1 Spectra pipeline WR

^ routing the Spectra pipeline into West Roxbury : the current favored route (in yellow) alongside the Quarry and an alternative route, seemingly much better, ruled out (in red)

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Land issues are never far from the front burner on Boston’s stove. How could it be otherwise, when every plot of Boston land matters intimately to its neighb0ors and beyond ? In West Roxbury, the neighborhood of Boston most committed to stability, every shake-up of land use becomes cause for concern. None more so than the Quarry, which occupies 55 acres in the very heart of West Roxbury and impact all the land bounding it.

So we come to the Spectra pipeline proposal, which the Boston Globe wrote about today, via a front page story. That Spectra wants to run a natural gas pipeline spur to connect to National Grid’s main gas line along West Roxbury’s LaGrange Street is not news. The proposal has been working its regulatory process for years. Until recently, however, th process has attarcted little notice. that all changed when the Quarry’s owners announced — arousing great outcry at several well-attended public meetings — that it would be land-filling its site with contaminated soils removed from other Massachusstts locations and that the fill would be hauled via West Roxbury’s streets, to the Quarry by forty or more trucks a day.

Meetings of great urgency — including all West Roxbury’s state and Federal legislators and Boston’s Mayor and local City Councillor –saw lengthy testifying by worried residents who decried almost every feature of the Quarry landfill plan. And during the course of these meetings, the pipeline issue was also raised. The two issues coincide, because the most likely proposed route lies alongside Grove Street, abutting the Quarry’s southwest boundary.

How could such a route possibly fly ? It seemed to the complaining neighbors — and to me — that because blasting of rock goes on all the time at the Quarry, a pipeline running alongside it would be constantly at risk of damage. Quarry blasting already shakes the houses across Grove Street and nearby. How could that blasting not endanger the proposed gas line ?

So it made sense that there should be alternative routes available; and it turns out, according to the Globe, that one such route, much talked of at meetings, has been ruled out. Why so ?

Spectra insists that its pipeline will be sheathed in reinforced steel and that its proposed metering station — placed almost at the Quarry’s front gate — would cause no difficulty either. Neighbors aren’t so sure. They have good reason : big news was made, last year, that thousands of gas pipeline leaks exist in Massachusetts, wasting gas and potentially catastrophic. Spectra, it turns out, has been fined oftenh by Federal safety inspectors monitoring pipeline conditions.

Still, the Spectra pipeline is badly needed. The expanding Boston economy is already suffering from gas shortages. Even residential gas supplies sometimes fail. What gas we do get, costs too much. Definitely the supply of gas has to expand.

But where ? From the proposed line’s start, in the eastern end of the town of Westwood, can a route not be found through more or less industrial east Dedham, Readville, and the Reservation, along the road that joins up with LaGrange Street at St John’s Church on Washington Street ? Or perhaps the pipeline can be laid deeper underground than the proposed five feet ? One would also like to know why the Spring Street route, along Baker Street to the old, now abandoned rail line that runs into Dedham thence to Dedham centre, was ruled out.

Regulatory approvals for the proposed pipeline are almost completed. there is little time left to choose aa workable route. Once built, the gas pipeline will point the landscape of West Roxbury toward an outcome useful or not so useful. Let’s get this decision right.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere