Just a reminder that the monthly FRRACS meeting will be held tomorrow, August 8th at the Fore River Club on Nevada Street in Quincy. They typically meet the 2nd Tuesday of the month, every month. Although it seems we are in a down period with the proposal, it's important to stay informed of what is going on.
Please visit www.nocompressor.com for more information and meeting times. Please feel free to reach out to FRRACS members if you have any questions or concerns. You can also find them on Twitter at @FRRACS_MA or HERE ON FACEBOOK.
Great news - today, the office of Coastal Zone Management issued a 6 month stay on their decision in relation to the proposed compressor station in the Atlantic Bridge project. This falls as the current 1 year stay is set to expire soon.
You can read the stay at the Mayor's Facebook page here.
Comments to MassDEP are due May 1, 2017 for the Proposed Air Quality Plan Approval to Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC's non-Mayor Comprehensive Plan Application.
Copy and Paste:
Into your email to simply send a comment on Air Quality for the pending air permit for the compressor station
Don't sit back and say this is out of our control. MassDEP has an open comment period for an air permit needed for the proposed Weymouth Compressor Station now.
Use your voice. We need as many people to email in as possible. We CAN fight this together.
Tips for commenting here: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56afc3b92b8dded389a27cc2/t/58ed2c0115d5db86668be656/1491938305950/Commenting+Tips+for+MassDEP+Air+Quality.pdf
Below are the Resource Reports from the 2008 Spectra Hubline/East to West Expansion project.
Last night the Weymouth Town Council had before it Spectra Energy due to a gas leak which occurred on January 6, 2017 at the Metering and Regulating Station located in North Weymouth. The video of this meeting can be viewed online at WETC under Town Council with the date of February 6, 2017.
There were many questions the councilors had asked that either went unanswered or were answered with erroneous responses.
First, Congressman Lynch, State Representative Murphy and State Senator John Keenan expressed concerns and posed questions. It was mostly due to the specific leak and measures Spectra would take to ensure this wouldn't happen again. The following should be noted:
- Spectra stated there was no equipment failure and it was due to moisture buildup which froze.
- Spectra stated they replaced the valves and installed security cameras in response to the leak. But if the equipment wasn't at fault and it was due to moisture, is replacing the valves just giving us false hope this won't happen again? It wasn't specifically stated how security cameras are going to help detect a gas leak, since gas is invisible.
Councilors started off by asking how many cubic feet of gas was released on the evening of January 6th. The response we got was 214,000 standard cubic feet.
Now reading through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) website and Spectra's website, you can find certain regulations which govern pipeline "incidents". You can click SPECTRA'S ASSET SAFETY RECORD page and see how they outline how few incidents they have on their pipelines. If you click on "More information: Incident Definition & Categories", you will see they outline what PHMSA says is reportable incidents. Which I cut and pasted below here (it's Federal Code 49 CFR 191.3).
Pipeline incidents are defined by federal law as the following events:
(1) An event that involves a release of gas from a pipeline, or of liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, refrigerant gas, or gas from an LNG facility, and that results in one or more of the following consequences:
(i) A death, or personal injury necessitating in-patient hospitalization;
(ii) Estimated property damage of $50,000 or more, including loss to the operator and others, or both, but excluding cost of gas lost;
(iii) Unintentional estimated gas loss of three million cubic feet or more;
(2) An event that results in an emergency shutdown of an LNG facility. Activation of an emergency shutdown system for reasons other than an actual emergency does not constitute an incident.
(3) An event that is significant, in the judgment of the operator, even though it did not meet the criteria of paragraphs (1) or (2) of this definition.
Now Spectra states the leak was 214,000 cubic feet. PHMSA regulations state that an incident is that which is 3 million cubic feet or more leaked unintentially - OR - (3) An event that is significant, in the judgment of the operator, even though it did not meet the criteria of paragraphs (1) or (2) of this definition.
Spectra DID NOT submit any report to PHMSA or the National Response Center (NRC). Spectra released gas for over two hours and for those of us in close proximity, we could smell a strong odor of natural gas in the atmosphere of our highly residentially dense neighborhood for over 2 hours. Spectra did not feel this was "significant" enough to file a report with PHMSA. In fact, under current regulations of the natural gas industry, Spectra would have had to release 14 TIMES as much gas as they did that night in order to qualify for the current required minimum under paragraph 1 of the current federal regulation. I could not imagine what it would be like if 14 times more gas was released on that evening as the smell and uncertainty were both very concerning to our neighborhood as is.
