This week the Town of Weymouth along with Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC – a subsidiary of Enbridge (formerly Spectra) – formalized an Emergency Response Plan, location of a permanent air monitoring station, and Host Community Agreement. This resolution is the result of more than five years of aggressive Town opposition to the natural gas compressor station that is now fully permitted and operational.
Future Legal Rights
Moving forward, the Town will maintain its future legal rights to oppose any changes to the permitted facility or to enforce the existing permits. The Town has fought the expansion plans for the natural gas companies for more than five years (Appendix A).
“This Emergency Response Plan and Host Community Agreement will in no way preclude or forfeit the Town of Weymouth’s rights moving forward to regulate or enforce existing permits, protocols, and pursue legal action if the gas company is in violation of its Federal and State permits,” said Mayor Robert Hedlund. “By signing a host community agreement, the Town does not forfeit, preclude, or prevent the Town from making sure the compressor station operates within the limits of its existing permits. If the natural gas company steps over the line set by these permits, the Town retains every right to seek from the proper regulating authorities—which are unfortunately NOT the Town—that those regulators hold the natural gas company to the strictest terms of their existing permits.”
Emergency Response Plan
Town public safety and emergency management officers concluded drafting its emergency plan and Algonquin has shared with the Town officials its emergency safety plan. The combined 1,100-page Emergency Response Plan addresses and includes the steps and actions public safety officials and the public will need to take to respond in the event of an emergency. The plan includes provisions on updated fire department training and emergency response protocols (Appendix B).
Air Monitoring Station
The Town and Algonquin, along with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and with input from the Fore River Residents Against Compressor Stations (FRRACS), have agreed to the location of a permanent air monitoring station. The station will be sited on Town-owned land off Monatiquot Street at the corner of Bluff Road. This site is the closest to Town residents, providing the most accurate information about the air residents breathe (Appendix C).
“The Health Department worked with: the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Weymouth Conservation Department, Weymouth Town Solicitor, Weymouth DPW and other town representatives to determine what we believed to be the most suitable location for siting of the air monitoring station,” said Weymouth Health Department Director, Daniel McCormack.
Host Community Agreement
The third component of the agreed upon provisions includes the finalizing of the financial aspects of a Host Community Agreement between the Town and Algonquin. The financial provisions would be worth $38 million to the Town, including a $10 million payment made within thirty days and $28 million in additional real estate taxes paid over the next thirty-five years.
The $10 million paid by Algonquin to the Town will be earmarked and used at the Town’s discretion, and in most cases to address public safety issues and infrastructure improvements to North Weymouth, for: public safety, health and environmental concerns; general infrastructure improvements; coastal resiliency, infrastructure, and beach improvements; and information technology infrastructure improvements (Appendix D).
In addition to the $10 million dedicated to the aforementioned town wide infrastructure items, Algonquin agreed to work cooperatively with the Town and state to change state tax law in order to prevent a less favorable property tax structure from being applied to the compressor station upon operation. This change would allow the Town to collect over $1.5 million annually in property taxes after the completion of the compressor station, rather than the approximately $50,000 in tax revenue it would receive annually under current state tax law (Appendix E).
North Parcel Conservation Restriction
In the Host Community Agreement, Algonquin also agreed to work cooperatively with Calpine and the Town to improve the area of the North Parcel along the Fore River as a public resource, much like the nearby King’s Cove conservation restriction (Appendix F).
“Town public safety, emergency management, and health officials will remain vigilant in monitoring the operations of the facility and hold the gas company accountable if there is any deviation from the aforementioned plans or from any mismanagement of this facility,” concluded Mayor Hedlund.
Future Legal Rights
Mayor Sue Kay wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal entity who licensed the project, in 2016 opposing the project as did then-Senator Hedlund. When Mayor Hedlund came into office in January 2016, he ramped up opposition from mere letter writing. His administration took a comprehensive, broad-based opposition strategy that included public pressure and private lobbying, and when those efforts did not succeed numerous lawsuits were filed in every available forum.
Of the 22 lawsuits, all but four have been resolved. The Town was successful on some points, but lost on many more. However, even in cases the Town lost, the Town won major concessions that will make the compressor station have fewer impacts on the environment, run more quietly, run less frequently and for shorter periods of time, emit fewer hazardous pollutants, and operate more safely than originally proposed.
The natural gas companies have all the permits necessary to operate. There is almost no chance these remaining lawsuits will cause the compressor station to stop operating and stay stopped. Just like the recent pause, the Town may be able to pause operations temporarily, but again, the compressor station will operate three remote possibilities simultaneously occur.
First, the Town must win one of these last few lawsuits. A win in court will likely mean a remand, just like the air permit win recently celebrated. Second, the state agency the permit is remanded to, likely DEP, would have to deny a permit it already granted, which DEP has not done with the air permit. Thus, if the Town wins in court and gets a state agency to deny a permit it already granted; third, the Town would still need FERC to not simply waive that permit, just like it waived its earlier condition to start construction within two years. The natural gas company asked FERC to waive that condition and within less than a half an hour, FERC waived that condition.
