Chelsea Stands in Solidarity with East Boston over Proposed Eversource Substation

Environmentalists, activists, residents and
elected officials on both sides of the Chelsea Creek are standing in solidarity
with one another in firm opposition to Eversources plan to place a substation
at the City Yards in East Boston along the Chelsea Creek.

On Tuesday night in Eastie the the state’s
Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) held a public meeting to discuss
Eversource’s Notice of Project Change that moves the proposed substation from
the eastern corner of the City Yards in East Eagle Square to the western
corner. The original location on the eastern portion of the city-owned parcel
was approved by the EFSB last year.

In its Notice of Project Change
Eversource seeks approval to move the
Substation 190 feet to the western side of the City Yards lot. The scope of the
upcoming meeting is limited to Eversource’s
proposed relocation of the substation from its current site on the
eastern side of the city parcel to its new proposed location.

Eversource said the two 115-kV transmission
lines that would connect to the substation would no longer be routed along
Condor and East Eagle Streets if the substation is placed in the western
portion of the parcel.

Local environmentalists from Eastie and
Chelsea have called on the EFSB explore alternatives to placing Eversource’s
proposed substation along the Chelsea Creek.

For two years local environmentalists on the
Eastie and Chelsea sides of the Creek have launched a visual, media and talking
campaign against Eversource’s plans to place the substation at the City Yards
in Eagle Square.

At Tuesday night’s meeting Chelsea City
Council President Damali Vidot attended the meeting and gave testimony in
opposition to the substation.

“I’m here tonight to express my opposition,”
said Vidot. “Although I represent Chelsea, a community of 40,000 low income,
hardworking immigrants and people of color who are always the afterthoughts of
corporate greed and irresponsible planning, I am here today as an ally with my
brothers and sisters of the Eagle Hill East Boston neighborhood whose
demographics are reminiscent of home. Planes, a salt bile, fuel and now a high
voltage electrical substation–I am tired of communities like Chelsea and East
Boston forced to bear the burden of environmental injustice at the hands of
greedy corporations. We are environmental justice communities and the civic
engagement in this neighborhood, or lack thereof, is a blatant disregard and
inconsideration of the densely populated areas of hardworking men and women
forced to bear the environmental ignorance of others for the sake of protecting
profits.”

Vidot called for an independent study to see
whether or not a substation is even needed in the area and, if so, does it need
to be placed an area susceptible to future climate change issues and sea level
rise.

U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who
represents both East Boston and Chelsea, sent a video testimony from her office
in Washington D.C.

“I’m your sister in solidarity,” said
Pressley. “This at its best is boor urban planning and at its worst and
injustice. It is unconscionable that a community already overburdened with
environmental injustices would be put in harm’s way and have those existing
health hazards exacerbated. The community should be a part of planning and I
know when we organize we win and this is a fight like so many others we are
taking on and I stand with you.”

Last year the EFSB ruled in favor of placing
the substation at the City Yards. However, the final ruling came with some
provisos. According to the state board the EFSB vote to approve the substations
and 115 kV underground cables in Eastie, Chelsea and Everett came with some
conditions. The EFSB directed Eversource to enter into discussions with the
City of Boston regarding the possible relocation of the new substation and the
related cable on the Chelsea Creek site.

Local activist John Walkey, who lives in
Eastie and works with Greenroots Chelsea argues that the project represents an
increased risk in both communities already bearing a huge environmental burden
in the region by playing host to Logan International Airport, highways and jet
fuel storage tanks along the Chelsea Creek.

Walkey made a push for the EFSB to see a
more logical place to site the substation.

“If only there was a place in East Boston
with restricted access that would a more appropriate location. Maybe a place
that already had millions of dollars invested in raising the ground level so it
is more flood resilient. Maybe a place that already much more secure with state
police oversight and very limited access. Maybe a place that takes up over a
third of the land mass in East Boston. And just maybe a place that is going to
be a consumer of over half the electricity that goes through the substation
anyway. Obviously the (Logan) Airport is a far more logical place,” said
Walkey.

As part of its decision the EFSB directed
Eversource to provide an update to the board on the status of discussions
between the community and city before construction on the substation commences.
This has given additional time for Eversource, the City of Boston, and
residents to iron out the alternative locations for the substation.

The substation was initially slated to be built
on an Eversource-owned parcel on Bremen Street. However, under the former late
Mayor Thomas Menino Boston executed a land swap with Eversource. Eversource
have the City of Boston the Bremen Street parcel so the city could build the
new East Boston Branch Library in return for a city-owned parcel in East Eagle
Square.

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Chelsea Stands in Solidarity with East Boston over Proposed Eversource Substation

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