Day #82 (last Baker-sitting day)

Holy flying pancakes, you guys!

I’m still processing this in what’s left of my brain. I’ll post more tomorrow.

For now, there’s this:
BAKER ORDERS STATE TO INVESTIGATE COMPRESSOR STATION ISSUES

By Michael P. Norton

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 17, 2017…Requesting a public health assessment and thorough airing of public safety concerns, Gov. Charlie Baker has directed state agencies to investigate issues raised by opponents of a controversial natural gas compressor station planned along the Fore River in North Weymouth.

In a letter dated July 14 and released by Baker’s office on Monday, Baker said his administration would examine claims about project impacts, gather public health data, and facilitate the presentation to the federal government of public safety concerns. And while he reiterated that the “primary decisions” about the project will be made by the federal government, Baker said he’s committed to ensuring that community concerns are “heard fully.”

“We recognize the serious concerns that have been raised by many, including constituents in your town and neighboring communities, regarding a proposed natural gas compressor station to be sited along the Fore River,” Baker wrote in a letter to Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund, a former state senator who has called the federal review of the project “a rigged process.”

The area where Spectra Energy-Enbridge has proposed its compressor station is located near neighborhoods in North Weymouth and abuts other historically industrialized areas both on the Weymouth and Quincy sides of the Fore River. Opponents have been prodding Baker, who has backed added natural gas capacity, to join elected officials who are against the project and the project’s vetting has unfolded amid regular calls for additional renewable energy sources.

Spectra Energy says gas turbines are common across the globe and the Weymouth compressor station will boost natural gas transmission, with clear and odorless emissions that are monitored to ensure compliance with state and federal standards. Mufflers and insulation materials will minimize noise levels to about 55 decibels, the company says, noting freeway driving at 50 feet away can be about 75 decibels. The Weymouth station is one of hundreds along the U.S. natural gas pipeline system, according to Spectra, and will help bring more natural gas to New England, helping to keep energy prices competitive.

Under Baker’s plan, the results of a formal public health assessment will be shared with the mayor’s office before the state Department of Environmental Protection releases any air permits sought by project proponents, Baker wrote. The assessment will “document the current background air levels at the site and the current health status of the community” and will take into account projected air quality impacts of the proposed project, according to the governor.

Baker is also directing state Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton to work with Hedlund’s office to “facilitate an opportunity for the public to bring their concerns” about public safety threats directly to the federal government, specifically the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
“I believe the federal regulators should hear firsthand – and then address – the concerns raised by community members,” Baker wrote.

Hedlund applauded Baker’s directives and said he has spoken with Baker and Beaton in recent weeks “about how their state agencies can better protect local residents than [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] has at any time during this process.”
Hedlund added, “No community has ever waged this aggressive and pro-active a legal and grassroots fight against such a proposed facility. The Town has filed lawsuits in Dedham, Boston, and Washington, DC. We are fighting the project in state court, Federal court, and before several environmental agencies. We know it’s the wrong project in the wrong location.” ❤ ❤

Baker also wrote that the project site is “susceptible to flooding and waves during storm events” and said he is directing the state Office of Coastal Zone Management, which is reviewing the project’s safety and reliability under coastal storm conditions, to request additional information from the project’s sponsors. The governor wrote that he hopes to “achieve a conclusive and definitive understanding of what the specific flooding and inundation risks are and what potential effects of future sea level rise may be given the design life of the facility.”

The governor concluded, “The Commonwealth finds itself at an energy crossroads. As older power generators retire, we must diversify the state’s energy portfolio. This means both pursuing new sources of renewable energy and expanding our natural gas capacity. While we continue to believe that this multi-pronged strategy is vital to controlling the costs of energy, providing reliability, and protecting the Commonwealth’s environment, we also understand the importance of weighing all of the potential impacts on local communities.”

Weymouth resident Andrea Honore, who has been visiting Baker’s office regularly to highlight her opposition to the project, said the directives ordered by Baker were “wonderful” but cautioned that project opponents should remain vigilant.

“Further study is so desperately needed especially considering the location of the site and the unprecedented proximity to humans,” Honore wrote, reacting to Baker’s announcement in the form of a letter to the governor. “While your acknowledgement of constituent concerns and the plans for additional study are fantastic, it doesn’t mean the compressor is dead. Spectra/Enbridge will not take any project delays lying down. There are billions of dollars to be made and shareholders to keep happy. I’m thrilled, however with your letter publicly stating a plan to address the very real issues regarding the compressor proposal, and laying out the steps your administration will take to ensure the protection of citizens.”

