There are many environmental concerns related to this project.
The proposed substation is just feet from the Chelsea Creek, along an eroding shoreline that is the focus of an emergency Army Corps of Engineers stabilization and wetlands restoration project. Moreover, part of the substation will be within the 100-ft Wetlands Buffer that is stipulated by the Wetlands Protection Act.
Because the site is within filled tidelands, it is subject to the provisions of Massachusetts Depat. of Environmental Protection MDEP Ch. 91, which is supposed to ensure public access to the waterfront, and to require water-front properties to be used for “water dependent uses.” Despite the fact that an electrical substation is clearly not a water-dependent use, Eversource is fighting to get a license regardless.
The proposed substation is also within a Designated Port Area, which puts additional restrictions on the land-use of the parcel – restrictions which a substation does not meet.
Climate Change and Flooding
Eversource’s proposed substation plan does not adequately address the threat of flooding due to storm surge or rising sea levels due to climate change. Portions of the site will be as little as 20 feet from the Chelsea Creek, on an eroding shoreline.
Shockingly, Eversource’s own Flood Study concedes, “The site’s proximity to the Boston Harbor results in susceptibility to potential sea level rise. Over time, the base flood elevations may rise and impact the site.” (Section 1.3, p.9).
The choice of this location is also troublesome given the City’s most recent draft of its Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan, which lists accessing the vulnerability of electrical substations to natural hazards caused by climate change as a “HIGH” priority (p.136).
So why on Earth would Eversource even contemplate building a new substation in such a vulnerable and imprudent spot? Have we learned nothing from the flooding of substations during Super Storm Sandy?
Other Important Concerns
The site is polluted with lead (and who knows what else?) and MDEP has mandated a clean-up: RTN#3-0032798
Eversource plans to use SF6 at the substation, which is a very powerful greenhouse gas, and is known to leak.
Eversource is not going through the all-important environmental impact review of the MEPA process, and is trying to go through Ch. 91 instead, despite a questionable case.
Eversource is not properly taking into consideration matters of Enviornmental Justice in siting this project.
Eversource is planning to build part of its substation over a 150 year old Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO #14). The CSO is already in disrepair, and if further compromised during construction or excavation during substation construction, it could result in the line-backing up with storm water, and flood Eagle Square with raw human sewage!
The environmental impacts for alternatives such as expanding the Chelsea substation are far smaller than Eversource's East Boston proposal.