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WEYMOUTH – While several members said regulators shouldn't have approved the project to begin with, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says it won't revoke authorization for the natural gas compressor station in Weymouth.
After reexamining operations and safety at the station following several accidental releases of natural gas, Richard Glick, the commission's chairman, said regulators "should never have approved" the compressor on the banks of the Fore River, a "heavily populated area with two environmental justice communities and a higher-than-normal level of cancer and asthma due to heavy industrial activity."
But Glick said the review and findings don't justify revoking approval for the station, which the commission initially granted in January 2017. The compressor station is owned by Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy, which was later acquired by Enbridge.
"Going forward, the commission needs to pay attention to the impacts of its (decision) and I will push for the those changes," he said. "I recognize that is cold comfort to the folks who live near the Weymouth compressor station."
Alice Arena, of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, said the group had a "little glimmer of hope," but she expected commissioners would say their hands were tied and they didn't have authority to revoke approval.
“This is their job. They get to set precedent. They get to say, ‘We went back and looked at this, and we looked into whether (Enbridge) ever needed the compressor in the first place, and the answer is no,’” Arena said. “(The commissioners) can say whatever they want that helps them get through the night, but what (FERC) did was morally, ethically and legally wrong on every level, and they just recommitted to that.”
The compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which expands the company’s natural gas pipelines from New Jersey into Canada. Since the station was proposed in 2015, residents have argued it presents serious health and safety problems.
Local, state and federal officials called for a halt of compressor operations when two emergency shutdowns caused hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of natural gas to be released into the air shortly after the station opened in the fall of 2020.
Glick reiterated in a written statement that those concerns are "legitimate, understandable, and, frankly, inadequately assessed in the underlying certificate orders," but the commission does not have a legal basis to prevent the station from going into service.
Max Bergeron, a spokesperson for Enbridge, said in a statement that the company is "pleased" with the decision, and that the issues were already "extensively reviewed as part of a multiyear public process."
"Natural gas infrastructure is vital to keeping the heat and lights on for families and businesses, particularly during cold weather," he said. "We remain committed to safely and responsibly delivering natural gas for New England families and businesses."
State regulators also issued several permits for the project despite vehement and organized opposition from local officials and residents. Arena likened the commission's response on Thursday to that of state regulators and Gov. Charlie Baker.
"They've done exactly what Charlie Baker did and said, 'Our hands our tied. There's nothing we can do,' " she said.
Arena sad the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station will push forward with its opposition to the project in court. Several rehearing requests are pending in federal court, and the group's appeal of the waterways permit will soon be heard in Superior Court.
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Regulators 'should never have approved' Weymouth compressor