Thanking Baker, Honore said Monday might be the last time she sits in Baker’s lobby to call attention to the issue.

Hedlund said the additional information sought by Baker “could set the project” or “even doom the project,” noting a public health assessment derailed Clean Harbor’s proposed incinerator on the Fore River. But the mayor added that “we cannot forget that FERC and their rigged process of allowing big utility companies whatever they want is a creation of Washington-not Beacon Hill. FERC does not shoot down pipeline, it only rubber stamps them.”

END

07/17/2017
Serving the working press since 1894 http://www.statehousenews.

UPDATE

Dear Governor Baker-

You could knock me over with a feather right now!

I just read your letter to Mayor Hedlund that calls for further study of environmental and public safety impacts of the project as well as climate resilience of the site itself, which is wonderful! Further study is so desperately needed especially considering the location of the site and the unprecedented proximity to humans.

While your acknowledgement of constituent concerns and the plans for additional study are fantastic, it doesn’t mean the compressor is dead. Spectra/Enbridge will not take any project delays lying down. There are billions of dollars to be made and shareholders to keep happy. I’m thrilled, however with your letter publicly stating a plan to address the very real issues regarding the compressor proposal, and laying out the steps your administration will take to ensure the protection of citizens.

Residents in the Fore River area have to stay aware and fighting till the bitter end of this proposal, however. I want to thank the members of FRRACS and the Town of Weymouth for all of their work for 2.5 years. I slid into this situation about a year ago, and built upon their huge volume of work.

Today might be my last day of sitting in your waiting room, as far as my aim is concerned. I would like an opportunity to thank you personally for your actions taken to protect Weymouth and the Fore River area, if that’s possible.

Thank you SO MUCH and thank you to your Staff, Constituent Services, Troopers, EPU, EEA, DEP, CZM, DPH, and all the other acronyms I’m forgetting right now 🙂

Andrea Honoré
Day 82

PDF of the letter is here:
Mayor Hedlund Weymouth Compressor ltr
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It was a huge irony that North Weymouth Town Councilor Becky Haugh was slated to sit with me on Day 82. She lives 1,400 feet from the site. She has tackled this proposal with all of the grace, tenacity and power she can muster. So great to have her there, on this day especially.

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Before I left, I made my heartfelt goodbyes to the staff I’ve come to know and like. I’ll come to visit in them in the future, kind of like a college kid visiting the parents (holidays, when I need money, etc. Just kidding about the money part).

I never did hear from Gov. Baker, but the mission was accomplished.

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See ya later, State House!

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Cleaning house – taking the Wanna Sit signup page down.

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I’m going to do a post mortem, but I’m gonna take a week off first!

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Just in case…

First time hearing about the Weymouth compressor proposal?

(it’s been known to happen!)
Here’s a great overview from the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station group based in Weymouth:
1,000+ Homes within a one-mile radius
The original project required notice to 960 landowners within a half-mile. Apartment complexes count as 1 landowner, so the 1,000+ factors in all of the apartments, not just the single apartment building, as well as homes that are between a half mile and one mile away from the site.
 
1,000s of children within a one-mile radius
According to school enrollment data, more than two thousand students attend schools within 1 mile of the compressor station. This info was obtained from the MA Dept. of Education, ChildCareCenter.us, and GreatSchools.org.
 
15 Educational Facilities within a one-mile radius
According to school enrollment data, there are fifteen schools and daycares within ~1 mile of the compressor station. This info was obtained from the MA Dept. of Education, ChildCareCenter.us, and GreatSchools.org.
 
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Day #81

Around the Governor for 80 days

I got to thinking on my day off yesterday…

What does it mean to be an elected official?

  • Does it mean you are beholden to no one lest you be beholden to everyone?
  • Does it mean that there are issues you view so small you won’t even put your best intern on it?
  • Does it mean you can ignore the things you don’t care about—forever—no matter what?

What does it mean to be a constituent?

  • What do elected officials owe us as part of their responsibilities of office?
  • What kind of access to elected officials are constituents due?

