SHOULD EAST BOSTON ACCEPT EVERSOURCE’s PROPOSED SUBSTATION ?

substation

^ opponents of the Eversource substation proposal feel that the site is much too close to inflammable fuel storage. Is this so ?

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About three years ago, Eversource, which provides electric power to East Boston and much of the metropolitan area, filed with state regulators a plan to site an electricity substation on land it owns at Eagle Square. The utility asserts an immediate need for increased and more reliable power supply.

I intend to opine on the upcoming decision, by the Public Utilities Commission, whether to approve the site or not; but first, you may read for yourself the Eversouce proposal, and the firm’s justifications, at two links :

https://www.eversource.com/Content/ema-c/about/major-projects-infrastructure/massachusetts-transmission-projects/mystic—east-eagle—chelsea-reliability-project

and

http://www.transmissionhub.com/articles/2016/05/eversource-files-initial-brief-with-massachusetts-siting-board-for-proposed-115-kv-project.html.

Not surprisingly, Eversource’s proposal sparked a ton of opposition. You can read the o9pposition’s arguments here :

http://www.eastietimes.com/2017/03/03/channel-fish-makes-last-push-to-stop-eversource-substation/

On November 30th, the Public Utilities Commission will hold a hearing at the State House, to determine if it should give final approval to Eversource’s proposal. The opposition intends to fill the hearing room with those who do not favor having an Eversource substation under any circumstances. As the above link reads, Channel Fish Company and its principal, Loulis Silvestro, continue to fight the Eversource proposal all the way, Channel beliveing that Eversource doesn’t give two hoots about the electric company or the neighborhood’ s diverse residents.

My personal opinion is that the Eversource proposal should be approved, unless ( 1 ) it can be shown that additional power supply is not urgently needed or ( 2 ) the overall power supply to East Boston falls far short of expected capacity demand. Here’s why I support the power addition :

That more power supply is needed is indisputable, East Boston’s population having added some 20,000 people since 2009. Right now these folks may in some cases be using unauthorized power, thus putting additional pressure on a system of energy distribution already close to bankruptcy. Unauthorized power is a danger to the entire system.

The substation’s proposed location is troublesome — but not unreasonable. The site at issue lies very close to a major ball field at which the  City’s Park league holds its games. That much is true. Channel Fish’s Silvestro alleges that the proposed pipe line lies much too close to his facility, putting his fish at risk. The area’s residents complain that above ground power lines out their children at risk of lethal electrocution. Lastly, they assert that the substation will stand dangerously close to inflammable fuel storage tanks, so why risk that ?

My view is that these objections can both be met and at no great cost. Regulations regarding the proximity of power lines to ball fields and schools can be drafted and should be. As for the neighbors’ objections, these tear at one’s heart but probably do not predict events. The potential for children wandering into a live transformer wire zone is real, but hardly impossible to prevent. Lastly, the claim of too great a proximity to major fuel storage tanks can be responded to. Those tanks are all attached to their station by electric wiring. It doesn’t seem likely that oil tanks already wired will become more dangerous because the substation that serves them if located nearby.

Eversource must be able to meet all objections and likely can do so. Electricity has always been dangerous to create and transmit. Eversource has decades of experience confronting the dangers of electric power transmission and storage. Of course we cannot allow Eversource to build an unsafe power facility, nor a leaky one; my sense of it is that of all the risks involved in the planned substation,  electricity’s danger is something that Eversource is most well prepared to minimize.

Such is the positive case for approving the Eagle Square substation. The case for disapproving will surely be testified to at the November 30th hearing, complete with evidence and assessments. We will be eager to hear the opposition’s best case.

However : if the entire community needs this power increase, as Eversource asserts it does, why should a few be allowed to inconvenience the many ? Power is essential to everything in modern life. A home can’t run without it, you can’t recharge your smart phone, you can’t refrigerate, you can’t heat your residence. Businesses can’t operate either. It’ll have to be shown me quite conclusively, that Eversource is mistaken about upcoming power needs, before I will oppose the substation entirely — although the safety concerns raised by neighbors and by Channel Fish certainly do merit diligent mitigation.

So, is there in East Boston a grave need for more power locally ? Perhaps the November 30th hearing will answer some of these crucial questions.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

 

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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