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Return to the Weimus Compressor Waterway Permit Blueprint

A new chapter has opened in the ongoing story of the Weimas Natural Gas Compressor Station. Late Friday afternoon, a referee in the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s appeals department recommended that the agency reassess the critical environmental permits required for the compressor to operate.

The compressor station is still allowed to operate at this time, but the decision means a “big win” for those who have fought the facility for more than seven years, said Alice Arena, president of the group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor. increase.

“It’s probably the first time I feel like there was a real, really real hope that they might have to close this facility,” she said. “In all the years we have done this, we have been appealing and appealing, then remanding and appealing. [the facility’s owner] Embridge. “

A spokesperson for Enbridge said in a statement that the company is “considering the chair’s recommended decision on waterway licensing for Weimus compressor stations and will appreciate the next steps.”

Like all energy projects, Weymouth Compressor required several environmental permits and licenses for Enbridge to begin construction. One of those permits was “Chapter 91 Waterway License”.

Chapter 91 of Massachusetts General Law aims to protect the public’s interests in waterways so that only those that are “water dependent” are built on tidal flats and water bodies.

Enbridge never claimed that a facility that compresses and boosts gas and helps it travel through the pipeline to Canada meets that definition. Instead, the company has declared that the compressor is an “auxiliary” to the existing pipeline that runs underwater from Weimas to Salem. The pipeline, known as the I-10 or HubLine, has a valid waterway license, so the latter requires its own review and license by declaring the compressor proposed at the time to be “auxiliary”. Do not.

The project must meet two criteria to be considered ancillary in this context. Must be operational related to the original project. And secondly, it must require an adjacent location.

Enbridge claimed that the project met both of these criteria, and after legal interaction with the project’s opponents, the state finally agreed. Enbridge obtained a compressor waterway license in May 2019.

Opponents again challenged the permit shortly thereafter, arguing that the compressor didn’t really need a place next to the hub line. As evidence, they said they specified seven possible locations when Enbridge first proposed a compressor station, some of which were a few miles away from the final location of choice.

Challenges are underway through the legal system, and in March a judge in the Norfolk Superior Court misdefined the word “necessary” when the state’s Environmental Protection Agency determined that the compressor needed the following location: I ruled that I used. Hub Line.

The judge revoked the waterway permit and remanded the matter to the state for trial. The hearing took place last month in front of Judge Jane Rothschild.

Waymus gas compressor station. (Robin Rubock / WBUR)

On Friday, Rothschild stood on the side of the opposition, writing that “the compressor station does not need a location adjacent to the hub line because it can be reasonably and feasibly located in one of several alternative locations.” .. She also said that the compressor was ” [HubLine]— The case was centered on what the opposition lawyer claimed.

Rothschild recommended that the department reassess whether compressors are subject to canal permits as an independent project. If you finally refuse to issue a permit, you may be wondering if the compressor can continue to operate.

“That’s a big deal,” says the arena. “I’m ecstatic.”