Open Letter Demands Clean Energy Alternative to Risky Eversource Substation

December 5, 2019 | 1:56 pm
Paula Garcia
Senior Bilingual Energy Analyst and Energy Justice Lead

En español

This is the fourth of a four-part blog series on East Boston, a Controversial Substation, and Opportunities for a Clean Energy Transition. Please click here to see blog 1, 2 or 3.

In recent weeks via this blog we have explored a proposal from Boston-area electric utility Eversource to locate a risky high-voltage substation in a densely populated neighborhood in East Boston. We have covered the characteristics of East Boston and the range of environmental justice issues it faces, the community’s concerns around the project, and our own analysis of a local clean energy alternative.

This blog post is aimed at the decision-makers who are tasked with determining the wisdom of allowing the project to proceed, or of requiring more information and a more reality-based exploration of risks and opportunities. Below is an open letter from Juan Ramos, a Union of Concerned Scientists colleague and a resident of East Boston, asking the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) to listen to the people of East Boston; to base their decision on up-to-date, transparent, and sufficient data; and not to approve the current substation proposal from Eversource. Add your name to this open letter!

Open letter to the Energy Facilities Siting Board

We are proud residents and allies, of East Boston. Some of us were born and raised here. Others of us chose to live here because it’s affordable and accessible to public transportation, and we appreciate the diversity of people and backgrounds. Whether we were born and raised here, or took a while to come to this community, we are all fortunate to call East Boston home.

Like many residents, we were shocked to learn about Eversource’s proposal to locate a high-voltage electrical substation right in our neighborhood. The substation is proposed to be built about a football field (around 110 meters) away from an 8 million-gallon holding tank of jet fuel, and right across the street from a playground where kids play year-round in a densely populated neighborhood.

Power substations can be a serious fire hazard: They can catch fire because of hot weather, lightning, human error, human tampering, and even—as has happened twice within the past two months—because small animals have gotten into the wiring. Flooding is another fire risk for substations, and Eversource’s proposed site is projected to flood regularly over the decades ahead as seas rise.

Essentially, if this substation is built, our community will live in constant fear of fire: of the smallest, most random, and least predictable accident igniting 8 million gallons of jet fuel and incinerating our homes. We are fearful for our safety, and for the financial health of the investment we have made in our neighborhood.

As you know, projects like this substation can’t go forward without approval from you, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), and the decision now rests with you.

In partnership with local environmental justice organization GreenRoots, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has issued a recommendation that the EFSB should not make a decision on the substation until and unless Eversource provides:

  • Clear, transparent, and sufficient up-to-date data supporting its necessity;
  • A cost-benefit analysis of clean energy alternatives proving this substation is the most cost-competitive option;
  • An infrastructure plan that shows the substation will be prepared to withstand the worse-case scenarios of sea level rise; and
  • Proof that our community in East Boston was properly consulted and our concerns properly addressed.

None of this has happened so far.

Residents of Eagle Hill whose quality of life and property value would suffer from having a power substation sited in our neighborhood deserve at minimum that the EFSB consider the many safer alternatives to meeting the energy needs of our region. UCS has laid out a clean-energy alternative that is forward-looking and would cost millions of dollars less than the proposed substation.

There is no need to burden our community with the risks of yesterday’s energy generation technology and yesterday’s energy planning approaches. Please hold Eversource accountable to us.

You can help: Add your name to this open letter and share it with your friends and neighbors!