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Court says Eversource can move proposed East Boston substation

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today a state board did nothing wrong in approving plans by Eversource to swap two sites on East Eagle Street in East Boston for a proposed substation.

The state Energy Facilities Siting Board had approved the proposed substation in 2017, then last year said Eversource could swap parcels with the city to move the proposed facility further away from Channel Fish.

The board is still considering whether to grant Eversource the final approval it needs to begin construction

Greenroots, Inc., representing residents who say the substation is an environmental menace waiting to happen, then sued, saying the board should re-open the 2017 case, for a variety of reasons, including that the board failed to look at potential climate-change flooding in 60 years, that a hearing in Chelsea on the proposal should have been held in East Boston and that the board failed to provide adequate translation for Spanish-speaking residents at another hearing.

The state's highest court, however, ruled that Greenroots didn't appeal certain parts of the decision in time, that it was not going to question the expertise of the board in considering flooding over 40 years rather than 60 - or to consider East Boston/Chelsea energy issues specifically, rather than declining electricity needs across the region - that Chelsea is close enough to East Boston that it posed no obstacles to people who wanted to attend the hearing in question and that while the board could have done better with translation services at what was its first Zoomed hearing, what it did provide was good enough.

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PDF icon Complete SJC ruluing114.08 KB
PDF icon State board's 2021 determination790.87 KB

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Comments

The entire neighborhood and its elected officials spoke out against this, the climate and safety concerns are legitimate, and Logan was proven to be a more viable site. And yet here we are.

I have no faith in pretty much any board or commission in this city or state to do right by the people. Cronyism at its finest.

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Voting closed 23

Honest question. Was it an civil/electrical engineer with deep knowledge of Eversource's infrastructure or someone speculating? If Logan really is a better site, why is Neversource pushing for the East Boston location?

I have no faith in pretty much any board or commission in this city or state to do right by the people.

So if the people speak out against a large housing development or want more on-site parking and the board rejects the proposal accordingly is that doing right by the people or is it NIMBYism?

People on UHub (and elsewhere) flip back and forth on the value of listening to the community at public hearings.

FYI: I have no opinion on this project. I would defer to knowledgeable civil and electrical engineers and not necessary those who live nearby.

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Voting closed 23

Was it an civil/electrical engineer with deep knowledge of Eversource's infrastructure or someone speculating? If Logan really is a better site, why is Neversource pushing for the East Boston location?

Because it’s easier for THEM. The current spot is right next to the Chelsea Creek, a playground, and a shitload of jet fuel, and right at the edge of a highly populated residential area. And they already moved it to the other side of the parcel due to concerns from a fish hatchery, soo…take that for what it’s worth. There’s serious concern about flooding—that area has already flooded in the past, and I believe it’s actually landfill—not to mention long-term climate change issues in that location. I don’t recall off hand what the deal with Logan was, but it was talked about for years as a safer alternative site and was even included on a non-binding ballot question. Speaking of…

So if the people speak out against a large housing development or want more on-site parking and the board rejects the proposal accordingly is that doing right by the people or is it NIMBYism?

I forgot to mention that aside from the neighborhood and its elected officials, almost 84% of 2021 Boston voters were against the substation going here. We’re not talking about some people with signs or a few neighborhood groups.

Also, while Eversource argued the substation is necessary to meet growing demand in the area, that’s been argued as untrue by, well, scientists. And it’s estimated that 1/3 of the power from this substation is going straight to the new Terminal E at Logan. Go figure.

For good measure, give this article from the Union of Concerned Scientists a read.

This isn’t NIMBYISM. It’s common sense 101 vs. absolute stupidity, selfishness, and backdoor dealing.

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Voting closed 25

Do you like reliable access to electricity?

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Voting closed 10

But that’s not the issue here. The main issue is location.

And your question is alarmist and not necessarily relevant to this substation.

But hey, what does science know?

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Voting closed 17

I mean, that's what the scientists seem to show with their map.

Other than that, the "science" is more of a smokescreen. They never show data about electricity usage in the service area, just New England as a whole. As for being alarmist, the "Union of Concerned Scientists" do try hard to link this substation to fossil fuels. How surprised do you think they'd be if they found out that electricity generated from hydro and nuclear power also need substations to transmit power to users?