I have, apparently, had my expectations way too low in terms of how Governor Baker could/should have handled me waiting in his office. The more people I talk to the more I get the feeling that my naiveté regarding the questions above have allowed me to make too many excuses on Gov. Baker’s behalf:

  • He’s too busy.
  • His schedule is crazy.
  • Of course he couldn’t take a moment to talk to me, even as he saw me repeatedly over time.
  • Of course I can only talk to Constituent Services, that makes sense.
  • I’ll have to wait until he’s ready to make a meeting date. That’ll happen, right?

The reality of the situation is just like dating: he’s just not that into me.

Let me unpack that statement:

He should be into all of this as thousands of Massachusetts residents have taken time out of their lives for over two years to act against this compressor (and other ill-advised gas infrastructure/funding schemes) by marching, calling, writing, showing up, rallying, social media-storming, etc.

But he has not once willingly addressed any of us.

Think about that. What kind of elected official acts like this when it makes him look so bad to ignore all of us for so long?

I have come to the frightening realization that Governor Baker is not the “nice guy” everyone makes him out to be… at least not as far as his job goes.

I assumed that Governor Baker was operating under certain restrictions that possibly kept him from doing the things we all wished he would do. I assumed he had some sort of good will towards Weymouth’s compressor troubles, and wanted to help but was trying to figure out a way how. I assumed he cared.

You know what people say when you assume things… it makes an ASS out of U and ME.

Today will be day 81 of waiting to have a meeting with Governor Baker.

One week has passed (as of yesterday) since our live radio conversation on Ask the Governor. I’ve personally heard nothing from Baker’s office regarding a site visit nor a meeting with me. Is this yet another set things he doesn’t care about and will ignore?

I feel like The Invisible Constituent, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling. Ignoring constituents seems to be one of Governor Baker’s bad habits, and that’s “Sad!”

(This was a letter I turned in today)

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Day #80

Quick bit, more on day 80 later: I’m celebrating day 80 by going to the dentist 😂

I will be “out of the office” tomorrow (Thursday).

UPDATE: 
Day 80 was quiet. I brought a #flashback #throwback letter with me from the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), which was the catalyst for my Baker-sitting. All of would not have happened had Gov. Baker listened to thousands (not kidding) of his constituents and been on top of this ill-conceived compressor proposal from the get-go.

All he had to do (in my opinion) was have his EFSB request a rehearing from FERC regarding the conditional permit. EFSB is an intervenor in this project, and had all rights and reasons to “intervene”. But, nope, it didn’t happen, and here we are.

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Day #79

Mothers Out Front is joining me today at the State House! If you find yourself in the neighborhood, please feel free to join us. Information on the action is here:

Mothers Out Front Action at the State House!

Today, July 11 at NOON

What: Mothers Stand With Andrea. Andrea Honore is mom from Weymouth who has been waiting for over 70 days to talk to Governor Baker about the proposed compressor station in her community.. So far, he has ignored her.  Tuesday, July 11, Mothers Out Front will bring 50 moms to line the halls in front of Baker’s office.

When: Tuesday, July 11,  12:00 noon – 2:00 pm

  • 12:00 pm: Mothers Out Front will meet with mothers from the Fore River Basin in front of the Statehouse, to listen to speakers and to mother’s stories.
  • We will proceed to 3rd floor hall in front of the Governor’s office. We’ll stand along the hall, with a message from mothers to the governor about the compressor station.
  • 2:00pm – After the action we invite you to make short videos urging Governor Baker to take action.

Who: Mothers Out Front across Massachusetts, plus friends and allies who want to support the voice of mothers. Invite a friend! Fathers, uncles, sons and grandfathers are welcome!

I will be able to link to some pictures and video later today and/or tomorrow.

UPDATE:

I cannot write much more right now, but I wanted to say it was an incredible success! 106 people came to stand silently, lining the hallways right outside the Governor’s office.

Absolutely fantastic!

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As an aside, the press page has gone bonkers (well, to me it has)… more stories coming.

UPDATE:
I’m still processing what happened yesterday. It was so lovely in so many ways. From the exquisite organization and execution from Mothers Out Front – Mobilizing for a Livable Climate, to the people that showed up from all over eastern Massachusetts, especially our neighbors in Hingham, and the original gangsters in this fight, Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station. 106 people came to stand with me and to stand up for Weymouth. (that’s all of us lining up to go in!)

