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East Boston residents pressure Gov. Healey to stop construction of Eversource substation

East Boston residents pressure Gov. Healey to stop construction of Eversource substation
East Boston residents pressure Gov. Healey to stop construction of Eversource substation 02:01

EAST BOSTON - Pressure is growing for state leaders to step-in and stop a controversial Eversource substation currently under development in East Boston. On Wednesday, residents of the neighborhood gathered at the entrance to the Boston City Hall Chamber to voice their opposition. They were joined by a half-dozen City Council members who support their opposition.

Eversource broke ground in January but planning has been underway for years. The site sits on Condor Street in East Boston. It's across the street from newly developed parks and recreation facilities. Critics of the substation point out it sits roughly 300 yards from fuel tanks for Boston Logan International Airport.

"This is not right. This is not fair," said East Boston resident Sandra Nijar. "So far, we are voicing our concerns but are not being heard. They are putting our lives on the line for capital. For money. For Eversource. This electrical plant does not belong in East Boston. It does not belong where they want to put it."

John Walkey works for the environment advocacy group GreenRoots and said it is taxpayers footing the bill for this project. "You're paying to build something that is in a flood zone," Walkey said. "If it gets damaged, you will be paying to redo it. I think there is more than a few arguments to move this."

For its part Eversource said the substation was critical for ensuring power for a part of the city that is growing faster than any other. The company pointed out that East Boston is the only neighborhood in the city without its own substation. It's currently pulling from Chelsea.

They released a statement to WBZ stating:

"The new substation includes transmission and distribution infrastructure, which allows us to deliver electricity directly to our customers in East Boston, significantly improving reliability in the neighborhood. Additionally, this new infrastructure will provide a pathway for customers in East Boston to fully participate in the shift from fossil fuels to electric sources-helping the City of Boston achieve its decarbonization goals. Without added capacity, East Boston will not be able to fully access and take advantage of clean technologies like electric vehicles, electric heating, new heat pump technologies, and local renewables like wind, solar and battery storage."

In November, a ballot question showed 84% of voters in East Boston rejected the project. That ballot question was nonbinding.

The group is working to renew pressure on Governor Maura Healey and the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to step up and pause the project for review. As Attorney General, Healey spoke out against the project, but critics say she has remained largely silent on the issue since taking office.

On Wednesday, Governor Healey's office sent WBZ a statement reading in full:

"The Healey-Driscoll Administration is committed to reforming the energy citing process to be inclusive to environmental justice concerns. Without an inclusive or transparent process, Black, Brown, immigrant, and low-income people are forced to bear a disproportionate burden of energy infrastructure."

Boston City Councilor Gabriela Coletta represents East Boston but was just one of the councilors Wednesday to urge the governor to step-in. 

"I hope she does," said Coletta. "I hope she sees the advocacy and I hope she hears the concerns not just from elected officials but from neighbors across all socioeconomic statuses and ethnicities."  

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