Nov. 12–Officials will hold a public meeting 7 p.m. Thursday at Quincy HIgh School to share the findings of a study that looks at the potential health impact of a proposed 7,700-horsepower natural-gas compressor station that Algonquin, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, wants to build on the banks of the Fore River.
Barry Keppard, director of the public health department at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, said residents who attend the meeting will be able to visit several informational tables and review data collected on noise, air quality, health and land use in the Fore River Basin.
The meeting will be the second meeting held as part of a health-impact assessment that Gov. Charlie Baker ordered for the proposed project.
Compressor stations are placed along pipelines to maintain pressure and keep gas flowing. Residents and officials from Weymouth, Braintree, Quincy and Hingham say the proposed facility would vent toxic gases that could sicken neighbors and would have a risk of exploding.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has ultimate authority over interstate pipelines, issued a conditional certificate for the station in January 2017.
The commission, through the Natural Gas Act, has pre-emptive power for waterways licenses and wetlands permits, meaning it can approve the project without state approval. In this case, however, the state maintains some control over the pipeline project because the Clean Air Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act are not pre-empted by the Natural Gas Act. State regulators will ultimately determine whether the project is consistent with those federal laws.
For example, the state Office of Coastal Zone Management must decide whether the project is consistent with the federal Coastal Zone Management Act, but not until the project has first obtained the waterways license from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
In July of last year, Gov. Charlie Baker directed state agencies to investigate concerns that opponents raised about the project, including air pollution and public safety. Baker said the state will not issue any permits for the project — other than the wetlands and waterways permit that had already been issued but is now under appeal — until a health assessment is completed.
At the urging of the gas company, the state has agreed to issue its permit decision by Jan. 11, 2019, and any appeal decisions and final permits by June 28, 2019. The Coastal Zone Management Act review is also pushed back to next year.
Curtis Nordgaard, a pediatrician from Newton who practices in Dorchester and sees many South Shore patients, has worked with residents to conduct independent air-quality testing. They say the tests show that hazardous pollutants already exist in the Fore River Basin that Algonquin has not accounted for, including benzene and formaldehyde.
“If we’re already seeing bad results, why would you throw more onto the toxic stew you already have?” said Alice Arena, a member of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station.
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