Massachusetts Lawmakers Step Up Pressure on Enbridge to Scrap Controversial Gas Compressor Station

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Lawmakers from Massachusetts urged Canadian energy-giant Enbridge on Wednesday to reconsider the siting of a compressor station in a densely populated area outside of Boston. In a letter to the company’s president and CEO Al Monaco, United States Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, together with Senator Ed Markey and Representative Stephen Lynch, asked Enbridge to find an alternative to locating the compressor station in Weymouth.

Compressor stations, which propel natural gas through pipelines, emit a variety of pollutants and are usually built in rural areas.

Citing data on statistically high levels of cancers, pediatric asthma, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in the area near the proposed station, the lawmakers requested that Enbridge not move forward with the project.

Given the broad opposition to building the compressor station at the proposed location, we strongly urge you to heed the concerns of these state and local officials and experts, and immediately seek an alternative for this project that does not involve siting a compressor station in the middle of a community that rejects it as unnecessary and dangerous,” they wrote.

Reached for comment, Michael Barnes, an Enbridge spokesperson, said the company will not be providing comment on the matter.

The planned station, part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge upgrade project to its Algonquin pipeline, has become a flashpoint for activists in the state. The fight against the facility is now well into its fourth year, as opponents have been able to stall several outstanding state permits. Nearly half of the population living within a little over a mile from the proposed site inhabit environmental justice communities.

A recent analysis by Physicians for Social Responsibility found that the station will exacerbate the area’s existing health problems, adding that no regulatory framework can make the facility safe for the surrounding community.

For the station’s opponents, this week’s developments provide a burst of hope. “We’re grateful and amazed at the letter sent from Senators Warren and Markey and Congressman Lynch to the CEO of Enbridge,” says Alice Arena, who heads Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS). “We are hoping that Mr. Monaco can understand the seriousness of our situation and the dangers that he and his company are presenting to the residents of the Fore River Basin with this proposed compressor siting.”

Despite not having all its state permits, Enbridge has recently stated that it plans to begin work on the station as early as November 1.

Opposition to the project has been flamed by ongoing outrages over apparent improprieties around the permitting process. As DeSmog revealed earlier this year, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection publicly withheld air pollution data it collected from the Weymouth site indicating the presence of elevated levels of carcinogens and other pollutants. A hearing officer for the air permit appeal scolded the DEP for withholding the information but went on to approve the permit since Massachusetts does not require its agencies to consider existing ambient air conditions when permitting new pollution sources.

Several apparent conflicts of interest have also raised questions about the integrity of the process. A government contractor reviewing the project’s environmental impacts for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) between 2015 and 2017, was working simultaneously for Enbridge (then Spectra Energy) on a related gas project – a fact left undisclosed. DeSmog later revealed that the husband of FERC’s project manager for Atlantic Bridge was consulting for a related Spectra Energy project. 

Still, FERC went on to approve Atlantic Bridge in 2017.

Opposition to the station has coalesced in recent years into a diverse coalition of directly impacted local residents, statewide environmental and climate activists, health experts, and local elected officials. They are now encouraged by the prospects of national attention. “Having a presidential candidate elevate our issues to this level is astonishing,” says FRRACS’ Arena. “Senator Warren is proving that she takes the health and safety of her constituents in earnest and that she understands that the fossil fuel industry has put both our neighborhoods and our planet in peril.”

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