|Posted by Matthew P. LaFrenier on November 21, 2014 at 11:25 AM|
PORTSMOUTH — Mayor Robert Lister said city officials had a “very good meeting” with Gov. Maggie Hassan focused on their concerns about expanded propane rail cars in the Seacoast.
“She seemed very interested in our concerns,” Lister said about the Thursday meeting. “We didn’t get very specific, but it was a chance for her to hear from us and where we were with the litigation.”
City officials have waged a long battle against the expansion of the Sea-3 propane terminal in Newington, which was approved in May by the town’s Planning Board, despite concerns raised by area officials and residents.
Most concerns have focused on the condition of Pan Am Railways’ tracks, which will carry a significant increase in propane rail cars throughout the Seacoast because of the expanded propane terminal.
The tracks are now Class 1, but Pan Am Railways Executive Vice President Cynthia Scarano has said the company may upgrade them to Class 2, which would allow trains to travel as fast as 25 mph, up from 10 mph.
Portsmouth officials have asked Pan Am to commit to running its trains at only 10 mph, but Pan Am has refused.
The city of Portsmouth filed an appeal of Newington’s approval of the expansion, but that appeal, and a subsequent request for rehearing, were rejected by the Newington Board of Adjustments.
The city also filed an appeal in Rockingham County Superior Court, but they are still waiting to get a hearing date set, according to staff attorney Jane Ferrini.
Asked Friday if the city would consider taking the case to the state Supreme Court if the city lost its appeal in Superior Court, Lister said, “That’s a possibility, it depends on the outcome in Superior Court.”
The meeting with the governor on Thursday included staffers from the city and her office, Lister said.
“The emphasis was on safety of the residents and development near the tracks,” Lister said.
He confirmed that they also talked about upgrading the six railroad crossings in the city, which city officials have estimated could cost as much as $2.4 million in total to do.
“I think it’s an agreement we’re going to have to have in the near future,” Lister said about whether the state will pay in part or in full for the improvements.
The governor’s staff plans to do more research on safety-related issues and the two groups will talk again soon, Lister said.