Serious Concerns

Energy Facilities Siting Board hears testimony on Eastie substation

Despite more than a dozen city, state and federal elected officials urging Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides to postpone last Wednesday’s Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) hearing on Eversource’s highly controversial plan to build a new substation in East Boston, the state went ahead with its hearing. However, the EFSB delayed Thursday’s expected vote on whether or not to approve Eversource’s substation due to last week’s snowstorm.  Last Wednesday, the EFSB heard testimony from dozens of Eastie elected officials, residents and activists who have been fighting against placing the substation City Yards in East Eagle Square for years Ahead of last Wednesday’s hearing and on behalf of the neighborhood 16 elected officials sent a letter to Theoharides and urged her to delay the hearing and vote.  The letter cited serious concerns about the accessibility of the hearing to Eastie residents, to which the COVID-19 pandemic has hit especially hard. The elected officials argued that with Eastie experiencing one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection in the state the high positivity rate has led to stark economic fallout, including unemployment, food insecurity, and homelessness and holding such an important meeting and vote is unfair–given Eastie’s steadfast opposition to the proposal over the years.  However, the EFSB still went forward with the hearing but Eversource’s plan was condemned by attendees like City Councilor Lydia Edwards.  “I wanted to emphasize a couple things to the board,” said Edwards during her Wednesday testimony. “First, as you know from the very beginning I opposed this substation in the neighborhood for several reasons. I was at one of the first meetings that your (EFSB) board came to meet the community. And for those of your board members that were there, I think it was painfully obvious how much this community does not want this. I think, and as much as your standards allow for you to consider the humanity and the impact, I hope that you will not ignore the fact that not only do we not want it (substation) but we have not been sold on the fact that we need it.” Edwards argued that Eversource has not been truly explained why Eastie needs a new substation nor given any alternatives.  “There’s a lot of industrial and commercial use along Chelsea Creek and other locations are available,” said Edwards. “We have to allow for alternatives. I want to be very clear that if you consider yourself a board that weighs the merits of any case, this case has failed–not only the community but the basic standards of decency.” Edwards emphasized again that Eversource has not explained why there is a necessity for a new substation in Eastie nor have they truly explained why the location in Eagle Square is necessary. They have lost the community’s trust,” said Edwards. “I’m hoping that this board will not continue to lose that trust. I’m asking this board not to implement and push forward environmental injustice and racism and classism in this neighborhood. It is a permanent structure we’re talking about for the financial benefit of one company. We are paying for this. The rate payer is actually paying for this so it costs Eversource nothing to change its location.” Edwards pleaded with the board to “do better” in Eastie when it comes to this proposal.   “If it is so necessary, and so vital, pick another location,” said Edwards. “It costs the company nothing but it costs us as a community everything. This is the wrong time, the wrong place at the wrong kind of energy to be implementing. It’s missing every single call at the moment–environmental justice and green energy sources in a civil rights movement. For you to even consider doing this to us is a slap in the face.” “So I stand here again asking you to do the right thing,” she added. “There has been no real attempt by Eversource to do right by this community so I’m asking you not to enable their racism or classism, or their environmental injustice.”

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