By Michael Coughlin Jr.
In a fight that has spanned about a decade, activists are still making their voices heard, protesting the impending construction of an Eversource electric substation on Condor Street across from the American Legion Playground.
Just last week, members of Extinction Rebellion Boston (XR) and GreenRoots, two environmental justice groups, were stationed across from the construction site protesting the substation and erected a banner that reads ‘No Eastie Substation.’
As for the chief concern among those opposing the substation, it comes down to safety; many are worried that the substation could be disastrous for the area due to potential flooding.
“At the most immediate level, this is a major public health concern because of the fact that when substations flood – which this substation is sited in a flood plain area – … they explode, which we have seen happen in Manhattan, and we have seen happen in California,” said Alex Chambers of XR.
Gregg Housh, an XR activist, echoed Chambers’ sentiment, called for the substation to be moved elsewhere, and called construction at the current site a “travesty.”
“There’s plots literally a mile from here that the transmission lines are even closer to that are better for this that won’t flood by next year. Which I mean, I’m sorry, but with all the climate change that’s currently going on right now, this thing is going to flood more often, not less often,” said Housh.
John Walkey, GreenRoots’ Director of Waterfront and Climate Justice Initiatives, has been in the fight against the new substation since the process officially began back in 2014 and even before that behind the scenes.
After all his years of fighting and even with an appeal pending, Walkey seemed frustrated that the substation is on the precipice of construction.
“We figured at some point someone would come to their senses, and this project would end up getting paused or negotiated in some fashion. There has been absolutely no bending on the part of the state regulators or of Eversource,” said Walkey.
“They have pushed ahead with exactly what they wanted, with the only difference being the project has moved from one side of the site to the other.”
Not only did Walkey emphasize the dangers of the substation in an area that could potentially flood especially considering there is a playground next door, but he also talked about the strain a project like this will have on taxpayer’s wallets.
He stressed the negative impact the cost of this project could have on lower-income families, citing the already soaring utility costs.
“We are getting sort of a double whammy of having the bills go up because of supply issues, but then the bills go up because of these kinds of investments – $103 million is nothing to sneeze at,” said Walkey.
As for the coming days and weeks, there are plans for more protests of the substation, and Chambers urged residents to make their voices heard. Chambers eluded to the fact that over 80% of voters opposed the construction of the substation on a ballot question in 2021, saying, “We need those people to show up.”
For more information on when and where protests will happen, visit https://xrboston.org/contact for contact information and social media accounts.
“We’re calling on Governor [Maura] Healey to bring Eversource to the table and to bring Massport to the table and to move the site of the substation to Massport property,” said Chambers.