take Months

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The Grafton & Upton Railroad stretches from Grafton to Milford.
The Grafton & Upton Railroad stretches from Grafton to Milford. Photo Credit: Jennifer Lord Paluzzi (file photo)

GRAFTON, Mass. — Final arguments are set for Monday in Grafton's attempt to prove a propane transfer terminal does not fall under the Grafton & Upton Railroad's federal pre-emption rights.

A verdict, however, may take weeks or even months, Town Counsel Ginny Kremer told selectmen Tuesday.

"We believe that, under the law, this is not being done by the railroad and they do not qualify for pre-emption," Kremer said.

The Grafton & Upton Railroad in December announced plans to build a propane transfer terminal on its North Grafton property. The town of Grafton obtained a cease and desist order on the construction of the terminal, which would include four 120-foot, 80,000 gallon propane tanks to store propane brought in by the nearby CSX rail line.

The town has argued the railroad itself would not be responsible for terminal operations, making the pre-emption invalid.

"Even if we succeed, there's a possibility this facility could be refashioned under another set of contracts," Kremer said.

Judge Timothy S. Hillman could also opt to remand the case to Worcester Superior Court and the Federal Surface Transportation Board.

Railroad abutter Dennis Flynn expressed concern that this may be the first of many companies looking to move onto railroad property along the entire Grafton to Milford length of the rail line. A brochure Kremer produced during the trial last month showed the railroad was advertising industrial land with no permitting required.

"This is something that will affect other parts of town," Flynn said.

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Once the town wins, does it open the door for the town of Grafton to sue the GURR for all the legal and court costs connected with this case, and the cost of preparing and submitting the town's case to the Surface Transportation Board?

Wonder if Priscioli will have the "Damn the torpedoes! attitude and continue to build despite the cease and deists orders.. ?

Once the railroad wins, does it open the door for the GURR to sue the town for damages, because of the business lost while defending the cease and desist?