Spectra representatives stated that faulty gas valves are not a normal occurance. However, there were gas leaks reported on Spectra lines in Medway MA on January 5, 2016, Sandwich MA on December 11, 2016 and in South Brunswick NJ on December 18, 2016. You will not find reports of these incidents however, because they did not meet the minimum required threshold of PHMSA regs and Spectra did not feel gas leaks from faulty valves are worth reporting. This is why if you look Algonquin or Maritimes up on the PHMSA website, there is only 1 reported incident in the past 10 years. It's not because they are safe and incidents don't occur - but because the regulations on the gas industry are so loose that they do not have to report them and they are not an honest enough company to do it on their own accord under Paragraph 3 of Pipeline Safety Regulations, Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations. But you can find many of these occurrences through Google Searches due to local media outlets covering them.
In fact, on December 31, 2013 - just three years prior to the gas leak in Weymouth, Spectra had a valve freeze at their compressor station in Searsmont, ME. 70 million standard cubic feet of natural gas was leaked - well over the 3 million minimum reporting requirement. This incident is NOT registered under PHMSA because Spectra didn't report it. They were imposed a Notice of Probably Violation and Proposed Civil Penalty on October 27, 2014 and were ordered to pay $34,500 in fines (You can read it HERE if you want). Even still - an incident report was never filed and not searchable on PHMSA's database of pipeline incidents. All of these incidents are only known due to local media sources which may or may not cover them.
Click Here for all of Spectra's reported Algonquin incidents
Click Here for all of Spectra's Maritimes reported incidents (again - note that 70 million cubic feet of gas released on 12/31/13 is not there)
On September 21, 2015, Spectra stated at a Weymouth Town Council meeting that they have a skater system to detect losses of pressure. Verbetim from Spectra's representative on the night of the 21st it was told to us, "There is also a skater system that operates, that if there is in fact a loss of pressure on the line at any point we'd know almost instantaneously." It was further stated by Spectra that night, "An alarm would go off if there was a pressure drop. It would go back to that sensor in a matter of about 10 seconds. At our valve sites, sensors are located there and data is sent back to our dispatchers to monitor any discrepancies." The response as to why Spectra was not notified of the leak by their detection system was that the leak did not cause the pressure to drop to a point that would trigger the sensors. The representatives were pressured more by councilors - as it seemed ludicrous that a 2 hour leak would not affect pressure in the main line whatsoever. It was also then revealed that the 2 1" gas valves do not contain sensors - only the bigger 20" pipe does.
Spectra went on to say that they do check the moisture in the Metering Station but didn't go into details on how it is done. Just that it is done. PHMSA released a bulletin on February 11, 2016 titled "Dangers of Abnormal Snow and Ice Build-Up on Gas Distribution Systems." In this memo, it clearly states, "Monitor the accumulation of moisture in equipment and snow or ice blocking regulator or relief valve vents which could prevent regulators and relief valves from functioning properly." Spectra pretty much said there was no way they could actually do this. So again, I'm not sure why new valves are going to improve the safety at the Metering Station if they stated they couldn't properly monitor or fix moisture buildup - and as they stated, these 1" relief valves do not have their own sensors on them. When questioned why Spectra wouldn't choose to put sensors on these valves, the representatives just pretty much shrugged their shoulders and said they don't have to.
Spectra likes to pat themselves on the back because they devised an emergency response plan after this incident. However, federal code requires them to have one already established with the communities which host their infrastructure.
Under 49 CFR §§ 192.605, 192.615, 193.2509, and 195.402, pipeline facility operators must include provisions for coordinating with appropriate fire, law enforcement, emergency management, and other public safety officials in their emergency plans. Immediate contact by pipeline facility operators with local emergency responders located in potentially affected areas provides for appropriate, more coordinated and effective response to emergency situations involving pipelines, and can minimize potential injury, death and environmental damage. NOTICE CAN BE VIEWED HERE.
The bottom line is Spectra leaked gas in our neighborhood for over 2 hours. There is no punishment. There is no fine. There is no formal record of it. Because the current regulations allow them to get away with it and turn a blind eye to incidents.
This incident did not have any injuries, fatalities or personal property damage. It did send our first responders on a wild goose chase for a little bit trying to track down the source of natural gas. It should also be noted that there was a small, contained fire in a residence during this time - which our first responders had to respond to - so thank goodness the natural gas leak wasn't more than just a leak. If a leak occurred in the summer, our 911 dispatchers would be inundated with calls from people assuming they have gas leaking in their homes. The gas was just released into the environment with no care or concern - and again, no fines for the disruption they caused our community.
There has been no outreach to neighbors about the incident and no public education (again, a violation of Federal Code) or awareness about the incident or what to do if this happens again.
