Today the Commission issued an order involving the Atlantic Bridge Pipeline Project, and more specifically, a compressor station located in Weymouth, Massachusetts. FERC granted the Atlantic Bridge Pipeline Project a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity in early 2017. The project subsequently received authorizations to commence construction and, upon completion, to begin operation. In September 2020, the same month that Commission staff authorized operation, the Weymouth Compressor station experienced two emergency shutdowns, following the unplanned release of natural gas.
A variety of community groups and individuals sought rehearing of the Commission staff order permitting the compressor station to commence operations. On February 18, 2021, the Commission sought briefing on the blowdowns and their implications for community safety and, by extension, staff’s decision to allow the facility to enter service. We have received and carefully considered nearly a hundred responses.
I believe that the Commission likely erred in siting the Weymouth Compressor Station where it did. This facility is located in a heavily populated area that is home to two environmental justice communities. Those communities have borne a disproportionate burden from a legacy of industrial activity, including elevated rates of asthma, certain cancers, and other serious illnesses. Particularly in light of that history, Petitioners’ concern about the impacts of the Weymouth Compressor station and the blowdowns it has experienced is legitimate, understandable, and, frankly, inadequately assessed in the underlying certificate orders.
But that is not the issue that was before the Commission today. The certificate is final and, under the law as it stands, that leaves only one issue for us to decide: Whether the Commission erred in allowing the project to go into service? The deficiencies in the now-final certificate do not provide a legal basis to prevent the Weymouth Compressor Station from entering service based on the record in this proceeding.
Although it is cold comfort for the residents near the compressor station, 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. Partly in response to the lessons learned from the Weymouth proceeding, the Commission has taken steps to ensure that individuals and communities have a full and fair opportunity to participate meaningfully in Commission proceedings. In the last year, the Commission established and filled a new senior role tasked with integrating environmental justice and equity into the Commission’s decision-making processes, formally sought input on how we consider environmental justice in various aspects of jurisdiction, and, last but by no means least, created an Office of Public Participation to facilitate public engagement in Commission proceedings. My great hope is that these changes will ensure that history does not repeat itself.
Finally, while the Commission’s role with respect to the Weymouth Compressor station is largely over, federal oversight remains. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has continuing jurisdiction over the public health and safety aspects of the compressor station’s operations. I urge PHMSA to keep a watchful eye on the facility and use the full extent of its jurisdiction to protect the residents of Weymouth. In addition, I also urge Enbridge to take its obligations as a corporate citizen seriously and take a hard look at any and all options to address the community’s concerns.