Boston to rejoin active legal battle against West Roxbury pipeline

The Globe reports Boston will go to court to appeal a recent federal ruling dismissing arguments by the city, several elected officials and West Roxbury residents that the West Roxbury pipeline should be stopped.

Less than a month ago, an aide to the mayor was telling West Roxbury residents the pipeline was a done deal and that the city was confining its efforts to begging Algonquin Gas Transmission to hold a meeting to show depictions of its planned gas transfer station at Grove and Centre streets, where gas from the high-pressure pipeline would be fed into National Grid's system.

In September, a federal judge rejected city efforts to force Algonquin and its contractor, Spectra Energy, to at least delay the project over the issue of city permits for digging trenches along Washington and Grove Streets. Spectra has since installed parts of the pipeline under the streets and cleared the site of the proposed transfer station of trees.

The city appeal will be of a Jan. 28 ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that rejected a request by city officials and US Rep. Stephen Walsh, state Rep. Ed Coppinger and state Sen. Michael Rush, several West Roxbury residents, West Roxbury Saves Energy and the Conservation Law Foundation to reconsider its 2015 approval of the pipeline.

The commission rejected their arguments that it had failed to consider that a high-pressure pipeline and transfer station could pose a public-safety risk in a densely populated area, that there wouldn't be a need for the pipeline if local utilities would fix all the leaks in their existing pipes, and that digging a trench for the pipe under Gonzalez Park in Dedham without legislative approval violates the state constitution.

In its rejection, the commission said its staff did too look at safety concerns and found the pipe and station would be safe, that the fact that Algonquin has already signed up both natural-gas producers to pump gas into the pipe and utilities willing to buy it proves there's a need and that even if the utilities fixed all their leaks, that still wouldn't equal the extra capacity the new pipeline will mean.

As for needing the approval of the state legislature, the commission snorted that federal pipeline law was written specifically to preempt local and state jurisdictions.

If Boston school budgets are cut, high schools will get hit harder than elementary schools, officials say

Boston school officials today formally introduced a proposed budget that would cut central services such as nurses and force high schools to do things like drop AP courses and librarians, but leave elementary schools largely unscathed. And they urged students and parents to lobby the state legislature to help increase state aid.

At a School Committee meeting, Eleanor Laurans, BPS executive director of school finance, said she and her staff estimate BPS will have to cut $30 million from its budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, despite extra money promised by Mayor Walsh, because school costs - from salaries to CharlieCards for middle and high school students - are increasing even more. The $1.03-billion budget proposal is the largest in BPS history.

The budget is not yet set - school officials and city councilors plan a series of meetings over the next two months to discuss school spending.

Laurans said she and her staff rejected the idea of a single across-the-board percentage cut for all schools to help make up the budget hole.

She said elementary schools simply have less room to cut, because their budgets are already relatively close to minimum "compliance" budgets, that is, budgets that pay for programs that are mandated by the state or federal governments.

In contrast, high schools have numerous programs not mandated by higher levels of government, from guidance services and AP classes to athletics.

Some 30 students, parents and teachers attended the meeting to urge the committee to ask for more money from Mayor Walsh, in a city that is seeing record construction that will bring in new tax revenue - and that feels the need to throw $25 million in tax breaks at General Electric.

Students and teachers from the Boston Community Leadership Academy in Hyde Park in particular warned that the school just would not be the same without all the AP classes it now offers - and with a library that might have to close without a librarian.

Laurans said her staff has found $8 million in "efficiencies" that can be pruned from the budget - including money that would have gone to pay community organizations for providing services in schools and money that will be saved through tighter management of school-bus expenses.

But, she continued, BPS needs to cut another $30 million to balance its budget.

Roughly $20 million would come from slashing services BPS provides centrally to schools; the rest from schools.

Laurans acknowledged BPS now seems to have these deficits to make up every year, and said that this year, administrators will begin looking at cracking the nut of more fundamental changes to save money over the long term - such as changing the system's current school-assignment and transportation policies.

School Committee Chairman Michael O'Neill expressed particular ire that BPS is facing a $1.3-million increase - some 23% - in the cost of the roughly 21,000 CharlieCards it now buys from the MBTA. T officials have said that the cost of passes are not limited by the state law that bars it from raising basic fares by more than 10%.

The proposed budget does include some new programs - including a $4 million allocation to add 200 to 300 new K1 seats.

State wants to make sure it's not barking up wrong tree with proposed Stony Brook dog park

DCR holds a hearing Thursday, Feb. 11, on proposed designs for turning the shuttered Thompson Center in Stony Brook Reservation in Hyde Park into a dog park.

The session begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Hyde Park Municipal Building, 1179 River St.

Centre Street in Jackson Square shut as police investigate gunfire

Ben Rey reports this was the scene on Centre Street looking towards Hyde Square as he got out of the Jackson Square T stop around 4:30 p.m.

Boston Police report officers responded around 4 p.m. to a report of at least one shot fired at Centre and Wise streets. No victims found.

On Nov. 20, two were shot, one fatally, at Centre and Wyman.

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 16:15

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