Emergency Response Plan
- Fire Department Training – the training will include the update of existing standard operating procedures and development of any new internal protocols, training on the plan by Algonquin, drills or exercises by the Weymouth Fire Department, and any future needs for the department to stay up to date on the plan
- Emergency Response Protocols
- Shelter in Place
- Incident Command Role and Responsibilities
- Minimizing damage
- Stabilizing the incident
- Scenario Planning
“I would like to thank Mayor Hedlund and his administration for their support of public safety in regards to the compressor station,” said Weymouth Fire Department Chief Keith Stark.
“As Fire Chief, I am responsible for the safety of all Weymouth residents as well as providing the proper training and equipment for the Weymouth firefighters and first responders. The compressor station is slated to go fully operational in the near future and I must prepare my Department for this new risk.”
The Chief continued, “Over this past month I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with our community partners in developing the Town of Weymouth’s response to the Fire River Basin area. I want to thank the Emergency Management Director John Mullveyhill, Police Chief Rick Fuller, Police Captain Erin Metcalf, Police Lt Jim St Croix, Emergency Management Services Director of South Shore Health Systems Eugene Duffy, Emergency Preparedness Manager Joan Cooper-Zack, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Brian Pomodoro, Deputy Fire Chief Tom Murphy, Fire Lt Jeff Wall, and Firefighter Ryan Burke for their efforts and input into this plan.”
Public safety officials will provide to Town Council the public portion of this plan, which will be the overwhelming portion of the entire plan. These officials will also make a presentation to the Council on the components of the plan. Public records laws state some elements of the plan are not public, and will remain confidential due to public safety and security risks as determined by the Federal Department of Homeland Security and other related Federal entities, and as such very few plan specifics cannot be available as a public document. However, the information the public needs to know to be informed of what to do during emergencies will be available here: https://www.weymouth.ma.us/mayor/pages/compressor-station-information
Air Monitoring Station
The station will be sited on Town-owned land off Monatiquot Street at the corner of Bluff Road. The siting will require the clearing of some of the site to locate the station. However, the Town and its arborist have met with DEP and U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representatives to identify necessary mitigation, such as the new tree plantings, that will replace, or improve, the existing visual and noise barrier from the station.
“The air monitoring station will be essential to ensure the air quality standards set by DEP and EPA are being met to protect residents impacted by the compressor station,” said Weymouth Health Department Director Daniel McCormack. “The Health Department will continue to work with the DEP, EPA and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to confirm that the site is being operated in full compliance with each of their regulatory standards to minimize the public health risks.”
Host Community Agreement
- Public Safety, Health, and Environmental Concerns includes the necessary Fire Department equipment upgrades and improvements, such as for North Weymouth’s Fire Station One, the purchase of new needed apparatus and to update the state’s Health Impact Assessment in the near future, and water quality sampling for the Fore River.
- General Infrastructure Improvements funding will include road and sidewalk improvements in North Weymouth along with any recreational facility improvements or maintenance as needed.
- The Coastal Resiliency, Infrastructure, and Beach Improvements will be addressed by funds set aside for beach nourishment and stabilization as well as the coastal protection needs in North Weymouth such as the aging seawalls and revetments.
- Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure Improvements will utilize Host Community Agreement funding to address IT improvements in North Weymouth and Town wide to enhance public safety, particularly response, and protection of Town assets, including infrastructure such as security cameras. In addition, this will provide funding to advance a municipal fiber program that will allow for heightened communications capabilities through hardening of wireless internet infrastructure and interoperable communications technology. Ultimately, the Town will take steps, including hiring an outside consultant, to move forward with the feasibility of providing municipal cable or internet service.
The previously vacant site was assessed at $13 million dollars and therefore Algonquin paid the Town more than $185,000 annually in property tax revenue. However, based on current state tax laws, the fully operational $100 million compressor station will be required to divide the assessed property taxes amongst the other municipalities in the state, resulting in a lower property tax for Weymouth to less than $50,000 annually.
Algonquin has agreed to assist the Town in advocating to the state’s Department of Revenue for an amendment to the state tax law to ensure that Weymouth does not receive a lower annual tax revenue from the property. Without this change in tax law, Weymouth residents would otherwise have to make up this lost revenue or the Town would have to cut existing services.
As such, the Mayor discussed this issue with the Lieutenant Governor, who has begun to address the issue with the Department of Revenue. Algonquin has also previously discussed this tax change with administration officials. State Senator Patrick O’Connor and State Representative Jaime Murphy have filed legislation to amend the provision. If the tax law change is successful, the Town will receive $28 million more in property tax revenue over the next thirty-five years.
North Parcel Conservation Restriction
Algonquin owns this land along the Fore River between the twenty-year old metering and regulating (M&R) station and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) pump house. Calpine retained an easement in this “west waterfront area” to fulfill a 1999 licensing requirement for the power plant. The Town’s intent is to loop the King’s Cove park around to the Fore River. Ideally, access to the Fore River will be provided for canoes, kayaks, or both.
The agreement also contained a number of other requirements including:
- Incorporate plan delineation of coastal bank on eastern side of peninsula
- Address erosion of coastal bank on eastern side of peninsula
- Commit to a timeline to complete hazardous waste cleanup of the North Parcel
- Create system for timely reports of any incidents at facility to appropriate Town officials, including documentation requirements
- Cooperate with and notify the Town about leak detection and emission exceedances
- Discuss between the Town and Algonquin its intentions about any future decommissioning plan for the facility