Is the Fore River area overreacting?

NOPE.

I feel like I need to post this here as it’s a powerful testament to the fears and very real issues with the proposed compressor siting: a meeting where mostly all of the LEPCs and MA Under Secretary of Homeland Security McMurray gathered to talk about the siting.

It was a unanimous “no way, no how” from the first responders regarding putting a compressor there, with the exception of McMurray, who promised information gathering and a report.

WATCH: Oct 2018 meeting of LEPC’s in the Fore River Area

TL;DW? See a recap here.

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The Updates, oh the Updates

There has been some movement regarding environmental study actions called for in the letter Governor Baker issued July 17, 2017!

The Patriot Ledger explains.

Weymouth’s Mayor, Bob Hedlund explains in a Facebook post.

And the leaders of this fight from day one, Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station summarized things thusly:

Today we received the victory of time due to a court case brought by Algonquin (Spectra/Enbridge) against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).

Algonquin was charging in its court brief that the DEP was essentially foot dragging and that the Natural Gas Act pre-empted (overrode) any of the permitting that the DEP was charged with. Although this sounds a little scary, the end result was that there was a agreement made by the DEP to agree to a court ordered time frame in which permits would be granted or denied. Without conceding to Algonquin’s argument, the DEP will be given until January 11. 2019 to complete the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) and either grant or deny the Air Quality Permit. If the permit is granted, the Town of Weymouth, as an intervenor, has until June 28, 2019 to finish an appeal process. There was also an intervenor request from a 10-residents group in Hingham on the Air Quality Permits. They will appeal any issuance of the permit in January if that should occur.

What does this all mean for us? Only that the Department of Public Health and the DEP will be given the breathing room to conduct a thorough HIA. FRRACS will be in appeals in June on the Wetlands permit. If the Wetlands permit is ultimately approved, we will proceed with our Waterways appeal. If the Wetlands permit is revoked, the project is likely doomed.

So, Fore River Campers, we invite you to congratulate yourselves for all of your work on this. The unrelenting pressure that you have brought to bear on the powers that be have given us this reprieve.

Some things have changed, but the fight remains the same. Please stay with us and stay informed.

 

FYI: State permit statuses in a nutshell

Wetlands:
The stay on the Wetlands permit would be lifted when judgment in the US District Court case is final, which it is not yet. Once judgment is final, the judge will lift the stay and set a schedule for the Wetlands hearing, most likely summer 2018.

Weymouth is moving for reconsideration, which is like an appeal, but before the same judge, while an appeal is to a different court. Weymouth has good grounds for an appeal, and reconsideration, but an appeal will not delay the wetlands hearing.

Waterways:
Stayed according to August 2018 order of the judge, which remains in place despite lifting of the stay in the Wetlands case

The judge stayed both proceedings, for the same reasons, but then only lifted only one. While she has a technical legal reason, you cannot have a waterways permit without a wetlands permit, she had previously considered doing both hearings at the same time, which DEP sometimes does.

Air:
Stayed by Gov. Baker’s July 2017 letter until completion of a comprehensive health impact assessment (CHIA). Secretary Beaton promised Weymouth’s Mayor in an October 2017 meeting the Town and the public would have an opportunity to comment and have a public hearing on the proposed scope of work by the outside contractor doing the CHIA; and the draft findings of the contractor before contractor’s findings become final. The state said this process may take up to 10 months to complete (approx 7 months of testing), and the new schedule set by AG Maura Healey reflects that.

CHIA steps:

  • scope drafted;
  • scope sent to the Town for review;
  • scope publicly revealed and addressed at a public hearing;
  • bidding for the contractor;
  • contractor hired;
  • the contractor has to start 7 months of testing;
  • the contractor has to prepare draft findings;
  • draft findings have to be publicly revealed and addressed at a public hearing;
  • the findings will become final. 

Only then could the air permit move forward.

CZM:
Stayed by Gov. Baker’s July 2017 letter until natural gas company responds with additional information to specific questions CZM asked in August 2017. Natural gas company responded with the additional information in December 2017. CZM extended the stay with the permission of the natural gas company until March 26, 2018. The stay was to end on February 2, 2018 because of CZM’s actions before Governor Baker’s July 2017 letter.

After this new deadline, it will be interesting to see what happens. CZM needs more than one month before it could issue a positive consistency determination. There is no Wetlands permit and no Waterways permit, so under CZM’s policy, the consistency determination should be denied. We all want a denial 🙂

CZM might deny the consistency determination. Although this would be fantastic news, then the natural gas companies would be able to appeal to the US Secretary of Commerce—not court yet. Weymouth would then be thrown into a federal administrative proceeding like what happening with DEP, but in DC.

CZM could issue a consistency determination, conditioned on getting the other licenses: air, wetlands, and waterways. If this is the decision, Weymouth would appeal that in state superior court. (I swear, based on past experience, this might be the thing that happens, every other darned permit decision has been conditional so far)

On the Federal level, Weymouth also has the appeals of FERC’s decision in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. 

