March 2022, Vol. 249, No. 3


FERC Turns Back Efforts to Cancel Approved Compressor Station

By Stephen Barlas, Contributing Editor, Washington, D.C.

(PGJ) The Democratic-majority FERC dealt another blow to environmentalists when it refused their entreaties to reconsider the commission’s 2017 approval of the Weymouth compressor station outside Boston. It is part of the Atlantic Bridge Project jointly owned by Algonquin Gas Transmission and Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline.  

Environmental groups twice tried to convince FERC to stop the project while it was under construction, appeals the FERC denied. But a rehearing request by opponents of the Weymouth compressor submitted to FERC in October 2020 bore fruit when on Feb. 18, 2021, at the start of the Biden administration, the commission issued an order stating that the concerns expressed in the rehearing request, as well as in other comments submitted to the Commission, warranted further consideration and ordered a “briefing paper.”   

However, on Jan. 22, 2022, the commission rejected environmentalist and community activist concerns that the compressor, now in operation, was a danger to local minority communities because of air emissions and two blowdowns, which occurred soon after the compressor station went into operation in September 2020.   

In its final order, the commissioners stated: “Parties have not identified – and we have not found – any violations of the Certificate Order. Moreover, neither EPA nor Massachusetts DEP, the latter of which oversees compliance with the Clean Air Act within the state, has found that the Applicants have exceeded the emissions limits specified in their air permit … There is not sufficient record evidence of blowdown-related health effects to reasonably support the remedies Petitioners seek.”  

While pipeline opponents took it on the chin in this particular proceeding with the commission calling their objections empty, the final order should give pipelines reason for concern. First, Chairman Glick noted in his statement that the commission “likely erred” in its original 2017 decision to site the Weymouth compressor “where it did” because the location is home to two environmental justice communities. He added, “I hope that this proceeding will serve as a turning point for the Commission as we work to better consider, address, and act on issues of environmental justice.”  

Second, Commissioner James Danly argued that the commission had not provided a clear rationale for issuing the February 2021 briefing paper.   

He wrote: “…the Commission cannot absolve itself of the fact that the Briefing Order unlawfully reopened a final, non-appealable certificate.” He complained that the Democratic majority failed to provide “a clear and thorough explanation of its authority. Instead, the majority sends parties on a scavenger hunt – dispersing snippets here and there: sometimes in the text; sometimes in a footnote; sometimes with citations but most of the times not; never addressing the arguments or precedent that the Commission lacked authority to issue the Briefing Order.”  

Danly’s point, of course, is the Democratic-majority FERC could, in the future, issue another briefing order seeking to unwind an already-approved pipeline project.  

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