WHY LOCAL BUSINESSES SHOULD OPPOSE THE WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION
By Tim Cronin, Policy Fellow
In the small Massachusetts city of Weymouth a battle is raging over health and safety risks associated with a proposed natural gas facility. But beyond these risks, the compressor station, and the larger project it is part of, highlights an important reality about the state’s energy future: that we don’t need more natural gas infrastructure. In fact, greater state-level investment in renewables can decrease energy cost in the long-term and contribute to positive economic growth today, especially in the local business community.
The proposed 7,700 horsepower compressor station is meant to push fracked natural gas coming from Pennsylvania north under Boston Harbor to Maine and Canada. The station is part of Spectra/Enbridge’s larger “Atlantic Bridge” project, which has the goal of increasing natural gas supply in New England.
The prospective station’s site is adjacent to the new Fore River bridge and borders heavily populated areas of Weymouth, Quincy, and Braintree. According to FRRACS, the local opposition group, the location is within a half mile of over 940 property owners, and within a mile of 3,100 schoolchildren. The site is also close to about 50 local businesses in the three cities. According to Weymouth councilwoman Becky Haugh, if built, the area would be “the most residentially dense with a compressor station in the USA.”
The project has received federal approval on the condition that the state authorize the necessary environmental permits. Nevertheless a bill filed by Sen. Patrick O’Connor, a Republican Senator from Weymouth, (S.469) seeks to halt its construction and that of other compressor stations. If passed, stations would be prohibited near schools, residential areas, protected spaces, and environmental justice neighborhoods. So far the bill has gathered 12 co-sponsors and had a well-attended hearing last May.
Fossil fuel industry leaders have criticized efforts to block the Weymouth compressor, citing it as necessary to decrease regional electricity prices. Contrary to this claim, data released by ISO New England notes that in 2016 New England saw the lowest wholesale electricity prices in the regional market’s history. This underscores the fact that new natural gas capacity is not needed to provide affordable energy in the region.
Increasing investment in renewable energy is already boosting the local economy and is a better option to expanding the outdated infrastructure needed for dirty fuel alternatives. Massachusetts, sitting at the end of the pipeline, imports all of it’s natural gas, sending billions of dollars out of state each year for energy. Investing in local clean energy would help to reduce our reliance on these costly imports, allowing businesses and consumers to reinvest the savings back into the local economy.
Putting a price on carbon, as well as supporting renewable energy policies, has some key advantages. First, the policies would stabilize energy costs by diversifying state energy sources, helping to delink electricity prices from the volatile natural gas market. Second, they would promote local economic growth by increasing the number of green jobs in Massachusetts. Finally, clean energy would be a healthier alternative to natural gas, which contributes to localized air pollution as well as global climate change.
Let’s call on lawmakers to continue the progress already made in the renewable energy sector by putting a price on carbon, increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), and raising the net metering caps. Alternatives to dangerous and unnecessary natural gas infrastructure do exist, and have the power to boost the Massachusetts economy, create jobs, and help local small businesses.
About the author: Tim is an economics and politics student at Stonehill College. This past year he had the opportunity to study at Oxford University, exploring global governance, human rights law, and int’l economics. As a senior, Tim will serve as student-body president and continue to fight for sustainable initiatives such as fossil fuel divestment and expanding the college’s solar farm. He has interned at the State House and serves on the board of his local civic association. Tim enjoys reading The Economist, listening to podcasts, and exploring state parks in his free time.