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End-of-the-year culmination action

I attended the last-of-the-year sit-in/stand-in at the State House yesterday. I wasn’t able to get there for the start of the event, but it looked like there were at least 300 people there! That’s so great!

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So many different groups, individuals, ages, professions were there… you name it!

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I wasn’t planning on saying anything, but Craig Altemose of 350 Mass for a Better Future motioned me to. I took Alice Arena up with me as #1 she’s used to public speaking and #2 the compressor would already be built if it weren’t for Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station!

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350 will be back again starting in January. This sit-in/stand-in will go on until Charlie Baker takes action. Thank you, everyone, for your hard work on our behalf!

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Back for a day

On Friday, October 20th, I went back to to the Governor’s office to deliver a petition, and to sit/stand in support of Mass Power Forward’s coalition action that is going strong over a month in. A refresher:

Coverage here:
Environmental groups stage sit-in at Governor Baker’s office

Their letter to Baker is here:
http://mapowerforward.com/Letter-to-Governor-Baker-9-13-17

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My note to Governor Baker:

Gov. Baker and his administration have a LEGAL obligation to follow MA’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (aka GWSA). For those that aren’t familiar with this Act: GWSA’s key mandate, reinforced by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in May 2016, requires our state to reduce greenhouse emissions by 2020, to be down 25 percent from 1990 levels.

Another important part of the GWSA is Section 7, which reads: “In considering and issuing permits, licenses and other administrative approvals and decisions, the respective agency, department, board, commission or authority shall also consider reasonably foreseeable climate change impacts, including additional greenhouse gas emissions, and effects, such as predicted sea level rise.”

Governor Baker and his administration are not taking the GWSA seriously, despite his Executive Order #569 issued Sept. 16, 2016 ordering the state to, among other things, to “coordinate and make consistent new and existing efforts to mitigate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to build resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change”.

In March 2017, MassDEP issued a draft Air Permit to Spectra/Enbridge for their gas compressor proposal in Weymouth. In May 2017, MassDEP issued an intent to permit Chapter 91 Waterways for that same project despite Spectra/Enbridge’s application being incomplete on 9 major requirements. As it stands now, all MA permitting is on hold. Why?

Governor Baker issued a letter in July of this year called on MassDEP and MassDPH to do health impact assessment studies, promised to ask the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to do a public safety threat review, and asked Coastal Zone Management to do a climate resiliency review before issuing or denying any state permits. Governor Baker’s orders in this letter are incredibly appreciated.

However, the appreciation is bittersweet:

Gov. Baker only reacted after being forced by three years of citizen activism, after being criticized for his inaction regarding the proposed Weymouth compressor by Democratic Governor Candidates, after seeing a growing number of Boston Globe articles asking why he wasn’t taking action, and after being cornered on Boston Public Radio’s segment, Ask The Governor, did Gov Baker finally act on behalf of the safety of his constituents. If the GWSA goals and public safety was one of the administration’s priorities, the environmental studies and reviews called for in his letter would have been done before issuing ANY permits or draft permits.

Why is following the GWSA important for MA? It will reduce or eliminate the un-needed new gas infrastructure that’s on the table now, and in the future. MA doesn’t need the gas. Any gas running through any new interstate pipelines is for export, and not for the benefit of New England. New gas infrastructure is not compatible with meeting the greenhouse gas emission goals set out by the GWSA, and I have 1441 signatures asking Gov. Baker to follow the law. I have 398 comments begging for the law to be followed.

Governor Baker, it’s time

to follow

the law.

Thank you.

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BAKER_GWSA_Petition_Comments

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I accompanied this wonderful group on Friday. It’s their week to stand up for all of us:

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File under “inspired by”

The Gov. Baker afternoon sit-in/stand-in mantle has been passed to 350 Mass For A Better Future and Mass Power Forward! They approached me to ask about my action and could they get information so they could do the same. I was incredibly flattered as well as excited for them and what they want to accomplish.

Their action started yesterday and is already garnering some press! Right on, I am so happy!

Announcement article on SHNS:

STAND-INS PLANNED TO PRESS BAKER ON FOSSIL FUELS

Massachusetts is pursuing clean energy sources through its 2016 offshore wind law and its 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, as well as a recent executive order signed by Gov. Charlie Baker and its membership in a ten-year-old regional compact that extracts emissions reductions from the power sector. And after President Trump dropped the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Baker pledged to work with states aiming to exceed that accord’s goals.

But members of a broad coalition on Wednesday will visit the Corner Office and press Baker to do more.

According to Joel Wood, an energy advocate at Clean Water Action, Mass Power Forward plans to launch a series of lunchtime stand-ins outside Baker’s office aimed at urging Baker to release a new executive order to cease all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Massachusetts.

While state officials say Massachusetts is on track to exceed legally required emission reductions, Wood says meeting reduction requirements beyond 2020 will be jeopardized if new natural gas projects are permitted. Wood says Baker can use the state’s permitting powers, more aggressively pursue power grid changes to accommodate clean energy, and follow the lead of states he said are more hospitable to clean energy like California, Hawaii and New York.

