A week after environmental justice agencies and local environmental activists filed a civil rights complaint against Massachusetts energy agencies regarding Eversource’s plan to place a substation at the City Yards in West Eagle Square, City Councilor Lydia Edwards submitted a formal records request to Massport to obtain information related to a proposed substation on Massport property.
The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), GreenRoots and Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) officially filed a Title VI civil rights complaint recently arguing state angines like Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) failed to provide proper translation and interpretation services in proceedings regarding a proposed substation.
The EFSB ruled in favor of placing the substation at the City Yards back in 2018.
Councilor Edwards recently held a hearing regarding the proposed Eversource substation in Eagle Hill and is seeking more information regarding the Massport project to better understand whether the two proposals could be combined on airport property.
“We invited Massport to our hearing a few weeks ago and they chose not to come,” said Edwards. “Instead they sent a four paragraph letter that doesn’t answer the community’s questions. If the two substation projects can’t be combined, we deserve a public explanation of why not.”
The records request asks Massport to turn over all documents related to “substations” or “switching stations.”
In the written testimony that was submitted for the recent hearing held by Councilor Edwards, Massport indicated that “there are very distinct differences between switching stations and substations.” However, Massport board documents from September 2019 show references to a “proposed new Eversource substation” on Massport property.
“This is an important issue to our community. These decisions will have consequences for decades,” said Edwards. “Getting these answers is important so that we know how to best advocate moving forward.”
Under Massachusetts Public Records Law, Massport is required to respond to the request within 10 days.
Last year Eversource filed a Notice of Project Change and sought approval to move the proposed substation 190 feet to the western side of the City Yards lot. Eversource said the two 115-kV transmission lines that would connect to the substation would no longer be routed along Condor and East Eagle Streets if the substation is placed in the western portion of the parcel.
In their civil complaint the group argues the electrical project would have catastrophic implications for low-income communities of color in Eastie and Chelsea. State officials treated demands for interpretation as disruptive, effectively shutting out participation from the area’s many Spanish-speaking residents.
Last year, local environmentalists from Eastie and Chelsea gathered at Boston City Hall to deliver 700 postcards to Boston Mayor Martin Walsh asking for the mayor to meet with residents on both sides of the Chelsea Creek to discuss alternatives to placing Eversource’s proposed substation along the creek.
For three years local environmentalists on the Eastie and Chelsea sides of the Chelsea Creek have launched a visual, media and talking campaign against Eversource’s plans to place the substation at the City Yards in Eagle Square.
However, the EFSB approval came with some provisos. According to the state energy board the EFSB directed Eversource to enter into discussions with the City of Boston regarding the possible relocation of the new substation on the Chelsea Creek site.
The complaint requests that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigate the state’s EFSB and its parent agencies, the Department of Public Utilities and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, for their failure to comply with federal laws ensuring equal access for limited English proficient speakers.
The complaint urges the EPA to halt the review of the proposed substation, pending this investigation into the Board’s language access policies and practices and until the present state of emergency has been lifted.
The substation was initially slated to be built on an Eversource-owned parcel on Bremen Street. However, under the former late Mayor Thomas Menino, Boston executed a land swap with Eversource. Eversource handed over the Bremen Street parcel so the city could build the new East Boston Branch Library in return for the city-owned parcel in East Eagle Square.