State approves new Eversource substation in East Boston

Map of proposed Eversource substation

Map of the new substation.

State energy regulators have given Eversource the go ahead to build a large new substation near Chelsea Creek, off East Eagle Street, and connect it to new transmission lines across the creek in Chelsea and Everett.

The decision by the Energy Facilities Siting Board, published today, is a defeat for nearby residents and the Channel Fish Co., which argued the proposed substation, near the fish company's ammonia tanks, a jet-fuel depot and a planned city soccer field, are a safety hazard. Channel Fish, which bore much of the legal cost of fighting the proposal over the past two years, said stray electricity would interfere with its processing equipment and that any possible explosion at the substation could turn into a giant conflagration involving its ammonia and the jet fuel that would "decimate the surrounding community and cause multiple fatalities."

But state regulators said Eversource had convinced them that not only are the substation and transmission lines needed to ensure a reliable source of electricity in East Boston and surrounding communities, but that the facility would be built to industry standards to ensure Channel Fish's operations won't be affected and that the substation won't simply explode. The state officials who sit on the board added the company has promised to build a fence high enough that no players at the soccer field would be tempted to climb it in the event one of them managed to kick a ball into the substation area.

The state agreed with Eversource that alternatives to the $149 million substation and power-line project - including expansion of an existing Chelsea substation - would either be more expensive or would not be able to provide as much electricity.

Complete ruling (1.2M PDF).

Substation and transmission lines

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That parking lot looks like

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That parking lot looks like it could be optimized. Make it angled parking with separate entrance/exit?

Few things

the proposed substation, near to the fish company's ammonia tanks, a jet-fuel depot and a planned city soccer field

Read this out loud. A few times. Nice and slow.

But state regulators said Eversource had convinced them...that the facility would be built to industry standards to ensure Channel Fish's operations won't be affected and that the substation won't simply explode.

So, that this thing would be built to industry standards wasn't just a given from the start? That makes us all feel great about it.

the company has promised to build a fence high enough that no players at the soccer field would be tempted to climb it in the event one of them managed to kick a ball into the substation area

If there is even a remote possibility that something as large as a soccer ball can get into a "secure" part of the substation area, you may want to work on those risk assessment skills. See: the state of the world, and quotes 1 and 2 above.

Thi$ $eem$ like a $ound plan, that wa$ very well thought out by the fine regulator$ of the $tate of Ma$$achu$ett$, and with $erious con$ideration given to $afety. What could go wrong?

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Chelsea

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Yep. A few city councilors in Chelsea also oppose this. We have to deal with them digging up Williams and Marginal Street to put the lines in and the environmental issues with the buried lines.

Once again, Chelsea takes it in the rear for the rest of the region. Not that the gas terminals are enough or the tobin bridge, or the brown fields, or the swaths of waterfront land that is owned by massport.. not the airplane noise.
Nah who gives a sh*t about Chelsea.. they will just take it. /snark

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The one saving grace for Chelsea in all this

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Was that the alternative pushed by the East Boston folks, if the thing had to be built at all (they said energy use in the area had actually gone down and there wasn't that big of a need anymore) was to keep the transmission lines but expand the Chelsea substation.

Digging up streets

I notice that the blue line goes down Beacham Street in Everett, which has the worst pavement anywhere to be seen. Can we at least get a repaving out of this?

Regarding your first point,

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Regarding your first point, these things have to be put somewhere. No one wants a substation behind their house, so Eversource, etc. try to site them in industrial areas. This inevitably means they're near things like ammonia tanks and fuel depots, or open spaces like athletic fields. No matter where they site the thing, people will complain, because people just don't want anything new built.

So, that this thing would be built to industry standards wasn't just a given from the start? That makes us all feel great about it.

No, that was a given from the start. Politicians just needed to be reminded of that fact. The statement that they were "convinced ... that the facility would be built to industry standards" is a fairly meaningless statement intended only to remind them that their complaints are total BS and were addressed decades ago.