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The security guards complimented us on our excellent decorum, and the State Trooper never batted an eyelash at us. That’s pretty darned good considering how many people we had in that hallway! The picture below is from a Hingham resident… that bright light at the end of the corridor is the Governor’s waiting room.

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There is a wonderful video shot by MOF here… I managed to not be at my post so I didn’t make the video, typical me. I was trying to get my own video, unsuccessfully. I ran out of memory… I need to leave it to the pros.

A nice summary from Becky Haugh – Weymouth District 1 Town Councilor:
This has been a very energized week for the fight against the proposed Weymouth compressor station. Andrea Honore of FAE – Families Against Enbridge has gotten a lot of press for her #SitwithAndrea movement. Today, over 100 people from FRRACS, Mothers Out Front – Mobilizing for a Livable Climate, Hingham Against the Compressor Station and other groups joined Andrea on Day 79 of her sit-in.

There have been multiple news stories about our grassroots efforts – which have been on-going for 2 1/2 years. From flyer drops, lawn sign campaigns, local weekly protests, lobbying politicians, multiple meetings and public hearings, written comments to a dozen agencies, Statehouse trips, Andrea’s daily protest, people’s engagement on social media – and the list goes on – so many people have devoted a lot of time, energy and personal money fighting for what we know is right.

We hope Governor Baker can acknowledge our concern and fight. We hope he is willing to join every elected official who represents North Weymouth and beyond to recognize why siting a compressor station in Weymouth is a very poor decision and not in the best interest of the residents here directly impacted nor the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I would also add:
I hope that Governor Baker will acknowledge that his inaction in all of this has caused a MA town–that can least afford to spend money on non-town services–to spend half a million dollars fighting this crappy proposal.

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Day #78 (late)

Lively day today! The State House News Service picked up on the Ask the Governor call from last Thursday. SHNS is not letting any part of this story slide. There have been 3 mentions of this action in 3 days.

First, a little pretty State House scenery (and my feet, LOL)

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I brought an opinion article with me from CommonWealth Magazine called The invisible hand of Gordon van Welie. If you don’t know who that is, you can join the club. I’m just becoming familiar with who he is, and what exactly ISO-NE stands for.

ISO is Independent System Operator for all of New England, which is “in charge of keeping the lights on throughout the region, coordinating the flow of electricity to power plants.” Mr. van Welie is the CEO of ISO. As you can see in the article, for whatever reason, Mr. van Welie wants New England to “overbuild” gas pipelines.

Not so fast.

As mentioned in Day 65, ISO-NE can absolutely avoid the gas infrastructure by starting to modernize the grid. As the article puts it:
Committing to gas under the auspices of maintaining reliability in the near term will result in sunk costs and stranded assets in the long term. Surely the dollars spent to build out such infrastructure and the time devoted to promoting more gas as a solution could be better spent adequately planning for more, cheaper efficiency, clean renewables and necessary infrastructure, and building a smarter grid.

The closure last month of Massachusetts’ lone remaining coal plant is an opportunity to think innovatively and plan for a future powered by clean resources rather than one tethered to the past.

It’s time for van Welie’s perspective to evolve with the times.

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Day #77 (late)

Pretty quiet on the “meeting scheduling” front. The whole State House is enmeshed in budget negotiations–the state budget is late. But, I’m making excuses for the Governor, LOL. His office can schedule something, especially since I wrote a very long and detailed letter requesting a site visit and a meeting for day 77:

Dear Governor Baker/Constituent Services-
Pursuant to the July 6, 2017 conversation on Boston Public Radio’s Ask The Governor, I’d like to formally re-extend invitations for a site visit and a meeting.

I can meet Governor Baker anytime, anywhere, at his convenience.

The site visit would be at Governor Baker’s convenience, as well.

Please let me know with whom I should coordinate so that these events happen soon.

Thank you so much,
Andrea Honore

😀

I also included a copy of the Town of Weymouth’s Notice of Claim (again) as this is the clearest reason yet to deny the Waterways “intention to” permit due to incompleteness of Enbridge’s application.

A new document was uploaded to the FERC dockets regarding the Town of Weymouth’s position regarding this whole mishigas. I hope to have a better copy to upload soon:

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Weymouth officials, you are the best! We are so lucky to have you in our corner, especially when I hear of other towns/cities across the US that fold in favor of the for-profit energy companies at the slightest nudge. Whatever happens in the future, we know we’ve ALL fought as long and as hard as possible

 

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