I have no faith in Spectra - and I didn't even mention the compressor station proposal once. Many thanks to all the residents who took time out of their busy schedules to attend the meeting and those who watched from home. Also thanks to Quincy City Councilors Croall and LaForest who came to our meeting as well.
More information can be found here:
What you can do:
- Call Governor Baker's Office and tell them this leak was unacceptable and Weymouth is not an appropriate place to continue the expansion of Spectra's operation - mostly the siting of a compressor station next to this leaking Metering and Regulating station. Massachusetts is better than this.
- Contact the Attorney General's office with your concerns over the proposed expansion of natural gas infrastructure in our neighborhood. Explain how federal regulations are not protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth - an over 2 hour gas leak cannot happen in Eastern Massachusetts with our population density and still be considered a non-reportable incident.
- Contact federal delegation and ask them to sponsor bills to change the current federal regulations regarding Natural Gas Pipeline leaks.
- Share information with friends, family and neighbors.
Below is my statement that I made in regards to the two Spectra proposals before the town of Weymouth as I best know them at this time. You can view this meeting at WETC Weymouth - it was the January 3, 2017 Town Council Meeting.
Thank you Mr. President. It came to my attention recently that we as a full Town Council have not discussed the two Spectra pipeline proposals for quite some time as a governing body. The last two meetings where this was on the Agenda were April 14 and May 2, 2016 – both of which were Executive Sessions – with litigation on the agenda and the Mayor contemplating a mitigation package. Although we closed out the executive session here, this topic is not currently being updated on in any committee or regularly to us as a full body.
One can argue that we do not have any jurisdiction over this matter, however the Town Council routinely gets updates about various topics in town and seeing as a lot has changed since May and construction is believed to begin in March, I thought it would be appropriate to give the council and public a 7 month snapshot of where we are today from the last time we formally discussed the compressor station and pipeline proposal.
It’s actually easier to start with the second project – Access Northeast which will expand the compressor station and install 4 miles of pipeline through Weymouth and the Fore River.
Preliminary hearings were conducted in May of this year - the Massachusetts Energy Facility Siting Board conducted a public hearing and FERC conducted its Scoping Meeting – this Town Council submitted comments to both parties against this proposal.
This project hit an extreme hurdle on August 17th when the Supreme Judicial Court struck down the finance plans of Access Northeast. The funding mechanism for this $3 billion natural gas expansion project was to be a tariff on Electric Rate Payers which the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved in the fall of 2015. The SJC ruled that this approval of the DPU violated the 1997 electric restructuring act, which the legislature enacted in part to shield rate payers from investment risks.
On December 16th – just about three weeks ago, the monthly progress report was published from Spectra to FERC in which Spectra believes they should take additional time to solidify its plans for this expansion. Spectra reported they now expect to file their draft Resource Reports for Access Northeast by mid-2017 followed by submitting their FERC application in late 2017.
So the last time we met, Spectra had a finance plan in place for Access Northeast. They were expected to file their resource reports late this past summer and file their application for Access Northeast in November. This latest report now has them about an entire year behind the initial schedule. It is being speculated that Spectra will use the first half of 2017 to either work to change legislation to enable the electric ratepayer tariff or seek to find funding through a different source, such as natural gas ratepayers. Following DPU’s current open Docket 16-181 which is a long-term supply plan for National Grid Gas – which has a public hearing on January 31st, might be a good indicator on what the future plans may entail.
Until we know for sure, it’s a good update for those fighting the pipeline piece that the proposal is setback at least a year.
Now the first project – Atlantic Bridge – which constructs a new compressor station in North Weymouth is still officially on track, however this project too has hit numerous hurdles.
A month after the Mayor rejected the mitigation package for this project, our conservation commission denied the wetlands permit for construction on the North Parcel for numerous reasons. This prompted Spectra to appeal this decision to DEP who did overturn our conservation commission’s decision by issuing a Superseding Order of Conditions in August. However, the Town did appeal this decision. Not only that, a group of 10 residents in Weymouth got together per DEP regulations and went through the motions to become their own intervenor group as well. This isn’t done often and requires a lot of work, as they needed to obtain their own legal advice as they are not allowed to use the town’s outside legal firm. On October 17th, we attended a pre-hearing conference in Lakeville, Massachusetts to start the appeal process. However, since that time, Mass DEP put a stay on the decision until Spectra can comply with the Weymouth Wetlands Ordinance or essentially take the ConCom to court to get some kind of judicial override of the decision. They also stated they were waiting for a FERC ruling before they could move forward.
This lengthy process has also delayed two other vital approvals needed – The state’s Chapter 91 waterways license, in which we had a public hearing for back in May, has not issued it’s determination yet as it’s waiting to hear the decision of the Wetland’s Permit.
