Day #54

My goodness, the sun came out today.

Sun. Out. In the sky. Unreal.

Anyway, last night was the FRRACS meeting where Dr. Curtis Nordgaard presented the findings of the citizen air monitoring. A lot of people were there: four members of the press, elected officials and/or their staff, citizen groups from all over eastern MA.

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picture by Dawn M.

I’m waiting for a PDF of the presentation slides, and a video to link to here so you can watch the whole presentation. Until then, there are some quick takeaways:

The air testing process was all up to EPA standards, and processed by an EPA approved facility, in case you were wondering. Let’s hope that’s good enough for MassDEP 😉

The below is from FRRACS:

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Let’s look at the benzene slide with the expanded chart (sorry for the photo quality). Let that soak in. The testing site was in Braintree, just over the water from the proposed site.

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As you can see, the Fore River area is already is deep trouble regarding air pollution. Adding a compressor (and remember, it would be TWO compressors if all gets said and done) to this would be criminal.

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In today’s not I also included an article about the inspired actions of PA’s DEP:

The state Department of Environmental Protection has decided to hold four public hearings, including one in Lancaster, on the last permits needed to build the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline through Lancaster County.

and

Whether to hold public hearings for such permits is at the discretion of DEP.

‘We want to provide the public, especially those living near the pipeline route, with the opportunity to review permit applications and provide thoughtful, critical and constructive feedback to aid in our technical review,’ DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a press release.

 

‘DEP is committed to an open and transparent process and takes public input very seriously as we review the permit applications.‘”

Hint. Hint.

Also included was another copy of the requests made by the group of citizens who went to the Lakeville DEP office last week:

  1. MassDEP revoke the Air Quality Approval Plan for Spectra’s fracked-gas compressor station and  issue a new air quality analysis be conducted by an independent  consultant.
  2. Make all Air Quality Plan comments available for public viewing by either internet or email access.
  3. MassDEP issue a new, independent review of the Ch. 91 Waterways Permit, which MassDEP has conditionally approved.
  4. MassDEP’s compliance with 310CMR7.01: General Regulations to Prevent Air Pollution and the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act: “to protect and enhance the quality of the Nation’s air resources so as to promote the public health and welfare and the productive capacity of its population;
  5. Considering the unjustified access provided to Spectra during the air permit planning process, MassDEP shall accept a citizen oversight panel which will receive copies of all communications with Spectra Energy and will be invited to attend all in person meetings between MassDEP and Spectra Energy.
  6. If an Air Quality Plan is ultimately approved, that the Plan include additional testing, monitoring, and reporting requirements as requested by concerned and informed citizens.

If an Air Quality Plan is ultimately approved, that MassDEP add a condition that Spectra must pay an independent entity to conduct a health impact assessment for the facility prior to construction of the facility. This requirement would be consistent with the wishes of citizens, policies adopted by the Mass Nurses Association and Mass Medical Society regarding health assessments for new gas infrastructure, and two bills in the state legislature which have been sponsored by dozens of Representatives and Senators.

Last but not least, I had a visitor who walked all the way from Mass General Hospital, and her daughter’s sickbed, to come sit with me. Lisa J. and her daughter Monica are North Weymouth residents. Monica has a bad case of the flu right now, but she wanted to make sure she recorded a video for Governor Baker. (link here)

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Monica and her family are just one of the many people who would be put in danger every day because of the compressor. Governor Baker, what are you doing to stop this project?

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Day #53

Late post, sorry about that! Today I post Day #53 and #54. Art first: with a foot photo complete with natural gas utility spray paint on the asphalt, in front of the State House:

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Today brought Kelsey W. to sit with me. She’s a co-founder of Mothers Out Front. I was very glad to be able to spend some time with her to talk about next steps with #SitWithAndrea. It’s high time to ramp this exercise up.

Before I go further, I’d like to make sure everyone has a handle on the project timeline. Of course things might change as we go, but, as of right now here’s what we’ve been looking at as far as State issues are concerned:

August 2017 Anticipate Ch. 91 permit (but we hope not)

August 2017 Anticipate decision from CZM, if Ch. 91 and Wetlands are permitted by then. Wetlands permit is still in an indefinite stay until the court case is settled…probably in the Fall of 2017. So, CZM could extend the stay to wait for DEP to finish up one way or the other.

