Waterford first selectman addresses concerns about proposed data center
Waterford ― A large group of residents are opposing plans by NE Edge, LLC to construct a data center on Millstone Nuclear Power station property.
A petition opposing the project by the group “Protect Waterford” has collected nearly 700 signatures. The group is concerned about noise from the project, as well as what they say is NE Edge’s lack of experience and troubled background.
The company has existed for a little more than a year, has yet to build a data center and is a defendant in a $30 billion lawsuit.
“The residences of our area deserve more,” the petition reads. “Our leaders should be doing exhaustive investigations into this company and Data Center Noise Pollution before deciding to build within walking distance of hundreds of homes and [four] local beaches.”
Christine Donovan, a resident of the100-home Millstone Point Association, is worried about the lasting impact of the project. She read the coverage of Groton’s interaction with a NE Edge proposal, which ended in a one-year moratorium on all data center projects, as well as the struggles of communities in Arizona and Virginia with noise pollution from other developers.
Donovan said a Feb. 22 meeting, when the Board of Selectmen and Representative Town Meeting, agreed to become the host municipality for a data center project, was not well publicized and that the entire process is being “rushed along.” She said she would like the town to hold a public forum.
“As a resident with two young children, hearing about the other communities having health issues is a big concern to me,” Donovan said Monday. “I obviously see the pros and cons. I just hope that all aspects are being considered carefully with so much at stake.”
Donovan’s father-in-law, Jeff Donovan, Michelle Fontaine-Calkins, Laurette Saller and Nancy Grillo, also members of the association, also told The Day about their concerns.
“Because we live next to a nuclear power plant that presently generates lots of noise, it is unfair that we should have to tolerate an additional source of noise,” Saller wrote in an email. “The combined effect of noise from a data center plus power plant daily operations, loud speaker tests, construction would destroy the peaceful use of our homes.”
Agreement calls for $231 million for town
First Selectman Rob Brule said he has heard the concerns of residents who have called and emailed him and that he will not act to the detriment of the town.
“I’m reacting to these concerns,” Brule said Tuesday. “I think I also have a greater responsibility to the town to create this opportunity for the taxpayers, for all 19,500 residents, but it will never get in the way of ensuring the right thing happens.”
“We have expectations from these developers and so does Millstone,” he added.
According to the agreement, the town would receive more than $231 million in lieu of taxes over 30 years from NE Edge. This would make NE Edge the second-largest taxpayer in town behind Dominion Energy, LLC, the owner of Millstone.
Legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2021 dictates towns cannot tax data centers’ equipment or buildings, but are allowed to negotiate fees in lieu of such taxes. If NE Edge were to back out of the agreement prior to the 30-year mark, the buildings would automatically become taxable.
Brule said he has yet to sign the agreement. He said he needs more assurance from NE Edge that it understands the magnitude of residents’ concerns before signing it.
NE Edge would study noise
Attorney William McCoy, who represents NE Edge and owns property in the Millstone Point Association, said the agreement calls for NE Edge to conduct a noise analysis,
A baseline will be established over a week-long period to determine the level of noise that currently exists. The town will hire its own expert to review the study’s results and confirm that the results meet its noise level standards. It could also call for alterations to the design of the data center.
“Candidly, the client is committed to complying with the host fee agreement as it relates to sound levels at the boundary line of the property,” McCoy said.
Brule said the provision is “just the start of responsible development,” and will determine what level of sound will be tolerable and expected before the building is even built.
Brule said that because the two buildings would be supplied with electricity directly from Dominion's two nuclear reactors on the site, there will not be a need for diesel-powered generators for back up energy sources, which are a main contributor to the noise issue.
The agreement for the payment in lieu of taxes does not mean the project has been approved by the town, according to Town Attorney Nick Kepple.
“I would just like to reiterate that this is the first step,” Brule said. “This is opening the door for Dominion to host a data center on its property.
Brule said the approval process will include public meetings, Planning and Zoning Commission meetings, Conservation Commission meetings, and others. NE Edge will also have to comply with state and federal policies, procedures and permitting.
The Planning and Zoning Commission has also received letters from a group of Groton residents. The group detailed its own experience with NE Edge and shared its concerns and research on data centers.
Brule said he spent three days in Manassas, Va. to tour multiple data centers and meet with residents who have been impacted by the developments because “I have the same concerns everyone else does.”
While in Virginia, Brule said he had a decibel meter on hand, but did not need it to hear the buzzing and the humming emanating from the buildings.
“I could not live next to a data center that loud,” he said.
While Brule said he is supportive of Dominion’s partnership with NE Edge, as the two sides have a memorandum of understanding, he added that the project will be held to high standards to ensure there’s no noise pollution. He said he will not treat this project any differently than any other property in town.
“I feel confident with the right engineering, the right contractors and no cutting corners financially, this will be a successful venture for Dominion and the town.”
NE Edge faces $30 billion lawsuit
Gotspace Data LLC, filed the suit last December in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and alleges it was a victim of criminal enterprise and that NE Edge “committed numerous violations” of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Court documents show that Gotspace claims NE Edge interfered with commerce by threats or violence in addition to “numerous federal law claims” of breach of loan, investment, extortion, loan sharking, wire tapping, electronic eavesdropping and “unlawful vexatious debt collection activities.”
Gotspace Data Partners Founder and CEO, Nicholas Fiorillo, did not return a call for comment. NE Edge Co-Founder Thomas Quinn is the former president of Gotspace.
“We’ve already responded to this alleged $30 billion lawsuit,” McCoy, the attorney for NE Edge, said. “There is a history behind all that and I think the principals within NE Edge have been clear to the litigation behind it. Anybody can file a lawsuit in the courts of the United States, the question is if there’s any substance behind it.”
Brule said he asked for clarification about the suit and felt comfortable with both the developer’s and attorney’s responses. He said he’s had “very good” interactions with NE Edge throughout the process.
“I feel comfortable from what I know,” he said. “I feel comfortable that Dominion has a MOU (memorandum of understanding) with a company, with a business looking to do business on their property and they cannot do it without the host fee agreement.”