Construction of a fracked gas compressor station in Weymouth, MA, started after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice to Proceed with Construction on November 27, the day before Thanksgiving. A spokesman for the energy company Enbridge at the time wrote in an email: “We remain committed to ensuring construction activities are conducted in compliance with all applicable requirements, with public health and safety as our priority.”
This January 9, Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) held an action in which residents called upon the Massachusetts Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup, because “Enbridge is exposing the community to additional toxins by digging up soil that is saturated with arsenic, oil, coal ash, and asbestos. They are not following any of the steps necessary to limit the exposure of toxins into the air, such as washing off tires before trucks leave the site.”
Nathan Phillips, Professor of Earth & Environment at Boston University said: “I was there to call attention to the reckless spread of hazardous materials onto public ways by Enbridge. I was acting together with people to protect the environment since the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has abdicated the basic job it’s named for.” Phillips and co-workers are well-known for their scientific studies of the massive natural gas leaks in Boston. These results have since then been confirmed by others. Phillips has also worked with Gasbusters RI, which has focussed attention on gas leaks in Providence.
Construction of the Weymouth compressor station started after five years of protests and in despite numerous pending court appeals. To allow construction to start under these circumstances is standard procedure of FERC. Indeed the same happened in 2015 when Spectra Energy (since then taken over by Enbridge) expanded the compressor station on Wallum Road in Burrillville. Construction in both locations is part of Enbridge’s project to transport fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania via Canada to the world market.
The Burrillville buildout was part of the AIM Project, supported both by Rhode Island Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse (see item 1 here) and by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (see item 3 here.) The Weymouth compressor station is part of the Atlantic Bridge Project. The Massachusetts project Senators Warren and Markey oppose the project. Nevertheless, both senators — as did Senators Reed and Whitehouse — voted for the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, part of which was to expedite the permitting process for natural gas exports. (There has not yet been a vote on the recent European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019 designed to replace Russian gas by American fracked gas in the Europe.)
Curtis Nordgaard, an MD and board member of FRRACS, is part of the citizen intervenor group that appealed the air permit required for the Weymouth compressor station. He also served as an expert witness in the air permit hearing. The citizens group, including Noorgaard, is a plaintiff in an appeal of the air permit hearing decision. He said: “I completely sympathize with citizens who formed “The People’s DEP” (Department of Environmental Protection) at today’s protest. A federal court recently ruled against the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for committing less shocking transgressions than those we saw in Massachusetts, such as admitting we citizens were treated unfairly by the MassDEP during the appeal process. MassDEP really does need to clean up its act, and we hope the courts agree when they hear our appeal.”
FERC is funded by the energy industry and its decisions make that clear. FERC, in violation of the law, routine approves projects incrementally. The process used by the industry is known as impermissible (or improper) segmentation, breaking up a large project into small pieces, such that each small piece has “acceptable” impact.
The Weymouth compressor station is a vital link in the fracked gas pipeline infrastructure connecting the wells in Pennsylvania to the natural gas liquefaction facilities of Goldboro LNG in Canada. The LNG export plans have been known for a long time as is clear from this May 2013 cover story of the American Oil & Gas Reporter: By 2017 U.S. gas imports from eastern Canada will have completely flipped to exports. The industry has been slowed down but not yet stopped by widespread protests and a 2016 decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court striking down a “pipeline tax.”
As if none of this was known, FERC in January of 2015 FERC approved the AIM Project while justifying its decision with the claim that: “The Commission analyzes a project as it is filed in an application and does not speculate on potential infrastructure…. Algonquin is not constructing the AIM Project for the purpose of supporting the export of natural gas from the United States.”
As is the case with the various projects visited upon the Washington Park community in Providence, the construction in Weymouth is a text book example of environmental injustice and racism. The evidence can be readily obtained from EPA‘s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool, EJSCREEN, (For a detailed explanation of the indicators follow this link.)