NOTES:
There are a bunch of smaller permits needed at this point, but if CZM gives Spectra their permit, Spectra can start construction if federal-level lawsuits brought by the town and residents have been unsuccessful against FERC in DC Federal court

Spectra’s timeline shows shovels in the ground in November 2017. No one thinks that can happen, but this is in free-fall now so we don’t know.

PS:
Algonquin/Spectra/Enbridge will say everything is A-OK and that they are on schedule to their investors, however 😛 Don’t expect them to do anything but save face this year.

Thank you to Alice A. from FRRACS for giving me the basis of this timeline.

IN THE PAST:
April 2016 Open hearings at Abigail Adams on Ch. 91 Waterways

April/May 2016 Public hearings at Weymouth Conservation Commission for Wetlands permits (8 total hours of meeting time and testimony went into this decision)

May 2016 Denial of Wetlands permit from Weymouth ConCom

July 2016 DEP Wetlands site visit

August 2016 DEP Wetland’s Superseding Order of Conditions on Weymouth ConCom giving Spectra the permit subject to their ability to meet Weymouth’s Wetland’s Ordinance

August 2016 CZM (Coastal Zone Management) issues a one year stay on Spectra for lack of Wetlands and Ch. 91 permits

October 2016 DEP Wetlands hearing

December 2016 DEP issues a Stay on the SOC (Superseding Order of Conditions) Spectra requested (basically asking DEP to forget Weymouth ComCom’s denial of permit and allow Spectra to proceed)

January 2017 Spectra asked DEP Wetlands to vacate the stay

March 2017 DEP Wetlands extends the stay

April 2017 DEP Air Quality Plan Proposal issued (not a permit, but close)

May 2017 Spectra files in Federal Court to disallow Weymouth ConCom’s denial of permit, suing the Town of Weymouth and Weymouth ConCom.

May 2017 DEP Waterways issues letter for Ch. 91—intention to permit (not a permit, but close)

As you can see, there’s room for some good delays here. There’s also the fact that Algonquin’s contracts with utilities expire in November (I think I have that description correct?), and if Algonquin doesn’t renew them that’s good for us.

Investors might pull out—you’ve heard of all the divestment movements going on around the world? People, towns, cities, states, universities, you name it are divesting from banks that fund fossil fuel projects. Lots of forces outside of Weymouth and MA are working towards goals that will help everyone, no matter what happens in the White House.

In any case, we still have to educate ourselves about the dangers of having natural gas infrastructure so close to people. NPR did a story in 2011 about this. Everything holds true today except for some predictions about how regulations will help cut down pollution (super sad face). The Boston Public Health Commission has called on Baker “to ask him to drop his support for new natural gas pipelines until the state and federal agencies conduct comprehensive analyses  to measure their effect on the climate and human health.”
Good idea.

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Last thing in the note was an invitation to attend last night’s FRRACS air monitoring results meeting. More on this in Day #54.

#politepersistence #sitwithandrea

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Day #52

Continuing on the very real theme of letting a for-profit energy company run your house, Weymouth resident Sandra P. sent me some articles about what’s been happening in Virginia. You can read the short pieces in order, here:

A proposed pipeline tests property rights in Virginia February 6, 2015

Here’s hoping you have a WaPo account, sorry :-/

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The bottom line in all of the stuff happening in Virginia is that Dominion Energy has owned and run Virginia for decades. In reading these stories, I could draw so many parallels to Spectra Energy and their proposals. I could spot the falsehoods and half-truths said by Dominion and certain Dominion-friendly politicians. I could spot the pattern of “we’ll get the gas” these hideous projects will lower your energy prices, and this gas is not for export — pardon me while I LMAO.

