Feds Give Weymouth Compressor Station Approval To Start Up

The Weymouth Natural Gas Compressor Station, photographed on Sept. 13. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
The Weymouth Natural Gas Compressor Station, photographed on Sept. 13. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Enbridge will start pumping natural gas through its Weymouth compressor station next month after federal regulators on Wednesday gave the final green light, ruling that the company sufficiently corrected any issues behind two emergency shutdowns this fall.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration signed off Wednesday on a plan to restart operations at the site with gas pressure limited to 80% of the levels before the most recent incident.

With the agency's Thanksgiving eve approval, the controversial project appears set to begin operating in the next few weeks after years of opposition from community groups and elected officials.

An Enbridge spokesperson said the company now plans to start service at the compressor "in early December" to ship natural gas northward to utilities in Maine and Canada.

"The compressor station will methodically be placed in service in accordance with applicable regulations and with oversight from PHMSA," the spokesperson, Max Bergeron, said in a statement. "To ensure awareness, we will be communicating further with our neighbors, state and municipal officials, and first responders."

Regulators ordered Enbridge to pause operations at the brand-new station on Oct. 1. The company had been on the verge of formally launching the station, part of its Atlantic Bridge pipeline infrastructure, when it vented gas during unplanned emergency shutdowns twice in a three-week span.

At the time, PHMSA Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety Alan Mayberry warned that continuing operations without investigating and fixing the underlying issues "would be hazardous to life, property, or the environment."

Enbridge paused its operations to conduct a review and prepare a "restart plan" as required by federal regulators, including a full analysis of what caused both emergency shutdowns.

It submitted a new proposal on Nov. 9, according to PHSMA. Robert Burrough, the agency's eastern region director, wrote in a Wednesday letter that "the plan successfully meets the requirements" that regulators set.

The first emergency shutdown on Sept. 11 was caused by use of an O-ring "not designed for the operating environment of a piece of equipment," Bergeron said Wednesday, and the second shutdown on Sept. 30 stemmed from an electrical issue.

"The thorough review process has allowed us to identify and address the issues which led to the unplanned events, and verify that the Weymouth Compressor Station is fully prepared to safely enter service," Bergeron said.

News that the contentious project was again on the verge of completion sparked immediate criticism from opponents, including U.S. Sen. Ed Markey.

"This project is a threat to public safety, health, and the environment, and I will continue to fight it," Markey tweeted.



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