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Voting closed 6

...was Eversource's own proprietary data that they were allowed to redact and not show anyone. Basically "you need this because I tell you you do and I'm not going to show you the data that proves it." Very scientific.

Electricity demand in Boston has flatlined or declined consistently for the entire life of the project (which began in 2014 when Eversource warned "if we don't build this next week the lights will go out and Nana's ventilator will shut off. DO YOU WANT NANA'S BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS???"). The latest wolf to cry about is electric cars....like the hundreds that will not be owned by Eastie residents but will be stationed at the airport's car rental facilities.

And the airport does have increasing electricity demands as they expand the International terminal at Terminal E. In fact 1,700 feet away from the proposed location of the substation is a spot where Massport is putting in a new (Eversource-built) switching station - which contains a chunk of the infrastructure that makes up a substation (minus the transformers - which is the really important part). This is a spot on the campus of the airport, under the vigilant eye of State Police Troop F, in an area that the Commonwealth has already spent money to shore up from coastal flooding, and away from playgrounds, eroding shorelines and dense residential neighborhoods.

No one in the neighborhood wants to lose power or thinks that substations aren't necessary (even if all our electricity was coming from off-shore wind, solar panels and unicorn flatulence we'd still need substations). The point is that this location is not a good idea.

Who thinks it is a good idea? Maybe the former Chief of Energy and Environment for Mayor Menino who helped broker this deal and then went to work for Eversource. Or was it the former Director of the BRA dba BPDA under Walsh who now works for the attorneys representing Eversource. Honestly if we could hook up a turbine to the revolving door between govt and the industries they "regulate" we'd have enough energy for far into the future.

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Voting closed 9

But for some reason (failed to file on-time just like Harvard ) the courts aren't buying it.

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Voting closed 1

The courts don't buy it because it's all in accordance to the law....which was written by industry lobbyists. Funny how that works. I'm still baffled by the Court telling us why didn't you do x, when DPU staff at EFSB, lawyers and everyone else told us x isn't allowed. Maybe we didn't ask the right way...? No clue, I ain't a lawyer. But by any logical, common sense assessment this project is bogus. It's the airport locating its needed infrastructure in the community rather than their own property. (A familiar old story for Eastie.) And the regulations being written for the appropriate cornholing of ratepayers by some jerkoff who mugs for selfies of himself on the White House lawn with Smahhty Mahhty Walsh.

>barf<

But to quote some guy with a guitar, "it ain't over 'til it's over." And then he split his pants.

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Voting closed 3

The courts don't buy it because it's all in accordance to the law....which was written by industry lobbyists. Funny how that works. I'm still baffled by the Court telling us why didn't you do x, when DPU staff at EFSB, lawyers and everyone else told us x isn't allowed. Maybe we didn't ask the right way...? No clue, I ain't a lawyer. But by any logical, common sense assessment this project is bogus. It's the airport locating its needed infrastructure in the community rather than their own property. (A familiar old story for Eastie.) And the regulations being written for the appropriate cornholing of ratepayers by some jerkoff who mugs for selfies of himself on the White House lawn with Smahhty Mahhty Walsh.

>barf<

But to quote some guy with a guitar, "it ain't over 'til it's over." And then he split his pants.

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Voting closed 3

The point is that this location is not a good idea.

Maybe I didn’t make my point clear enough. Or maybe some people just want to miss it.

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Voting closed 6

Solar and wind energy are now cheaper to build and operate than just the cost of continuing to operate fossil-fuel plants, let alone building new ones. Gas prices will continue to go up. Renewable prices will not. Putting a new gas-fired power plant in a residential area is all manner of stupid.

[Edit:] Thanks to those who point out that this isn't a generating plant. Don't know how I missed that...

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Voting closed 8

Then I look at the reality of where Massachusetts gets it's electricity. We are rules by natural gas.