Now that Dominion is starting to egregiously overstep by wanting to level mountains, etc. people are fighting back. Politicians are taking notice, and refusing to accept Dominion’s campaign contributions (almost unheard of). From one of the pieces:

Why is this happening to Dominion, the once all-powerful corporation that has “owned” Richmond for decades? To understand, all you have to do is visualize verdant Roberts Mountain in Nelson County, nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge range of central Virginia.Federal regulators have revealed that Dominion intends to remove the tops of mountains, including Roberts Mountain, to build a pipeline for gas from hydraulic fracturing. Indeed, using publicly available documents, opponents of the pipeline have shown that the summit of Roberts Mountain could be “reduced” by 60 feet, literally exploded away. But that’s just the beginning of Dominion’s plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for fracked gas. It’s a gas “superhighway” tragically supported by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). To complete the full length of the proposed pipeline — from the fracking fields of West Virginia and into Virginia — the company would have to remove the tops of 38 miles of heavily forested, mostly pristine ridgelines in the two states. From 10 to 60 feet would be shaved off to create a wide, flat surface to allow Dominion’s heavy equipment to lay a 42-inch-diameter pipe. Much of the land would be seized outright using eminent domain from landowners who obviously don’t want their mountaintops blown apart and permanently destroyed. 

As details emerged over the past month, the Dominion plan has shocked the conscience of many Virginians. In town-hall meetings statewide, political candidates report that “pipeline resistance” is one of the top things they hear. And nothing better signals a candidate’s pledge to fight back than to turn down a company’s campaign donations.

Sounds like overstepping to me. Kind of like what Algonquin/Spectra is doing to Weymouth with the horrendous siting proposal.

If Virginia can start to turn things around, why can’t MA start turning this project around and DOWN so we don’t become Virginia in the future? Gov. Baker, don’t let Spectra Energy run your house. Once they are in, they won’t stop building and pushing.

Today Anne G. from Mothers Out Front joined me on the couch. We had company, sort of, in the form of other seated protestors who were there for prison reform. Thank you for coming, Anne!

(Wonder when I’ll get my own velvet divider thing… what are those called?) 😉

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Day #51

What a busy week this has been! Here are some links to TV coverage just in the past few days:

WCVB: last night’s protest

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NBC Boston: Last night’s protest

WBZ: Lakeville DEP office visit

While these stories are GREAT, and we’re all so excited for this issue to be getting attention on TV, there is an incorrect bit of information being repeated:
The Waterways permit
has not officially been issued. But we also can’t ignore the fact the STATE said YES as long as x, y and z are done. This is not just a federal decision.

In fact the state could have waited to make their written determination on Waterways AFTER Wetlands is actually determined so they could use all the findings and conclusions in their “unbiased” decision to issue the Waterways determination—like they said they were going to do at the public hearing last May.

So what prompted DEP to jump the gun and issue the written determination, and not wait for all facts and conclusions out of Wetlands? Maybe Spectra’s timeline—they want to start building the compressor station this November? What’s the public benefit, or benefit to “environmental protection”, to issue now and not wait for all the findings?”
— Becky Haugh, North Weymouth Town Councilor

What’s the public benefit, or benefit to “environmental protection”, to issue now and not wait for all the findings?

EXACTLY.

Right now Spectra is running your house, MassDEP, and serving Spectra is not the function of your agency.

All the Energy and Environmental Affairs agencies and departments should serve the health and well-being of the people and the land. Ostensibly, MassDEP exists to protect the environment, not to protect and enable private, for-profit companies like Spectra Energy.

There’s “standard industry practice” and then there’s giving away your agency’s power.

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Gov. Baker, you have the ultimate influence over the proposed compressor project, you cannot deny this any longer. Don’t let Spectra be the real Governor here. Step up and speak up and lead like you’ve done with federal-level Health Care repeal/replace criticisms. Step up and speak up and lead like you’ve done with taking a stand on the Paris Climate Agreement. Please.

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Day #50

I had a double-header today, all during lunch break!

First stop was the MassDEP’s Boston office to follow up after another groups’ visit to the Lakeville, MA office yesterday. I was invited by the Mothers Out Front group to accompany them. I’d never been to the DEP, and was shocked to see how close their Boston office is to my work! 21 people from all over Eastern MA (including Hingham Residents Against the Compressor Station) came to support Weymouth in its fight against the compressor station proposal. Below is my statement:

My name is Andrea, and I live in Weymouth. As you know, my town is fighting the dreadful siting of a compressor station proposed for the most densely populated area in the US. That the DEP even considers the siting OK boggles my mind.

