The possibility of a deadly explosion, decreased property values, and disregard for citizen’s rights — they’re all reasons why residents in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, say they oppose a high-pressure gas pipeline in their neighborhood.
The five-mile-long West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, built by Texas-based Spectra Energy Corp., went into operation on Dec. 1, despite more than 200 protester arrests, two federal lawsuits filed by the cities of Boston and Dedham, and vocal opposition from Boston’s mayor, Marty Walsh, and other city officials.
“We don’t need it,” local resident Seamus Whelan, a founder of the opposition group Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, or SWRL, said. “There’s already enough gas.”
Residents and city officials have voiced opposition against the high-pressure pipeline that will carry gas at 750 pounds per square inch through residential areas. Regular distribution lines generally carry gas at 20-60 psi. Most concerning, opponents say, is that the pipeline’s metering and regulating station will be located directly across the street from the blasting quarry at West Roxbury Crushed Stone. Many worry the blasts could increase the chances of an explosion, which they fear would have “devastating” effects on the community.
“I live six blocks from here,” Whelan said at a protest on Nov. 28. “My house shakes every day.” There are severale schools and assisted living facilities along the pipeline’s route through Westwood, Dedham, and West Roxbury — too close for comfort, he said.
Theresa Gaignard, another West Roxbury resident and SWRL founder, expressed concern about residents’ rights throughout the construction process.
“This all started with notices about meetings left on our doors,” she said. Those notices were too little too late, according Gaignard. Spectra had already applied for permits to build the pipeline prior to the 2014 meetings it held for residents. Many were unaware of how quickly Spectra was moving forward with the process, she explained. That’s why she and others formed SWRL and began canvassing the neighborhood to recruit residents and distribute information.
While Gaignard says she’s proud of how many residents are now involved, the growth has been “bittersweet.”
That’s because gas started flowing on Dec. 1, despite widespread opposition.
Still, Gaignard says it’s crucial to continue fighting. Since Walsh and leaders from the police and fire departments have expressed concern over Spectra’s refusal to share emergency plans, SWRL members have proposed a moratorium on the pipeline and plan to continue contacting local elected officials.
During the Nov. 28 protest, a gas tanker backed into a new metering and regulating station built on the site of a former woodland park.
“They’re taking our beautiful woodland … destroying our neighborhood,” Gaignard said, looking on. “No matter what they say, they clearly don’t care about us.”
Spectra is building the pipeline to help local gas company National Grid “meet its immediate and planned load growth demands within the West Roxbury area and the City of Boston,” Spectra said in a statement. The company also has a vested interest in the West Roxbury project: It forms part of the Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline, a 1,129-mile pipeline that stretches from New Jersey to Massachusetts. Spectra owns that pipeline.