Six weeks ago, a federal court vacated the permit for the Enbridge gas compressor being built in Weymouth, on the grounds that the beleaguered and under-funded and un-minded Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection didn’t follow its own processes for granting the permit to begin with. Victory! Go home — or at least back to square one, right?
No, that’s not what happened. Construction never stopped. Even in the middle of a pandemic, Enbridge kept building. And now it’s releasing gas periodically, in scheduling “blowdowns”. The town of Weymouth is professing to be unconcerned … but there’s more to this than meets the eye.
Algonquin this week plans to vent natural gas from the existing 30-inch pipeline so that workers can “test and tie in” a new pipe from the metering station to the compressor station building. While the work is related to the construction of the compressor station, town Solicitor Joe Callanan said the venting is technically from the existing infrastructure.
“That scheduled maintenance is legal under the air permit for the metering station,” he said.
But Alice Arena, of the Fore River residents group, said the maintenance is directly related to the construction of the compressor station, and the ongoing natural gas blowdowns wouldn’t be necessary otherwise.
“What we’re saying is that if it weren’t for the compressor station, they wouldn’t be doing this work,” she said.
How is this possible, if Enbridge don’t have a permit? Doesn’t that word mean something? I’m back to the Seinfeld car reservation episode:
(I’d like to speak to a supervisor about this, please.)
As we’ve said for over a year now — nothing makes sense in this Kafka-esque process. And you really have to wonder why Mayor Hedlund of Weymouth is trying to play this down; I’m pretty sure that’s not a reflection of his constituents’ mood.
But, everyone knows a few facts about the fossil-fuel pipeline market right now:
- Fossil fuels are a terrible, money-losing proposition. Companies are going bankrupt (which is actually bad for the environment when they leave their gas wells leaking.)
- Pipelines are being cancelled and delayed — for legal reasons, for business/marketplace reasons, because of being endlessly hassled by enviros. It’s a bad investment. No Atlantic Coast Pipeline under the Appalachian trail — cancelled. Dakota Access Pipeline — shut down, then just recently re-opened — now what? Is this a good, easy-money bet?
- Pipeline expansion in Massachusetts has been cancelled in recent years. Remember the Enbridge/Spectra Access Northeast pipeline? No? That’s because it never happened.
- There’s no possible way that we need the gas, given the untapped resources of conservation, demand response, renewables, and the like; and if anything, the prospective marketplaces for fracked gas in Europe are even less enthusiastic about getting it. Nobody wants this stuff.
Enbridge, your days are numbered. Time to cut your losses — and ours.
Trickle up says
So Charlie, or anyone, how come construction is proceeding without this permit? Is it just an operating requirement? Why aren’t the opponents seeking immediate enforcement–or are they?
The only thing I have been able to learn is that Senators Warren & Markey have asked FERC to shut construction down because there is no air permit.
Charley on the MTA says
I believe that the judge held off on mandating rescinding the permit while Enbridge had a chance to respond legally. For them it’s all about keeping it alive long enough to put “facts on the ground”, IOW better to apologize than ask permission. They probably also think they’ve got the legal capacity/ability to out-wait the various interests and municipalities opposed to the project — though as I say, time is money for Enbridge too.
We’d be foolish to think that the fossil fuel industry is made up of geniuses who have gamed out every move and possibility. The industry is cratering, and the moves they make have to be seen in that context.