On Saturday, East Boston activists and elected officials joined together at American Legion Park, East Eagle Street to urge voters to vote “NO” on the upcoming question that will appear on the November Ballot during Boston’s Municipal Election.
The non-binding “Question 2” regarding the proposed Eversource Substation in East Boston was sponsored by 10 Eastie residents and supported by Councilor Lydia Edwards, local activists and Rep. Adrian Madaro.
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?”
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. Both the Council and Acting MAyor Kim Janey approved the measure.
Historically, a non-binding ballot question provides information to elected officials and the public of voter sentiment on a particular issue.
“The ballot measure will be the first time residents will be able to directly express to the City our opposition to this ill-conceived idea,” said Eastie resident Heather O’Brien. “We trust the new Mayor will use all her available powers to resolve this serious issue.”
O’Brien and members of environmental groups like GreenRoots argue that practical alternative sites exist, such as on secure Massport land at Logan Airport.
The groups say Eastie residents were promised an athletic field and natural flood protection buffer on the Condor Street property, which was City land until Eversource was given the prime waterfront site in a hastily arranged land swap with the City to build the new Bremen Street Branch Library. Eversource owned the land the current library sits on but was given city land on the Chelsea Creek so the library could be built.
Prior to the land swap, the City’s Inspectional Services Department granted Eversource a complete waiver on basic City review of the project. The City gave Eversource this rarely-given blanket waiver without any notice to neighbors or opportunity for comment.
Councilor 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.
Edwards, Madaro, and Janey, as well as Boston mayoral candidates Anissa Essabi George and Michelle Wu, have all stated opposition to the substation.
“I was proud to stand with my neighbors this morning in opposition to Eversource’s electrical substation on the Chelsea Creek,” said Madaro. “This electrical substation is next to tanks of jet fuel, across the street from a playground, and in a flood zone. As an environmental justice community, East Boston should not bear yet another burden in this location. On November 2, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard through the ballot. Question 2 asks if we want this dangerous substation in East Boston. Join me and vote NO on Question 2.”
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.
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.
The substation is the subject of numerous pending appeals and legal challenges at the state level from Eastie residents and organizations.