WEYMOUTH — Officials are pushing to get more information on the emergency response plan for the newly-completed natural gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River following two incidents at the facility in less than three weeks that caused emergency releases of gas.
Alice Arena, president of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, went before town council at its virtual meeting this week regarding safety, risk and evacuation planning at the compressor station, which is close by the MWRA sewage pumping station, Fore River Bridge, numerous industrial facilities and hundreds of homes.
Arena said Enbridge, the energy company that owns the compressor station, is required to have an emergency plan, yet has released no information on how it will build and maintain communications with local first responders, make personnel, equipment, tools and materials available during an emergency, evacuate residents and other factors.
“It is simply unacceptable that this compressor station has received its final operating permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but we still have no safety and evacuation plan available to the vulnerable residents and no risk assessment was ever done by federal or state agencies,” Arena said.
At-Large Councilor Becky Haugh, a North Weymouth resident, said residents have the right to see the emergency response plan for the facility based on the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, a law passed in 1986 to ensure local, state and federal agencies make the information available to the public. The council voted to send a letter to federal and state officials urging them to make sure residents have access to any emergency plan.
“Myself, Alice, FRRACS, we’ve been asking for this emergency response plan for two or three years now. It’s been six years in the making for this project, and it’s not uncommon. I can go online and find the emergency response plan for a compressor station in Colorado. I should be able to find my own town’s emergency response plan,” she said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Max Bergeron, a spokesperson for Enbridge, said the company has been coordinating with local first responders and will continue to do so to ensure they are familiar with the facility.
“All along our system, we partner with first responder organizations in the interest of supporting safety in the communities where we live and work, offer training, resources, and maintain open communication,” he said. “We have provided a tour of the Weymouth compressor station to local first responders, along with information to allow for proper planning in the event a response is required.”
He said the system is monitored around the clock, and “highly-trained technicians” are available to respond when other workers aren’t on site.
Residents and officials have focused in on the need for an emergency response plan in recent weeks following two emergency shutdowns at the facility during testing that forced the facility to vent natural gas.
In response, federal regulators last week ordered Enbridge to investigate the emergency shutdowns and draft a plan to minimize risks once operations restart. The company will not be allowed to restart the facility without the approval of a chief regulator at the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Alan Mayberry, associate administrator for pipeline safety, said in a corrective action order that the release of natural could create significant risks and must be investigated.
“I find that continued operation of the station without corrective measures is or would be hazardous to life, property, or the environment, and that failure to issue this order expeditiously would result in the likelihood of serious harm,” he wrote.
The controversial compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which will expand the company’s natural gas pipelines from New Jersey into Canada. It has been a point of contention for years among neighbors and some local, state and federal officials who say it presents serious health and safety risks and has no benefit for the residents of Weymouth, Quincy, Braintree, Hingham and surrounding communities.
Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy, received initial approval for the compressor station in January 2017 from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Enbridge later acquired Spectra. The company also needed several state permits, all of which were granted by regulators despite vehement opposition from local officials and residents. The Town of Weymouth alone filed two dozen lawsuits and spent more than $1.6 million in legal fees trying to stop the project.
On Sept. 11, crews at the site manually triggered the emergency shutdown system following a…