As temperatures have fluctuated greatly in recent years, it has become somewhat easier for energy companies to convince residents and legislators to consider new energy sources.
Residents around Boston, however, are not buying it.
Citing Spectra’s “troubling overall safety record,” Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline member Paul Horn, who lives in town, suggests a ”feasible goal” of Sunday’s event is “to prevent the pipeline from taking the proposed route,” with an ultimate goal of “stopping the project altogether.”
While the latter goal may seem unattainable, a recent article in Commonwealth by representatives of the Acadia Center – a Boston-based clean energy organization – suggested there is no need for new pipelines and that “the higher levels of air pollution…mean that they cannot be long-term solutions,” especially considering legal requirements to lower greenhouse emissions.
While a January 15, 2014 “guest column” in the West Roxbury Transcript by Spectra’s President of US Transmission and Storage Bill Yardley maintained that Spectra is “committed to responsible development…and respectful, ongoing engagement with the communities we serve,” according to Acadia, much of the gas will be exported and will not serve local communities at all.
Mark McDonald of NatGas Consulting points out that the proposed line has a pressure of 750 psi – far above the safety limit for a populated area. He also notes that, while a total of 132 “residential” buildings in NY and CT will be exposed to the pipeline, 219 will be in MA. “This clearly places Massachusetts at the highest risk…by a huge margin,” McDonald suggests.
The pipeline will also run near an active quarry, where blasting could pose problems. Though Yardley claimed an “independent report” confirmed there will be “no effect on the safe operation of the pipeline,” residents are concerned about the pipeline’s effects on the quarry and surrounding neighborhoods. Another concern arises from the fact that an “urban wildlife” area will host a metering and regulating (M&R) station, which is more vulnerable to explosions, toxic emissions and, according to the Department of Homeland Security, to terrorist interest.
“The health and safety of the citizens…undoubtedly will be put at risk for generations,” says Dedham Selectman Dennis Teehan, MD MPH.
In an open letter, Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren were asked to take “concrete action,” including notifying the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of their opposition, seeking a “moratorium” on FERC approvals pending an “independent, citizen-monitored study,” and meeting with representatives of FERC, Spectra, and also with McDonald, who is cited as a “nationally recognized gas safety expert.”
While a FERC representative explained that it is their policy “not to comment on pending matters,” Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is clearly against the project. “I have listened to the concerns of the community, and we have asked…Spectra Energy several times to find a new route for this pipeline,” said Walsh in an April statement. “The project as proposed poses real public safety risks for…residents.”