By Pattie Pacella
Neighb News Correspondent
Just a little more 100 residents from surrounding towns attended the Thursday, 5/12 meeting at Ford Middle School in Acushnet with the Mass. Energy Facilities Siting Board.
Robert Shea, an MEFSB representative, advised residents that they would be called upon one by one to share their concerns or comments.
Mr. Shea said there would be no deliberation on any comments. He said they were there to just “listen.”
He did invite residents to also email comments or concerns directly to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and to email@example.com. Emails should be sent to both addresses he pointed out.
Mr. Shea advised that the MEFSB participates in FERC proceedings involving natural gas pipelines in order to represent the interests of the Commonwealth and its residents. Once the siting board receives the comments, they will draft their own comment letter on the project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Most of the residents shared the same concerns for safety, with the large tanks being built so close to school age children, concerns of property value in residential areas, and that residents do not want the “two-Gillette-Stadium sized tanks” in their back yard.
The other running theme for residents was certainly that none of the elected officials were at the meeting to express their concern and support the residents.
Michael Boucher, Vice Chairperson of the Finance Committee was the first to speak. Mr. Boucher stated he was an elected officer of the Finance Committee, and his main concern was the safety of the tanks, “especially being so close to these two schools.”
Mr. Boucher also said that Acushnet is facing budget constraints and he is concerned that the proposed money to be received on the project, “doesn’t outweigh the safety concerns.”
“Who is paying for this project, the taxpayers or LNG,” he asked.
Town resident Brian Clougher got up and said, “Besides, Mr. Boucher being present, I think it’s an embarrassment that there are no elected officials here to hear what we have to say.”
Mr. Clougher expressed that he was struggling with the fact that no Massachusetts agency can put a stop to the project. He too had concerns for safety for the children, families and seniors.
He reiterated his frustration about the lack of elected officials at the meeting, saying “there should be more representation from our elected officials here tonight.”
Former Selectboard member, Leslie Dakin, who lost a bid for that board this April, agreee.
“As a former elected official, I’m quite disappointed that no elected official is here to represent us,” said Mr. Dakin, adding that he was opposed to the project.
He has been outspoken against it in the past.
Mr. Dakin expressed irresponsibility on the part of LNG developers who wanted to clear cut more than 150 feet of trees for the project. He said he was concerned about the air quality and noise as well.
“There are going to be two twenty-seven thousand horsepower compressors on site,” said Mr. Dakin. “Tell me that’s not going to sound like a freight train in the middle of the night.”
Mr. Dakin also touched on the fact that the FERC comment window is closing on May 30th, but their reports are not going to be available until June.
“How can we comment on something we’re not going to be able to read until after the comment window is closed?”
There was very minimal interaction between Mr. Shea and the residents. Mr. Shea called up each individual resident who wanted to speak. He thanked each person for his or her comment.
And in some cases, asked residents to “wrap it up” if they were nearing the five minute mark.
Members of Acushnet’s LNG Advisory Committee were present. Bill Lima shared his concern of living within 1,000 feet of the property, and said he had concerns about the current facility. He said there has never been any toxic emissions reports given to residents. Mr. Lima also said he had a concern what the cost to ratepayers would be.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
“I live at ground zero,” said Jerry Lawrence.
He explained that the proposed pipeline would be going through his land and the land is all wetlands. He said that his property is currently totally wet, even in July and August. His well line is 35 feet from the proposed pipeline.
“Is my property going to be underwater completely once they clear cut,” he asked. “I don’t think it should be set in a residential area.”
A resident from Dartmouth spoke about her concerns for the safety of her grandchildren who lived in Acushnet and attended schools in Acushnet, as well as the New Bedford, Pulaski School that is only one mile away from the project.
A resident from Rehoboth, Ann Jarosz, explained that Rehoboth is a right-to-farm community and is a heavily residential area, with only a volunteer fire department.
“When I shared my concerns for safety with Spectra, they told me to call 911,” she said.
Fairhaven resident, Karen Vilandry, president of the Hands Across the River Coalition, stated that no project like it should be in a residential area.
“It’s an insane project,” she said.
And Fred Schwartz of Acushnet said, “I don’t think you have to be a mental health person to know something is crazy. And this project is nuts!”
To learn more about the project visit www.AccessNortheastEnergy. com. To learn more about the FERC process and to comment, visit FERC’s website using the elibrary link at www.ferc.gov and docket #PF16-1-000.