GRAFTON, Mass.— The lawyer for the town of Grafton argued in federal court Thursday that the propane transfer operation being built by the Grafton & Upton Railroad is largely controlled by a second company, possibly removing it from federal pre-emption.
Ginny S. Kremer of Bowman & Penski, the lawyer for Grafton, cross examined Jon Delli Priscoli about a trans-load agreement contract the railroad has with Spicer Gas that specializes in liquid propane. This was the third day of the trial, in which the town is seeking to prevent Delli Priscoli from bringing in four 120-foot, 80,000 gallon propane tanks to its North Grafton depot for the operation.
Federal pre-emption allows only railroads, when transportation is involved, to operate outside of state and local laws.
Kremer claimed that the interests of the second company would be excluded from that umbrella.
The Grafton & Upton Railroad is building a propane transfer terminal 100 yards from a CSX rail line but also near a watershed, single family homes, and an elementary school. Kremer argued the trans-load contract hands over significant control of day-to-day operations to Jonathan Holstein, vice-president of Spicer Gas and a series of his sister companies.
Kremer, during cross examination, asked Delli Priscoli if Patriot Gas, a company that markets propane fuel and owned by Holstein, was also marketing for his railroad. Delli Priscoli said no, that the company role was as a “guarantor” that would deliver a minimum of 800 propane rail cars to his yard in the first year to assure he will “break even."
But John A. Mavricos, the railroad’s lawyer, argued that the contracts with Holstein’s companies were open-ended, which gave ultimate control of the operation, and the employees who work on the site, to the railroad. It also allowed Delli Priscoli’s company to bring in other propane wholesalers to off-load at the Westborough Road site.
Mavricos also called Theodore Lenoff, an expert from the National Fire Protection Agency who co-authored the fire safety analysis manual for propane fuel, to the stand. Lenoff testified he reviewed the site drawings for the Grafton & Upton Railroad and signed off that they were in compliance.
Lenoff also testified that if liquid propane were to leak out of a tank. it would vaporize as a “white cloud” of water. He said it would have to be minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder for propane to maintain its current state. When Mavricos asked what the likelihood was of the fuel to seep into nearby water, Lenoff said it was extremely unlikely.
The trial will continue Friday morning at 9 a.m. when Holstein is expected to take the stand.