Eversource Substation Question Will Appear on November’s Ballot

A non-binding ballot question regarding the proposed Eversource Substation in East Boston sponsored by 10 Eastie residents and supported by Councilor Lydia Edwards will appear on the November Ballot during Boston’s Municipal Election. 

The non-binding ballot question calls for meaningful participation from Boston residents in the approval of public utilities and was recently approved by the Boston City Council.

The question to voters will read, “Should a high voltage, electric substation be built at 400 Condor Street in East Boston, along the Chelsea Creek, near homes, parks, playgrounds, jet fuel storage, and in a flood risk area rather than in a nearby alternative safe and secure location such as non-residential Massport land at Logan Airport?”

Councilor Edwards was supportive of the 10 Eastie residents who petitioned the City of Boston to put equity on the ballot this Fall. Edwards argued that Eversource failed to hold a public hearing in the community during the original review process for this project, which denied the Eastie community an opportunity to participate in the discussion of the need for this project. She added that 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 Eastie. 

“Ten incredible citizens of East Boston came into the Elections Department and filed a citizen petition to be put on the ballot,” said Edwards. “It is non binding, which means if it is successful it actually cannot be enforced but it is still a moral statement if you will from the people of Boston that projects like the proposed substation should not be near homes, parks, playgrounds, etc.”

The ten Eastie residents gathered the required signatures to place a question on the ballot and it was approved by the Council. 

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 the 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.

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