Imagine your neighbor complaining about some renovations you're doing to your house. You'll probably tell him "don't worry, it's all up to code" to try and reassure him. That doesn't mean you previously weren't intending for it to be up to code.

If there is even a remote possibility that something as large as a soccer ball can get into a "secure" part of the substation area, you may want to work on those risk assessment skills. See: the state of the world, and quotes 1 and 2 above.

Of course someone could kick a soccer ball into it. It would be prohibitively expensive to design every substation everywhere to be a completely enclosed box. Not to mention that would make it more difficult to do maintenance work on them, and to provide adequate ventilation. And guess who pays those added costs? Electric customers through rate increases!

Standard substation design involves fairly tall fences, often in two layers a few feet apart, but the top is still open. You know why? Because it would be pretty hard to damage anything in a typical substation by lobbing a projectile over the fence at it, and if you did manage to, all it would do is knock out power to a neighborhood for a few hours, maybe require replacement of a transformer.

Eversource actually conducts fairly extensive risk assessment on this, and have surely determined, just like every other utility in the country, that fully enclosing substations is completely unnecessary from a security standpoint.

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Everyone always complains about the poor shape of our infrastructure, but then whenever any improvement is proposed, it's always met with resistance like this.

pretty uninformed

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Yes these things need to go somewhere.....when they're needed. This one, by ISO-New England's own reports, was not requested and not needed. It fits Eversource's business model (i.e., justifies rate hikes for all of us), and that has been the only rationale for building this substation. It will do nothing for local brown outs and black outs as this is a transmission project NOT a distribution project. It's within the distribution system that we have problems.

The probability of an event happening here like this:

might be pretty low, but it is not zero. Currently the probability of it happening on that site is indeed zero. And when we think of what is at risk were something like that were to happen (in a flood zone -- and will be flooded in the infrastructure's lifetime, as admitted by Eversource's own flood study) given that it is about 250 feet away from an 8 million gallon tank of jet fuel, well, as a resident in that neighborhood I tend to say, nay-nay.

We've got jet fuel, an airport, home heating oil, gasoline, road salt, heavy truck traffic, outrageous Boston accents - I mean how many more burdens are we supposed to carry?
.....and y'know Eversource is laying a new high voltage cable from South Boston across the harbor to Deer Island. Would it be that hard to add a cable that went over to say.....the airport and stick a substation there...away from the residential neighborhood, since over 40% of the electricity is slated for the airport's use.....just an idea.

Also kind of telling that the new station they're putting in over in the Innervation District is on a raised platform with a wall around it and the one in Eastie -- on the ground...with a chainlink fence around it. C'mon ....they're not EVEN trying.

This is great news for East

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This is great news for East Boston. (I am being sarcastic). Eversourcce still hasn't finished the substation on Electric Ave in Brighton that they said would be done by Fall 2017. But then they chose the site of an old filled in spring fed pond. They can't figure out why every day they pump water out of the foundation. But then the contractor is now on time and materials, so.....

EMF effects

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And not of the tinfoil hat variety. They are siting the transformers right next to their building. On the other side of the wall is a metal detector used to detect magnetic anomalies (metal) in the fish that gets processed. Also they use a lot of ammonia in their refrigeration systems which have leak detectors, also disrupted by the amount of EMF expected to be coming off the substation and the high voltage cables leading into it. These are actual legitimate concerns.

There are also all sort of fears around long-term exposure to EMFs but so far childhood leukemia is the only one that seems to show a pattern across studies, at the levels comparable to what comes off high voltage cables. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences does not see EMFs as a source of adult cancers (at least not at the levels that substations put out).

half the story

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First, the parking lot is a police substation, not a public lot so the number of cars intended to fit in it is limited.

Second, they left the lines running all the way around the field so those that live in the area will have high power lines in the street bleeding into their homes. The link covers the other concerns with this whole project.
http://www.empowereastboston.com/overview

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