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Judge rules that suit over Brockton power plant fight may proceed

A federal judge has refused a motion to dismiss individual claims against seven Brockton officials in a year-old $68 million civil rights lawsuit brought by Brockton Power LLC.

The ruling is considered a victory for the subsidiary of the Swiss firm Advanced Power AG, which is seeking damages in US District Court in Boston as well as a reversal of all actions it says city officials have taken to thwart the development of a 350-megawatt, gas-fired power plant proposed for Oak Hill Way.

Brockton Power LLC’s development director, Jonathan Winslow, said court action was taken reluctantly after city officials did all they could to stop forward motion.

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The company has worked for seven years to gain approval for the $350 million facility that neighbors and officials say raises health concerns and other issues for the densely populated south-side neighborhood.

Named in the lawsuit are the Brockton City Council and Planning Board, as well as Mayor Linda Balzotti, former mayor James Harrington, former City Council president Thomas Brophy, council members Michelle DuBois and Jass Stewart, Planning Board chairman Wayne McAllister, and board member Susan Nicastro.

In response to the judge’s decision, Balzotti said her opposition to the proposed power plant has never wavered: “I am very confident in our stance moving forward,’’ she said.

Last week, federal Magistrate Judge Leo Sorokin strongly rebuked the officials’ behavior, suggesting they had not misinterpreted or misapplied the law “but were collectively determined not to follow it.’’

Further, he said, “The defendants’ collective refusal to cease their obstructive behavior in light of the state courts’ consistent rulings against them became tantamount to a decision to flout or subvert the courts’ orders and to undermine any relief granted to the plaintiffs.’’

Winslow said the ruling is “bittersweet’’ in some ways, “because I wish we could have resolved this much earlier, without all the expense, time, and effort.’’

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Brockton Power is still fighting the city’s appeal of a state Energy Facilities Siting Board decision to grant a license to operate. With seven years
of work invested in the fight, Winslow said there is no plan to back out.

“We see a need in New England’’ for the power plant, he said.

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