Coastal Zone Management, which is a federal act or authorization was suppose to make a decision this past summer, however in August, they issued a 1 year stay to make their decision based upon the fact they do not have the final rulings of the Wetlands permit or Waterways license. They anticipate a final determination by August 23, 2017. We also have not gotten the Comprehensive Air Plan approval.
Since we met last time in May to now – no approvals or permits were acquired back then. And still today, no approvals or permits have been acquired.
The biggest update as of late is the sale of the North Parcel from Calpine to Spectra on December 1st. This came to a shock to many of us due to the nature of the subdivision or lack thereof. On November 9th, myself and Councilor Lacey attended the Planning Board meeting where Calpine and Spectra tried to get subdivision plans approved. Their plan was not approved by the board, yet on December 1st, Calpine sold parts of the North Parcel to Spectra for $13 million.
This was one of the key points that opponents of the compressor station proposal were waiting for, but thought because the land wasn’t properly subdivided for a sale yet, there wouldn’t be a transfer of land between to two parties until such time. On December 23rd, Mayor Hedlund filed suit in Norfolk Superior Court due to the fact that Calpine violated the state's subdivision control law by selling approximately 16 acres of the power plant’s property to Spectra without first obtaining town approval of a subdivision plan.
This lawsuit is strictly about the sale without the correct subdivision and nothing else. I have full confidence in the administration to explore the agreement the town has with the powerplant as well as the 126 page Final Decision the Massachusetts Energy Facility Siting Board issued in February 2000 which outlines terms and conditions which must be met with the Town of Weymouth.
I have been told since early summer by Spectra lawyers and representatives that the FERC certificate can be issued “any day now.” It has been reported by virtually everyone – even just a week or two ago in the paper that it can be issued “any day now.” As of 5pm today, FERC has not issued any certificate or order for the Atlantic Bridge project. Construction, according to Spectra, is suppose to start in March – or two months away as there has been no official update that Atlantic Bridge is delayed as there is with Access Northeast. I have reached out to FERC to ask:
- Can FERC issue a certificate without CZM or the appropriate wetlands and waterways license issued yet? And
- If FERC can issue a certificate, what happens if every license/permit is not approved on the state and federal level?
I received the following this afternoon from Atlantic Bridge project manager, Maggie Suter:
Algonquin cannot begin construction until it has received the applicable Federal authorizations. The FERC has not yet issued an Order approving or denying the project, and Algonquin cannot construct without this authorization. The FERC issues conditional authorizations, meaning the authorization is contingent upon satisfying certain items identified in the Order. If you look to past FERC Orders or the Atlantic Bridge EA, you will see that one condition that is routinely added to Orders is that prior to construction, applicants must obtain all applicable Federal authorizations, including those Federal authorizations that have been delegated down to the state. You will also see from past orders that FERC orders also routinely include language explaining that FERC encourages applicants to cooperate with state and local authorities, but this does not mean that state and local agencies may prohibit or unreasonably delay the construction or operation of projects. Of course, we won't know what language appears in the Atlantic Bridge Order until it is issued, but this language has appeared in every Order I have seen the FERC issue.
Should the FERC approve the project, Algonquin still would not have the ability to begin construction. It must receive a separate Notice to Proceed with construction for this. The FERC routinely issues its Order before other agencies can act. However, the condition mentioned above, prevents any construction from occurring.
Should the FERC approve the project, but another Federal authorization be denied, then Algonquin could not proceed with construction.
I hope this information is helpful.
So we have been told routinely for two years this is a federal approval. Even politicians above us have stated this is a federal approval and we have no say. But as Ms. Suter stated: “Should the FERC approve the project, but another Federal authorization be denied, then Algonquin could not proceed with construction.”
That other Federal authorization is CZM which clearly states in their August 3, 2016 letter that they will make their decision based on the local and state determinations.
So even if Spectra says they will start in March, and FERC issues a certificate, they cannot start until CZM gives and approval, which as of today, will not happen until August 2017. FERC also will have to issue a “Notice to Proceed” with construction prior to.
This is where we are at now. I wish there was a more fomal update on Atlantic Bridge, but unfortunately we are stuck just putting the pieces together and formulating our own timeline based on all the factors that go into a federally regulated permitted natural gas project.
This has gone on for over 2 years and I am fully committed to keep staying informed and be as knowledgable as humanly possible moving forward. I commend the administration for their hard work and continued work on this very important issue.
Should anyone have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me, the Mayor’s office or seek out the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS), a citizens action group who can help clear up any questions or concerns you may have.
An article in the Boston Globe from December 13, 2016 (Click title for article):