Selectmen To Hold Meeting On Grafton & Upton Railroad

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Jon Delli Priscoli, on Dec. 5, will be the topic of conversation in a Jan. 3 selectmen meeting to be held at Grafton High School. Photo Credit: Richard Price

GRAFTON, Mass. — Grafton residents who live in the embattled Westborough Road area where the four mammoth propane tanks are scheduled to be installed will have another chance to air their grievances.

The Grafton Board of Selectmen will hold a special meeting Jan. 3  at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

Residents who have been unable to attend previous meetings or who have more to say about the Grafton & Upton Railroad propane site are invited to attend.

The decision to hold this meeting came from the selectmen's meeting on Dec. 11 in an attempt to improve communication among the railroad, town government, and the residents. Jon Delli Priscoli, owner of the railroad, planned to attend in January. 

But during that meeting, Delli Priscoli said the first of four 120-foot propane tanks was scheduled to be delivered the next day, ahead of the original January date.

That sparked a shouting match among Delli Priscoli, the selectmen and the neighbors. The next day Grafton Building Inspector Robert Berger handed the Grafton & Upton Railroad a cease-and-desist order forbidding the delivery of the tank.  

The suit, filed in Worcester Superior Court, said the railroad did not satisfy its requests on the question of federal pre-emption oversight, that the land being developed is in a residential zoned area, is located in the water supply protection overlay district and that construction has continued with no local permits filed.

Delli Priscoli said he has been clear with the town. In November, he filed fire safety reports with state and local officials and had attended numerous selectmen meetings to be a good neighbor, he said.

In the end, he said, his project is overseen by the Federal Railroad Administration, the Surface Transportation Board and the  U.S. Fire Administration, not by state or local government.

A federal court on Dec. 12 sided with the town until Dec. 21, when the U.S. District Court will hear arguments from both sides.

Neither Delli Priscoli nor anyone else from the railroad are likely to attend the Jan. 3 town meeting because of the litigation, officials said.

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Comments (10)


"A faulty tank or an explosion of one of these proposed tanks could cause more of a massacre than the tragedy in Newtown, especially with an Elementary school, a library and a park all within the blast radius.

"Our town is discussing deadbolts in doors at schools to increase safety. How do we protect our kids against a potential time bomb down the road?"

Maybe you all could dismantle any natural gas or propane furnaces, boilers, stoves, and other appliances in all Grafton homes and replace them with wood stoves.

That will cut demand for said gases and ensure that nobody in Grafton is a hypocrite by using these products but insisting that the facilities that ship and/or store them are in somebody *elses* back yard, preferably located in a poorer, less vocal town than Grafton.


Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in my response to your 12/13 post on the dailyvoice article of that date. The area surrounding where this propane activity is proposed is not a wealthy area. Nor do I think that many in this particular part of North Grafton are particularly vocal, except perhaps when their own property rights and safety are potentially compromised, as is the case in this situation. I (and my neighbors, I suspect) would not visit the proposed large-scale propane facility on any densely developed area, regardless of their wealth or lack thereof. There are plenty of rural areas in Central Massachusetts that are adjacent to the CSX main line where such a facility would pose a hugely reduced risk of loss of life and significant property damage, and thus would be eminently more suitable for such a facility if there is a true need for this among the larger community. The proposed facility for storage of massive quantities of highly volatile propane is less than 1/2 mile from an elementary school that my 5- and 6-year old grandchildren attend. As our President remarked on Sunday, we, as a society, have no greater responsibility than to ensure the safety and well-being of our babies. The proposed facility is an irresponsible abuse of the claimed railroad pre-emption privelege.


Just wondering has there ever been a weight limit either on that section of Westboro Rd.or the two culverts? Since this section is not a state highway and is not in the best of shape.

Luther Manning:

FWIW, I drove by Suburban Propane's facility in Marlboro, MA this morning, and the storage tanks there are considerably smaller than the one's proposed in Grafton. The Marlboro tanks are roughly 30' long by 6' in diameter. Given the fact the tanks in Fall River haven't been used in years, makes one wonder is there a great demand for Propane? Natural Gas is more prevalent.



I think it is a bit less of the same. Suburban Propane is essentially the end user, as far as the business end - they would be one of the companies that ultimately would get the propane that is being brought in by train, and stored for transfer in these large tanks that G&U is looking to install. I believe G&U is essentially the larger distributor of the goods, that being propane.


It's not an issue whether this is a good business, that's up to the owner, but obviously he thinks he can make a go of it. Or maybe he thinks the tanks have potential to store other gases or liquids that are of higher value?
Let's not rule out the obvious or only count (4) as the number of tanks to be installed, just cause that was what was readily available in the local, secondhand market.


I'm not so sure that I have not been brainwashed by the term intermodal/transloading with a train's preemptive rights for transport. Obviously, the trucks that carry away the goods have to meet local laws and are not exclusively regulated by federal authority. To a degree, I think the train's preemption ends, when the goods leave the tracks. But it might also be true that a train can transfer goods intermodally without local permission, but that does seem to me to be more regulated than track transportation. So anyways, maybe there is some case law that might be applicable to this situation, or maybe we don't fully understand our federal rights?
As for now, I certainly support the town working to protect its own interest in relationship to this development.


The question to me is ...what constitues a transloading facility? 4 100 foot tanks? What about 8? 12? Or perhaps a single tank? The fact that he is doing it in a residential area is a tough pill to swallow for our community...but if the Feds/STB support his claim then so be it. I'm pleased that the town is running this up the flag poll and not trying to resolve it AFTER the tanks are there...cause once they are there they ain't going anywhere for a very very long time!


A faulty tank or an explosion of one of these proposed tanks could cause more of a massacre than the tragedy in Newtown, especially with an Elementary school, a library and a park all within the blast radius.

Our town is discussing deadbolts in doors at schools to increase safety. How do we protect our kids against a potential time bomb down the road?


Please reference, and I quote:
UPDATE: Grafton & Upton Railroad Order To Federal Court

by Richard Price and Jennifer Lord Paluzzi

You don't have to go very far to see the effects of an lp facility mishap and the resulting damage. The attached link is an article printed by the Lewiston (Maine) Daily Sun on October 1, 1971 for an incident that happened right next door if MILLBURY. Initial cause was an accidental inginition of a gas tank being filled on a CAMPER. If you want to see the tank involved in the incident, it's behind the present XTRAMART on Rt 146 just south of the Shops at Blackstone Valley shopping center. The tank involved that day was a peanut compared to the ones being moved to Grafton. To have personally witnessed the 30 feet high escaping flame from the fire impinged tank was one of the most dramatic things I have ever encountered. One you wouldn't want to see in a residential area at any cost.

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