A challenge to a state-issued air quality permit for the proposed Atlantic Bridge natural gas compressor station underway by Algonquin Gas Transmission in Weymouth, MA, was rejected Thursday, clearing the way for the project to move forward, pending additional permit approvals.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had issued an air permit for the Atlantic Bridge project in January. However, opponents of the natural gas compressor station appealed the decision. The hearings held in May were then extended following DEP’s release of a 759-page air quality data report two days into the hearings.
Opposition to the Atlantic Bridge project is partially because of the Merrimack Valley Tragedy last September, in which one man was killed, up to 25 people were injured and 38 homes damaged. The disaster happened when a series of gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley served by Columbia Gas damaged dozens of buildings and caused mass evacuations.
The estimated $452 million, 7,700 hp compressor station at Weymouth by the affiliate of Calgary-based Enbridge Inc., still requires additional approvals, including wetlands and Chapter 91 Waterways permits from DEP. Both permits, already issued by state regulators, also are under appeal. he compressor station is also under review by the state’s Office of Coastal Zone Management.
The Atlantic Bridge station was also recently the subject of a hearing by the U.S. Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
“The Commonwealth previously completed a science-based evaluation of air quality and health impacts associated with the proposed project, considered all applicable state and federal requirements and extended the permitting process by nine months to allow for further analysis," said DEP spokesperson Katie Gronendyke.
Under DEP rules, she said, Commissioner Martin Suuberg “will review the recommended decision and case record and will issue a final decision in the coming weeks.” The final decision is expected by July 12.
A recent report issued by the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility (GBPSR) said the natural gas compressor station’s construction would be "inappropriate," and pose public safety and emergency response risks because of the dense population of the Fore River Basin.
GBPSR suspects residents of the Fore River Basin could not be safely evacuated in an emergency. Within a mile and a half of the project site, there are 964 households, elderly housing, nursing homes, a mental-health facility and schools with 3,100 students.