As for the market, the shift wasn't from expensive, carbonless nuclear to cheap, carbonless solar and wind. It was a shift to cheap, carbon intense natural gas. But this has nothing to do with the source of electricity, just how it is distributed. 100% hydro would still necessitate a substation in East Boston.

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Voting closed 4

This isn't a generating station and has nothing to do with gas vs. renewables. This is just a substation that receives electricity at the transmission voltage from wherever it was generated (regardless of source) and steps it down to distribution voltages for use by the neighborhood. There will be no addition emissions and the worst disturbance neighbors can expect will be a loud clang if a breaker happens to trip and maybe some buzzing noises from the transformer if you're standing close to the fence.

The existing Chelsea substation that serves this part of the city is *very* overloaded and East Boston is in dire need of more power infrastructure given it's population growth.

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Voting closed 4

Hey anon, given that the data that would answer this is known only to Eversource, I would have to assume that you work for them. Therefore you know that if you subtract the airport from this equation the demand in Eastie is not overloading anything. Eversource declared that demand would be going up when the condos on the waterfront were built like back in 2016, annnnnd didn't happen. They declared three or four other development projects as the proverbial straw and the camel is still humping.

Meanwhile in the past 5 months Eversource's distribution infrastructure is in shambles with substation incidents (usually involving, as they put it, the rapid expansion of gases....we know them as "explosions") at substations in Newton and Lexington - as well as surges in Waltham over multiple days that blew out appliances and left homes and businesses in the dark, along with worker injuries on Bowdoin Street and other sites. How does a huge, unidirectional substation actually help with any of these grid failures? Eversource has steadfastly avoided investing in the distribution network for 2 reasons: 1. the money is in the transmission segment (including substations) and 2. addressing the modernization of the distribution network, including distributed generation and bi-directional flows is a direct threat to their business model.

This substation will cost $60 million +/- and they are GUARANTEED a 11-12% return on investment to their shareholders, all of it paid for by Eastern MA ratepayers. We are basically purchasing a capital asset for Eversource - they pay nothing. And all the wonderful site remediation and community benefit agreements that they pump out in their p.r. is rolled into that figure -- meaning....we are paying for our own mitigation - with its contribution to their 12% profit! Let me put a knife to your throat, take your ten bucks, give you fifty cents of it back and then run down the street crowing about how much I just helped you out.

Oh yeah, if it floods and gets damaged (let's just leave out the rapid expansion of gases) guess who gets to pay to rebuild it and provide once again a 12% profit to Eversource?

I can understand why Eversource defends this project, I can't understand why anyone that pays an electricity bill (that is rapidly ballooning) in Eastern Mass would think this is a good deal. If you're that naïve I understand that the City of Boston might be interested in selling you the McArdle Bridge...it's nearby.

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Voting closed 7

The current proposed location on East Eagle St. on Chelsea Creek was long-promised to the community for a playfield and flood buffer area, until Eversource made a hasty land swap deal with the City.

At the 2021 Boston municipal election, over 100,000 voters supported locating this East Boston substation, if needed, at a safe alternative location such as within MassPort land at Logan Airport. Attorney General Healey has supported GreenRoots and East Boston residents in their efforts to stop the substation at the proposed site. State Sen. Edwards, Rep. Madaro, Councilor Coletta, Councilor Louijeune, and Mayor Wu have consistently stated their support for an alternative location as well.

This expected decision at the Supreme Judicial Court is not the final word, as City and state permits have not been issued - with GreenRoots, Conservation Law Foundation, and residents continuing to work towards resolution under the next Governor and state agency leadership.
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Voting closed 24

Well until wireless transmission of electricity is perfected. Where's Teslaa when we need him?

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Voting closed 6

while the board could have done better with translation services at what was its first Zoomed hearing, what it did provide was good enough.

It wasn't good enough, as GreenRoots has explained, and as summarized on p. 15 of the ruling. Just throwing interpreters into the room regardless of their capabilities, preparation, or equipment doesn't make a space open and accessible to everyone, and that alone should be enough to render the process totally illegitimate.

HYM, with the blessing of the BPDA, pulled the exact same garbage in the Suffolk Downs meetings.

Boston has a real problem with people who don't speak English.

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Voting closed 11