High voltage transmission lines are used to move electricity long distances, from where power is generated to where it is used. These are the lines that you often see in the country-side, hanging from steel towers, but in this case they are going to install those same lines under the streets. However, most of the same risks persist even with the lines buried under our streets – out of sight should not mean out of mind!
An electrical substation is a set of electrical equipment that takes high voltage electricity from transmission lines and reduces it down to a voltage that is safe to be distributed to consumers. In this case, the East Boston substation would reduce 115,000v electricity down to 13,800v.
NSTAR/Eversource is proposing to build a new electric substation in East Boston in the old MBTA lot in Eagle Square, feet from the Chelsea Creek. The substation will be connected to the grid by two new 115,000 volt transmission lines under Condor St. and East Eagle St. The substation and the transmission lines are part of a larger Eversource project, called the “Mystic - East Eagle - Chelsea Reliability Project” which aims to connect the Everett substation to the Chelsea Substation.
What is a substation?
Our reasons for opposing this project are many:
Public Safety Risks: Beyond electrocution, there are public safety risks related to the transformers in the substation catching fire or exploding, especially with their proximity to a fuel storage tank which contains millions of gallons of jet fuel.
Health Effects: There are potential negative health effects from high levels of Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that would be emitted from the lines, as EMF’s are considered “a suspected risk factor” for childhood leukemia.
Lack of Need: There is not a demonstrable need for the project, and electrical demand has actually been decreasing.
Zoning Issues: It is explicitly forbidden by the City of Boston Zoning Code to site a substation on this parcel, and it is also not compliant with state regulations such as Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) rules which govern waterfront property use (DPA’s and Ch. 91).
Lack of Community Process: The community in East Boston was kept in the dark until the last minute about this project, and the landswap that provided Eversource with the land in East Boston was a sham.
Impacts to Local Businesses: Channel Fish, a vocal critic of this project, is concerned their business would be threatened by the proposed project because the high levels of EMF would interfere with their sensitive electronic equipment.
Impacts on Future Development: The site for the substation is in one of the City’s last vacant parcels in East Boston, and future plans will be impacted negatively.
Environmental Concerns: There are a myriad of environmental concerns, including the susceptibility of the site to flooding from climate change, tree clearing, herbicide use, conflict with an Army Corps. of Engineers emergency stabilization project, and an absence of a Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review process.
Superior Alternatives: There are superior alternatives, including expansion of the existing Chelsea Substation which already provides electrical service to East Boston.
Why should I be worried about this?
As of Aug. 19, 2016, testimony has concluded and briefs have been filed for and against the project. There will be a tentative decision and a public hearing in the first half of 2017. However, the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), the state administrative body that oversees energy utility projects, almost always approves projects like this, so if you want to stop this one, we need your help!
The docket for the case in East Boston is “EFSB 14-04/D.P.U. 14-153/14-154.” You can find all of the information related to this proceeding by going to the EFSB website and entering ”EFSB 14-4”. The EFSB is part of the state Department of Public Utilities, and it has the power to override municipal zoning codes and other permitting requirements for projects it approves.