After years of public opposition, construction is slated to begin on a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth sometime in early December.
The news, which was confirmed by the company behind the project — Canadian energy giant Enbridge — comes hours after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued what's known as a "notice to proceed." This letter certifies that the project meets all state and federal requirements, and gives Enbridge permission to break ground.
Opponents immediately criticized the development, which is the final major permitting hurdle for a project that's riled South Shore communities, environmental and public health groups, and elected officials from town halls to Congress.
"While this was not unexpected, it comes over the objections of all of us, our federal delegation, our state legislators, the town of Weymouth, our allies, and pretty much everyone you can think of except for Gov. [Charlie] Baker," the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor (FRRACS) wrote in an email to supporters and members.
In the past, Baker has acknowledged public concerns, but declined to take a definitive stance on the project.
"[FERC] is an agency that has always been in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry, but now they are just allowing the gas companies to do whatever they want without proving need for the gas. And, guess what? We will all pay for the folly of Enbridge and FERC through our utility bills," the statement from FRRACS continues.
FERC's final decision about the compressor station comes less than two weeks after U.S. senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and U.S. representatives Joe Kennedy III and Stephen Lynch, specifically asked the agency to delay making its ruling. The politicians cited potential safety and environmental concerns, as well as news — first reported by WBUR — about declining demand for the compressor station.
On Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Markey wrote on Twitter that Enbridge "is rushing to build a natural gas compressor station in the middle of a MA neighborhood, just so it can export gas overseas." He added that the Massachusetts residents "shouldn't be put at risk for foreign fossil fuel profits," and said he would "continue to stand with the communities fighting this project."
The towns of Weymouth, Braintree and Hingham, which lost challenges to state environmental permits for the project earlier this year, have vowed to continue their court battle. But so far, their cases have not yet advanced beyond initial complaints.
The $452 million, 7,700-horsepower Weymouth compressor will be part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge Project. The project will connect two existing natural gas pipelines and allow delivery of natural gas to New England and Canada. Energy companies build compressor stations along interstate pipeline routes to “boost” pressure and keep the gas flowing.
In a statement, Enbridge spokesman Max Bergeron said "We are pleased with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s issuance of a Notice to Proceed with construction of the Weymouth Compressor Station. [We remain] committed to ensuring construction activities are conducted in compliance with all applicable requirements, with public health and safety as our priority."
With reporting from State House News Service's Chris Liniski