Edwards, Activists Push for Substation Ballot Measure

On June 1 Councilor Lydia Edwards will hold a hearing on a non-binding ballot measure regarding the proposed Eversource Substation in East Boston. The ballot measure was sponsored by 10 Eastie residents and calls for meaningful participation from Boston residents in the approval of public utilities.

“I am supportive of the ten East Boston residents who petitioned the City of Boston to put equity on the ballot this Fall,” said Edwards. “Eversource failed to hold a public hearing in the community during the original review process for this project, which denied the East Boston community an opportunity to participate in the discussion of the need for this project. Any significant energy project such as this requires the full and informed input of the public, especially in an already disproportionately overburdened Environmental Justice community like East Boston.”

The ten Eastie residents have gathered the required signatures to place a question on the ballot in this fall’s municipal election and will ask voter’s citywide whether they support the community’s efforts against the substation

According to state law, a non-binding public option question may be placed on the ballot for a regular municipal election by vote of the City Council with the approval of the mayor. The petition must include the signatures of at least ten registered voters of the City of Boston and deemed sufficient by the Board of Election Commissioners before a hearing takes place.

Historically, a non-binding  ballot question provides information to elected officials and the public of voter sentiment on a particular issue. 

Despite widespread community opposition as well as opposition from over a dozen Massachusetts elected officials the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) unanimously approved Eversource’s highly controversial plan to build a new substation back in February. 

The substation was originally approved to be sited at the City Yards back in 2017. The proposal voted on by the EFSB was to allow Eversource to move the proposed substation to western edge of the City Yards and further away from American Legion Playground.

In a marathon meeting on February 25 that lasted several hours and included the adoption of several amendments to Eversource’s plan such as a safety plan, flood zone management and community mitigation the board eschewed Eastie’s already overburdened industrial infrastructure and rubber stamped the plan.

Despite state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides saying at Monday’s hearing that the substation would be placed in a “heavily, heavily industrialized area within an environmental justice community that has historically suffered disproportionate environmental harms and a heavy burden of infrastructure” she still voted in favor of Eversource’s plans as an EFSB board member.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey recently joined the city’s Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space Reverend Mariama White-Hammond and GreenRoots advocate Noemy Rodriguez to urge Eversource to justify or cancel its proposed electrical substation in East Boston.

Edward’s hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 1st at 10:00 am and will take place virtually on Zoom. Simultaneous interpretation into Spanish will be available. Members of the public are invited to testify. Invited participants include residents who signed the petition and the Boston Elections Department. 

To get the Zoom link to participate or to submit written testimony, residents can send an email to [email protected]. If you wish to watch the hearing, visit https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council/watch-boston-city-council-tv.

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