I’m partnering with Mothers Up Front today to let the DEP know that what happened during the creation of the Air/Noise permit letter is not OK.

I understand from speaking with people familiar with permitting processes (on the applicant and government agency sides) it’s standard practice that an applicant would communicate with DEP when they first submit an application.

I also understand that sometimes the DEP would follow up with an applicant to make sure the scope of the applicant’s project hadn’t changed, etc.

What I cannot fathom is the DEP handing the draft air/noise permit letter to Spectra’s air pollution contractor and lawyers saying “have at it”… which Spectra did, from Oct 2015 to Jan 2017.

Learning about Mr. Cushing’s actions with Spectra was not only infuriating, it was supremely depressing. Knowing what we know, how can any permit evaluation done by MassDEP be trusted?

Do any of you have kids? Do you know how it goes when, little by little, the balance of power in your house erodes away from the parent and to the kid? Before you know it, the kid is running the house, right, and you look around saying “how did this happen?”?

Right now Spectra is running your house, MassDEP, and I have to say that serving Spectra is not the function of your agency.

All the Energy and Environmental Affairs agencies and departments should serve the health and well-being of the people and the land. Ostensibly, MassDEP exists to protect the environment, not to protect and enable private, for-profit companies like Spectra Energy.

There’s “standard industry practice” and then there’s giving away your agency’s power. You have given away the balance of power to Spectra. Take it back.

Here is MOF’s statement, from a member’s Facebook page post.

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MassDEP’s 3 representatives listen attentively and answered questions, but mostly didn’t have much for us. We pressed them on why no one from DEP has gone to 6 Bridge St. to take an actual air sample rather than just modeling what it might be like. There was no answer for that.

We pressed them on how they plan to use the citizen-led air quality results and the Weymouth-commissioned air/noise test results. They couldn’t say whether those results would be given equal weight to the data that Spectra has provided.

I had to leave while the meeting was still going on, so that’s about all I know. Wait! DEP did say 1250 comments were received from concerned residents regarding the air/noise proposed permit letter. That’s HUGE. Thank you everyone!

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I went over to the Gov’s office for a bit to drop my DEP statement, and on my way out approached DOT Secretary Pollock, who was sitting on a bench talking to a man. I’m very uncomfortable interrupting people I don’t know while they are talking, but I did it anyway. I asked her if she was aware of the proposed compressor and its location. She said “yes’, and then immediately “that’s not my department”. I said, I know. I just wanted to make sure you knew about the location due to it being so close to the new Fore River Bridge. Then I bowed out, probably to her relief. I did give her my SitWithAndrea card, though.

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Day #49

MassDEP’s allowing Spectra’s air pollution contractor and Spectra’s lawyers to have TWO rounds of edits to the Air/Noise Permit proposal letter is getting more widespread attention — as it should. I’ve heard that barring anything nutty happening to knock the story off the line-up, the press conference will be covered by Bill Shields of WBZ tonight in the 6PM hour.

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Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station held a press conference at MassDEP in Lakeville today, and was joined by: South Coast Neighbors United (SCNU), Citizens Against the Rehoboth Compressor Station (CARCS), 350MA Franklin node, 350MA South Shore node,  Mass Health Care Providers Against Fracked Gas, Quincy Climate Action Network (QCAN), and several other community groups involved with addressing the issues of fracked gas infrastructure in the Commonwealth. I was not there, but followed along on social media.

