All state reviews of Weymouth compressor plan now on hold

By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
August 22, 2017

WEYMOUTH – For the first time since the project was introduced more than two years ago, all regulators have put their reviews of a proposed 7,700-horsepower North Weymouth natural gas compressor station on hold.

On Tuesday, a hearing officer with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection stayed the town’s appeal of a draft waterways permit for the compressor station Spectra Energy-Enbridge subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission wants to build on the banks of the Fore River

The agency previously stayed the town’s appeal of a wetlands permit, which Algonquin Gas Transmission is challenging in Federal Court. A hearing on that is scheduled for October.

Jane Rothchild, the presiding officer, wrote in her decision that considering the waterways appeal while the wetlands permit is tied up in court “would be an unnecessary expenditure of the department’s administrative resources.”
“Without a wetlands permit, the Department cannot issue a final waterways license,” Rothchild wrote.

Following a yearlong delay, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management recently pushed back its review of the project for another six months because it needs more information before it can fully vet the project. The review is also stayed until the project receives a waterways permit.

The fourth and final state review, the clean air permit, is on hold until the state’s environmental protection and public health departments do a comprehensive health assessment.

While it’s not a denial, Joe Callanan, Weymouth’s town solicitor, said the stay on the appeal is a big development.

“These projects are reviewed by a lot of regulators who take their time, but now, nobody is doing anything and the project isn’t on a path moving forward,” he said. “There are four permits (Algonquin) needs, and multiple state regulators put their pencils down and stopped working on them.”

In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a conditional certificate for the proposal as part of Spectra’s Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand the Houston company’s pipelines from New Jersey into Canada.

Compressor stations are placed along pipelines to maintain pressure and keep the gas flowing. Residents and officials in Weymouth, Quincy and Braintree say the facility would vent toxic gases that could sicken neighbors, and that it could explode, causing havoc.

The federal commission has ultimate authority over interstate pipelines, but the project must adhere to some federal laws that are administered at the state level. The compressor station project also can’t go forward because it hasn’t gotten the required permits from several state agencies, which the town and residents group are fighting on all fronts.

Mayor Robert Hedlund said the lull in the review process is “definitely good news.”
“It helps us by buying time,” he said. “There could be possible market issues, and it’s slowing Spectra’s momentum. It’s a big step.”

Hedlund praised Callanan for the “Churchillian” approach he’s taken in having the town fight the proposed compressor station on all fronts.

“It’s been time consuming and costly, but it’s showing results,” he said.

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