In the face of local concerns, the Baker administration agreed to conduct a public health review of a planned natural gas compressor station after Weymouth resident Andrea Honore repeatedly visited Baker’s office. The coalition, which includes 350 Mass, the Toxics Action Center and the Mass Sierra Club, cite Honore’s advocacy as the reason they decided to adopt the stand-in approach. The stand-in begins at 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday.
– Michael P. Norton/SHNS

9/11/2017 12:26:55 PM

——–

(my bold below)
NATURAL GAS, SOLAR DISPUTES RAISED AT SEPARATE EVENTS
By Andy Metzger, STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, SEPT. 13, 2017….Environmentalists celebrated last year when the state’s highest court blocked a Baker administration proposal to charge ratepayers for natural gas pipeline costs. On Wednesday, in the middle of “Climate Week,” environmentalists raised the alarm about future means of pipeline financing and asked the governor to put a stop to it.

A small group of people aligned with the environmental coalition Massachusetts Power Forward showed up outside Gov. Charlie Baker’s office Wednesday asking that officials in his administration “do everything in their legal authority to avoid the construction of new gas infrastructure such as pipelines and power plants” – which would be a departure from the Baker administration’s support of natural gas as part of a larger strategy they view as balanced.

“This is meant to be a sneak preview of what’s to come,” said Craig Altemose, who promised environmentalists will show up regularly outside the governor’s office to demand climate-friendly actions.

Better Future Project executive director Craig Altemose spoke to constituent services director John Tapley (left) outside the governor’s office Wednesday. Altemose is pleased Baker wants to exceed commitments in the Paris Climate Treaty but says “we need to immediately stop digging the hole deeper, and not allow any new major fossil fuel infrastructure projects to move forward.”

In his two-plus years in office, Baker has pursued renewable energy, including solar, hydropower and offshore wind, while maintaining the state’s commitment to gradual emission reductions. But the governor has also pointed to the major role that natural gas plays in the state’s energy mix as state officials ponder a future without a nuclear power plant in Plymouth and the capacity for renewable energy to serve as an affordable and reliable alternative.

On Tuesday, Baker announced his administration is poised to develop a strategy to extract pollution reductions from the transportation sector.

Opponents of increased reliance on natural gas point to a study from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office disputing the need for new gas infrastructure, and say holding the line on natural gas will help the state meet its binding emission reduction requirements.

Also on Wednesday, the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus promoted legislation intended to make it easier for apartment building tenants to tap into the utility savings available from solar panels.

The bill (S 1831/H 3396) sponsored by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, of Jamaica Plain, and Rep. Russell Holmes, of Mattapan, would “ensure that renters and low-moderate income residents receive a compensation rate equal to that received by homeowners when buying into low-moderate income community solar projects and solar projects in environmental justice communities,” according to a bill summary.

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, said the net-metering rates that apartment dwellers are eligible to receive from solar panels on their building roofs was cut in last year’s solar law from the retail rate enjoyed by homeowners.

“That was embarrassing that the Legislature passed that,” Eldridge said Wednesday, noting that the legislation was a “compromise” with the House. The final version passed unanimously in the Senate with Eldridge’s vote. He said, “We’re all paying into these incentives on our electric bills yet more often than not, middle class communities – many communities in my district – are benefitting far more financially than those low-income communities of color.”

Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, of Bethel A.M.E. in Jamaica Plain, said she had to downscale ambitions for a solar project on her church’s roof after the bill became law. She said the legislation filed by Chang-Diaz and Holmes is the first environmental bill that has been sponsored by the Black and Latino caucus.

“The Legislature baked in income inequality into their solar net-metering policy,” said Arline Isaacson, a lobbyist who represents BCC Solar. “They didn’t intend that but it was the net result of it, because essentially they said if you live in a wealthy suburb we will pay you a full retail rate for every unit of energy you generate, but if you’re a tenant in a city and you don’t have much money, we’re only going to give you 60 cents. We’re going to cut it back by 40 percent for the exact same unit of energy.”

Also:
Environmental groups stage sit-in at Governor Baker’s office

Their letter to Baker is here:
http://mapowerforward.com/Letter-to-Governor-Baker-9-13-17

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Update

Hey, everybody!

I’ve been on a mental vacation since the last day I sat in the Gov’s office. It was completely necessary… I’m back on the blog for a nice update about the status of the compressor proposal.

Coastal Zone Management (CZM) was due to lift a 1-year stay that began last August (2016), and instead of lifting the stay, they have extended it 6 months! As you can see from the letter below, the new stay is fully and completely justified especially since neither the MassDEP Wetlands nor the Waterways permits are in any way ready to be issued. CZM cannot rule until MassDEP does.20620791_660107777515156_2966627750571253065_n20525570_660107770848490_7101119250414041113_n20525847_660107784181822_2534140661482362687_n20597303_660107780848489_7911981274997542387_n

PS: “High Consequence Area” means you are ashes if the thing explodes.

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Day #82 (last day!)

Holy flying pancakes, you guys!

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

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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