The full press release is here, and I’ve excerpted the 7 points/asks below:
During a press conference at the Southeast Regional Office in Lakeville, dozens of community groups and concerned residents throughout the state held a press conference at MassDEP offices to demand that:

  1. MassDEP revoke the Air Quality Approval Plan for Spectra’s fracked-gas compressor station and  issue a new air quality analysis be conducted by an independent  consultant.
  2. Make all Air Quality Plan comments available for public viewing by either internet or email access.
  3. MassDEP issue a new, independent review of the Ch. 91 Waterways Permit, which MassDEP has conditionally approved.
  4. MassDEP’s compliance with 310CMR7.01: General Regulations to Prevent Air Pollution and the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act: “to protect and enhance the quality of the Nation’s air resources so as to promote the public health and welfare and the productive capacity of its population;”
  5. Considering the unjustified access provided to Spectra during the air permit planning process, MassDEP shall accept a citizen oversight panel which will receive copies of all communications with Spectra Energy and will be invited to attend all in person meetings between MassDEP and Spectra Energy.
  6. If an Air Quality Plan is ultimately approved, that the Plan include additional testing, monitoring, and reporting requirements as requested by concerned and informed citizens.
  7. If an Air Quality Plan is ultimately approved, that MassDEP add a condition that Spectra must pay an independent entity to conduct a health impact assessment for the facility prior to construction of the facility. This requirement would be consistent with the wishes of citizens, policies adopted by the Mass Nurses Association and Mass Medical Society regarding health assessments for new gas infrastructure, and two bills in the state legislature which have been sponsored by dozens of Representatives and Senators.

Spectra’s air pollution contractor’s participation in the air/noise letter process seems to be DEP standard operating procedure. Any applicant could check with DEP to make sure they have all their numbers and data correct. And I could see DEP could following up with an applicant to make sure the scope of the project hadn’t changed, etc. What I cannot stomach is the DEP handing Spectra the draft permit and saying have at it.

What residents of MA shouldn’t have to stomach is allowing energy companies and their lawyers to edit permit standards to increase pollution emissions and reduce testing:
Comparing Cushing’s original draft approval document to the Spectra-revised and final one reveals the DEP had accepted many of the company’s edits. For example, Spectra increased the threshold for what will be considered a leak from a pipe seal, from Cushing’s original 2,000 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to 10,000 ppmv.

Spectra also removed from the original draft a requirement for the station’s initial compliance testing for sulfur dioxide (SO2), and PM10, which refers to small particulate matter. Both were edited out of the draft approval published online.”

According to the FOIA’d emails, it seems that from Oct 2015 until Jan 2017, MassDEP and Spectra’s air pollution contractor and lawyers have been crafting a way to approve the requested environmental permits for the compressor project. A government agency charged with protecting the environment is smoothing the way for a for-profit company to irresponsibly site the first of 2 gas compressors.

UNACCEPTABLE.

Quick note: Nathan P surprised me with a visit, so we sat and talked. Nice!

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Day #48

I had a meeting with John T., Director of Constituent Services for Gov. Baker today. I felt it was a good meeting, despite my huge irritation with the aggravating new article from Itai Vardi at DeSmogBlog. I was very clear about my feelings regarding what MassDEP did. I was clear about how demoralizing it is to see proof of MassDEP colluding with Spectra. What the heck is the DEP for, then? After reading the article, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

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This comes on the heels of MassDEP issuing an intent to grant the Chapter 91 Waterways permit once the Wetlands permit has been granted (please, no). Did Spectra play Editor on this document, too? HOW can we trust that ANYONE in Federal or State government  has the public’s best interests at heart?

This dreadful lack of ethics is on YOU:

EEA Secretary Matt Beaton
EEA Undersecretary Ned Bartlett
DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito
Gov. Charlie Baker

Mr. Cushing most likely wouldn’t have done what he did if it wasn’t accepted practice within the agency. Gov. Baker, what are you going to do about this?

FOR EASY REFERENCE, let the elected/appointed officials below know how you feel about MassDEP letting Spectra edit the air/noise permit letter:

Maura Healey, MA AG
(617) 727-2200
TTY: (617) 727-4765

Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito
617.725.4005

Representative Stephen F. Lynch
(Congressman) Washington, DC: (202) 225-8273

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
(MA Senator) Washington Office: (202) 224-4543

Senator Edward J. Markey
(MA Senator) Washington, D.C.: (202) 224-2742

EEA Sec. Matthew Beaton and Undersec. Ned Bartlett
(617) 626-1000

DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg
617-292-5856
FAX: 617-574-6880

Stephanie Cooper, Chief of Staff
617-292-5536 FAX: 617-574-6880

 

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