Seacoast news in brief

Seacoast candidates look ahead to 2016

The 2016 presidential race has been in full-swing for months, and now, a number of Seacoast candidates are looking ahead to high-profile state and federal races.

The newest candidate is New Castle’s Mark Connolly, a former deputy secretary of state and owner of an investment firm, who announced he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for governor on Nov. 5.

Connolly is the second Democrat to enter the gubernatorial race, which is already full of familiar Seacoast faces. Executive councilor Colin Van Ostern, whose district includes much of Strafford County, announced his campaign in early October. On the Republican side, executive councilor Chris Sununu, who lives in Newfields and whose district includes Portsmouth and other Rockingham County communities, announced his bid in September.

The race for governor opened up in early October when incumbent governor (and Exeter resident) Maggie Hassan announced she’d be challenging Kelly Ayotte for her seat in the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, incumbent 1st District Congressman Frank Guinta is facing challenges from three Seacoast candidates: Republican Dan Innis, a Portsmouth business owner who lost to Guinta in the 2014 primary; Republican state Rep. Pam Tucker of Greenland; and Democrat Carol Shea-Porter of Rochester, who formerly held Guinta’s seat but lost to him in 2010 and 2014. — Larry Clow


Sea-3 propane expansion approved

A Newington company looking to expand its liquid propane operation has reached an agreement with state regulators and local communities about the project.

On Nov. 6, Sea-3 reached an agreement with the state’s Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), officials in Newington, Dover, and Portsmouth, and local residents to expand its propane facility at its Shattuck Way facility. The company plans to build five new railroad berths, three 90,000-gallon storage tanks, and other facilities for storing and transporting liquid propane.

The agreement means Sea-3 does not have to undergo a SEC review of the project and that work on the expansion can begin immediately.

The agreement was signed by Sea-3 vice president Paul Bogan, officials from the three communities, Fred C. Mason of the Great Bay Stewards, and attorney Christopher Cole, who represents a number of Portsmouth residents who had objected to the project.

Portsmouth staff attorney Jane Ferrini said the city is pleased with the agreement.

“I think it’s a broader scope than what would have been reached by an order of the SEC,” she said.

The agreement addresses a number of safety concerns Portsmouth and other communities had with the proposed project. It requires Sea-3 to pay for a comprehensive fire safety analysis of its Newington facility, including planned upgrades; that analysis will be submitted to Newington officials and the state fire marshal for review.

The agreement also calls for Sea-3 to provide a “virtual facility tour/presentation” for firefighters in Dover and Portsmouth, with one presentation in 2016 and an additional presentation at least every five years. The company must also provide training for rail car and tanker truck fires, and the company will participate in a “table top” — a facilitator-led discussion that simulates various emergency scenarios and includes participation by Newington, Dover, and Portsmouth fire departments and state and federal officials. As part of the agreement, the Newington fire department must develop an area emergency response plan, and Sea-3 must provide the town with a copy of its own contingency plan.

The agreement also limits the amount of propane rail cars the facility can receive to 16 cars per day. If the company wants to increase the number of cars, it must petition the SEC and notify officials in Portsmouth, Dover, and Newington, as well as the state attorney general.

The project has been under consideration since 2014. Residents and Portsmouth officials raised concerns about the expansion, particularly about the condition of the railroad tracks, which are owned and maintained by Pan Am Railways. They worried that increased rail traffic could lead to more accidents.

According to Ferrini, as part of the project, Portsmouth is upgrading rail crossings in the city. Ferrini said the city is seeking state funding to help cover the cost. — LC


GE plant sold

The General Electric plant that’s been a fixture of the city’s downtown for 70 years has been sold. Aclara Technologies, a St. Louis-based supplier of devices for water, gas, and electric utilities, announced on Nov. 9 that it was acquiring GE Meters, GE’s energy management grid solutions subdivision, which is headquartered in the Somersworth plant.

The acquisition includes more than 300 employees, the Somersworth plant, and facilities in Chicago and Bilbao, Spain. The sale is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

It’s unclear how the sale will affect employees at the Somersworth plant. Mayor Dana Hilliard said GE “played an important role in the development of the Hilltop community.”

“As we move forward, it is imperative that the workers who are being displaced are receiving the services necessary to ensure a successful transition,” he said. “I look forward to welcoming our new neighbor Aclara, and their engaging activity within our community. Somersworth’s continual success will be based upon a collective belief of the Hilltopper spirit. I have no doubt that Aclara will model that.” — LC