Activists from East Boston’s Chelsea Creek Action Group (CCAG) and other residents were out in full force to protest Global Oil’s plan to bring the hazardous material Ethanol to its storage facility on the East Boston/Revere line.
At a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hearing at Revere City Hall last Thursday Eastie activists showed up an hour early to the 6 p.m. meeting and held anti-Ethanol signs and chanted slogans that expressed their opposition to the plan.
The Eastie activists were joined by opposition groups from Revere and Chelsea as well as elected officials from those cities opposed to Global Oil Company’s plan to transport millions of gallons of Ethanol per year over the commuter rail tracks through Chelsea that will end up at the company’s storage facility on the Revere/Eastie line.
Inside the DEP hearing most people that testified were against the plan citing Global Oil’s proximity to many densely populated cities in towns and the fact the trains would also have to travel through these areas carrying the highly volatile fuel.
“The only people that would benefit from this plan would be Global Oil,” said one Eastie youth activist at the hearing. “If something were to happen we in the communities of East Boston, Chelsea and Revere would have a lot to lose.”
The Eastie teen pointed to an incident in Rockford, Illinois in 2009 when an Ethanol train derailed and exploded killing one and hurting nine others in the rural town. It took 24-hours for the fire to be contained forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people from their homes.
The Eastie teen questioned what would happen if an accident like the one in Illinois happened in a more densely populated city like Eastie, Chelsea or Revere.
While most Ethanol trains do operate without incident every day around the U.S., on some occasions trains have had accidents in which the Ethanol product has exploded in a chain reaction, causing great fires.
Most of those explosions have happened in remote, rural areas because typically Ethanol isn’t typically transported through dense, residential urban neighborhoods.
Global’s plan, however, would call for Ethanol trains traversing through residential areas on the commuter rail tracks in 25 cities and towns, including Chelsea.
The trains would come down the commuter rail line from Ayer/Ft. Devins during the night hours when the commuter trains are not running. It would pass through the western suburbs and into Boston, where it would then transfer onto the Chelsea line and end up on the Revere/Eastie line, backing into the Global Oil terminal.
No one is exactly sure what the plan is for bringing in such large quantities of the product. Many companies do ship Ethanol into the area by truck and by sea barge, but Global’s plan, by far, exceeds any quantities now coming in.
Each train would carry around 1.8 million gallons of Ethanol and there are expected to be at least two trains per week. Each tank car on the train holds 30,000 gallons.
Some believe Global will be using the Ethanol to blend much larger quantities of gasoline in order to supply a recent acquisition of hundreds of Exxon Mobile gas stations throughout New England.
“Global Oil has shown me that the villains that you see only in the movies actually do exist,” said another Eastie activist. “Is it worth it to sacrifice our safety for money? I think Global Oil is downplaying how volatile Ethanol is and ignoring serious incidents that happened in other parts of the country like Rockford, Ill and Oklahoma.”