SPRINGFIELD/LONGMEADOW – Eversource Energy has introduced a gas reliability project in the second half of 2021, with the proposed structure potentially adding a new point-of-delivery system at Longmeadow.
The proposed project would also entail the installation of a steel mainline between the new Longmeadow location and the existing gas line regulating station in Springfield, as well as improvements to the existing gas line connected to a Agawam regulation. As Eversource presents to the core communities involved, the project already garners a range of different perspectives.
Springfield’s Sustainability and Environment Committee heard the project’s first Eversource presentation at a meeting on Oct. 14. Eversource Energy Community Relations and Economic Development Specialist Joseph Mitchell delivered a presentation detailing, according to Eversource, the need for the project, noting that the proposed point-of-delivery system will ensure residents do not experience power outages. service if one of the delivery system points is affected. by extreme weather conditions or other disturbances.
“This is a reliability project, not an expansion project. We want to mitigate risk in the greater Springfield area,” Mitchell said. Before finalizing plans for the new delivery point system, Mitchell outlined various deviations from the potential pipeline route. Eversource’s shortest and most preferred route would cost $22.7 million, while the company’s largest route would cost $32.7 million.
In the aftermath of the presentation, Sustainability and Environment Committee Chair and At-Large Councilman Jesse Lederman expressed his views on the project calling for an independent cost/benefit analysis from the Utilities Department. of Massachusetts (DPU). The adviser explained his concerns as part of his mission to ensure accountability between utilities and Springfield.
Lederman cited two main reasons for requesting the independent review. He expressed concern over investment in gas projects as the country steadily embraces renewable energy sources while questioning the viability of the proposed delivery point system as a necessary addition.
“If we know the upside isn’t really there, then I think you’re going to have a strong case for the DPU to push back on this proposal,” Lederman said in an interview with Reminder Publishing. The councilman shared that the reliability project started as a rumor when Columbia Gas worked with the city before being acquired by Eversource in 2020.
Lederman and his City Council colleagues also remain proactive in ensuring Eversource pays its debts to the city, as the company owes approximately $44,000,000 in late payments dating back to 2013. “Certainly, I think Eversource has to pay his bill,” Lederman said. He said former Ward 8 councilman and current state representative Orlando Ramos created legislation that would close a loophole that allowed bills to go unpaid.
Despite some concerns, Lederman recognizes Eversource as a “strong partner” to Springfield, with the organization helping the city over the years with leaks and repairs. “It’s a relationship we’ve worked hard to make sure it’s maintained for the benefit of the people of Springfield, but always with accountability in mind,” Lederman said.
In response to Lederman’s statements, Eversource’s media relations manager, William Hinkle, assured that the project would be subject to careful review by the Energy Facilities Sitting Board (EFSB) and other state organizations. “The EFSB exists as an independent body to assess critical energy and facility projects,” Hinkle said in an interview with Reminder Publishing.
Hinkle stressed that an open dialogue between the company and local communities remains an essential aspect of the project. So far, Eversource has participated in one meeting with State Representative Carlos Gonzalez and one with the Longmeadow Select Board, while also hosting two different open houses for the public in November.
“With all of our projects, close communication and feedback from our local communities, customers and other stakeholders is an essential part of this work. We appreciated the opportunity, at the early stages of this process, to engage with our customers in the Greater Springfield area,” Hinkle said.
The media relations manager expects the project to be reviewed by the EFSB over the next two years, with the most ambitious timeline for the project allowing construction to begin. here 2024.
The concerns of the Longmeadow Select Board echoed those expressed by Lederman. During the November 15 board forum on the subject, chairman Marc Strange called the reliability issues cited by Eversource “undefined” and “speculative.” At that time, Strange requested a third-party risk assessment of the Memorial Bridge gas infrastructure.
“For years, we have challenged Eversource’s relief plan as their only alternative,” said Michelle Marantz, president of the Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group, a citizens’ group opposed to the project. “Remember that a tornado crossed the Memorial Bridge several years ago. In its wake, no damage was done to the Memorial Bridge pipeline – no pipeline repairs were requested and no pipeline leaks were reported by energy companies.
“We affirm that any catastrophic event destroying the Memorial Bridge would also destroy the vulnerable Bliss Street station on West Columbus Avenue. One can only conclude that this $40 million expansion project is truly a solution in search of a problem,” Marantz said.
Fire Chief John Dearborn has expressed concern about the effect of construction and potentially catastrophic damage near the Longmeadow Country Club dam, which has been listed by the Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety as a “significant hazard” posing a risk for life and property should failure occur.
Marantz said none of the routes offered by Eversource were “acceptable”. Any of the four routes would carry gas through “high-pressure pipelines”, along “busy streets in dense neighborhoods”.
Marantz pointed to potential health and safety risks, such as the 2012 explosion that injured 18 people and damaged 42 buildings in Springfield. There was also an explosion in 2018 in the Merrimac Valley which left one dead and 8,000 residents displaced and more than 100 homes were damaged by fire. Less than a year ago a fire in Marshfield was caused by a downed power line igniting gas from a water main and it took hours to shut off the water main because a shut-off valve failed could be located. About ten houses had to be evacuated in the residential area.
Besides potential explosions and fires, Marantz said pipelines release carcinogens, chemicals that can cause cancer, at “all points in the delivery process,” including pipeline joints and at meter stations like that proposed for Shaker Road at Longmeadow. There is evidence for this claim in a 2019 study, “Air Emissions from Natural Gas Facilities in New York State” by Pasquale N. Russo and David O. Carpenter, published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. In it, data from New York’s 18 compressor stations that report to the Environmental Protection Agency showed that “between 2008 and 2014, they released a total of 36.99 million pounds of air pollutants, not counting CO2 and methane. This included emissions of 39 chemicals known to be carcinogenic to humans. This is one of the reasons people have cited the meter station’s proximity to Wolf Swamp Road School as a particular concern.
Residents’ concern was so great that they passed a zoning change banning new gas infrastructure at a 2019 special town hall meeting. Despite this, Eversource is seeking an exception from the state in under MGL Chapter 40A which would overrule the zoning by-law.
Marantz stressed that the Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group’s opposition to the project is not a case of not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY).
“From the beginning, this has always been a resistance effort by Longmeadow. Our motto has always been: ‘Not in anyone’s backyard.’
She said Longmeadow worked with Springfield to oppose the project. “All proposed routes pass through Environmental Justice Neighborhoods in Springfield before terminating at the Bliss Street Regulator Station on Columbus Avenue, violating a tenet of the Next Gen Roadmap 2021 Act.”
The outreach group and Eversource are at an impasse. Marantz said “there’s no guarantee Eversource can possibly do that,” to allay residents’ concerns. Speaking to Eversource, Senior Media Relations Specialist Pricilla Ress said the company is “looking forward” to the next steps in the process.
“This will open an approximately two-year regulatory process, as well as various local, state and federal licensing processes, and we look forward to this full public process to review this critical reliability project and important issues such as needs, safety, environmental impacts and cost. Ress said. “Throughout this process, we remain committed to working closely with our local community neighbors and stakeholders at all levels to listen to their feedback – with our constant focus on ensuring safe and reliable service for our customers. .”
Despite Ress’ words to the contrary, Marantz said, “At this point, despite our outreach, Eversource does not appear to be listening to our concerns – an unfortunate reality for them – and for us.”