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.