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Expert tells West Roxbury residents they don't want to be around if a proposed natural-gas facility blows up

McDonald explains natural gas risks in West Roxbury

McDonald paints a dire picture for West Roxbury residents.

Residents already inured to explosions at the West Roxbury quarry gathered tonight to get scared even more by the high-pressure natural-gas line planned for Grove and Centre streets along one side of the quarry - and the proposed transfer station across the street from it that would feed the out-of-state gas into National Grid's Boston-area distribution system.

Mark McDonald of NatGas Consulting in Hyde Park told residents at a meeting at the Irish Social Club that such transfer stations are usually placed in remote areas, not densely populated neighborhoods - and especially not right across the street from an active quarry that does lots of blasting.

McDonald said the "metering and regulating" transfer station, which he said would generate a hissing sound 24 hours a day , would step down the 750 lbs. of pressure from a large main to 100 or 150 lbs. of pressure in National Grid pipes. Typical pressure for a gas line into an individual house is a quarter of a pound, he said.

Its proposed location is on currently wooded land off Grove, just south of where Centre splits off. The pipeline would pass within a a couple hundred feet of the Beethoven and Kilmer schools and the Deutsches Altenheim nursing home.

McDonald pointed to a 2010 gas-pipeline explosion in a residential area in San Bruno, CA as an example of what could happen in West Roxbury: The explosion leveled 38 houses, killed eight and created a 40-foot-deep crater.

McDonald said he worries about the risk of contractors on other projects inadvertently puncturing the main. "When you dig and hit a 750-lb. line, you have a real problem." Even terrorism could be an issue - he said somebody with basic knowledge of gas lines could wreak havoc with "a couple of turns of a wrench" at the transfer station, sending highly pressurized gas down National Grid mains not designed for the load.

He added that he gas in the large main would have no odor - that's only added at the National Grid end - so residents wouldn't even be able to tell if the new main were leaking from the cracks that might be caused by vibrations from blasting at the quarry.

"This pipeline does not belong in this neighborhood, and the gas companies and the regulators know it," he said. But regulators, he said, are reluctant to go against the energy companies. He noted that FERC Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur - herself from the Boston area - took the job after serving as executive vice president and acting CEO of National Grid.

Spectra Energy says the new pipeline, which would run from Westwood through Dedham and into West Roxbury by way of Washington Street and up Grove, will increase the supply of natural gas in the region and help National Grid better regulate gas pressure in its mains. And it says the pipeline will run mostly under parking lots and roads, is completely safe.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has final say over the project; a decision could come in mid-January. After listening to McDonald, the roughly 40 residents split up into smaller action groups to plan quick action to try to stop the pipepline - from letter writing campaigns to possible street protests.

Organizers put special emphasis on contacting senators Warren and Markey. Unlike Mayor Walsh, US Rep. Steve Lynch, state Rep. Ed Coppinger and City Councilor Matt O'Malley, all of whom oppose the pipeline, the two senators have yet to say how they feel about it one way or the other.

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Comments

Here it is again, so you don't have to scroll back.

I vaguely remembered this story, but was unaware of the more recent developments...HOLY F'ING SHIT! What a Grade 1 Prime FusterCluck!

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We do need more natural gas infrastructure, but there are legit NIMBY issues.

The San Pedro event, according to wiki, was caused when inferior welds in the pipeline which failed as the gas company increased pressure to meet higher demand. So even if a new pipeline is blocked, there can still be problems.

Maybe MIT can get that cold fusion thing sorted out soon.

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How about better welds ?

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Pipelines always leak and always fail. ALWAYS.

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Not sure if you are missing your {snark> tags here or if you are serious.

Yes they always leak. No, they don't always fail - at least not catastrophically.

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"Pipelines always leak and always fail. ALWAYS."

A couple of years ago I read of a structural engineer that would always ask where the steel was coming from. If it was any place that didn't start with the words, "United States", he would tack on another twenty to fifty percent to his safety calculations. He called it the 'spark plug factor'. Something to do with the embedded spark plugs in cheap recycled foreign steel. It was a comment, so I can't vouch for the truth, but it's a cool story.
Any competent engineer can design a pipeline that won't leak. He can tell you pressures, lifetime, etc. It's up to the contractor to build it according to spec.

A new pipeline will be up to the latest codes, inspected accordingly and perform as designed. The last thing a corp wants is an explosion.
I followed the link, their stock dropped eight percent, $1.5 billion. That hurts.

It's the old pipelines that need replacing.

Now if they could only get the New York to Dracut line approved...maybe the new gas fired generators (Salem) could buy long term instead of spot market.

Or just go nuke: Caution, irony explosion: "Toshiba Corporation has developed a small nuclear reactor to power oilsands extraction in Alberta and hopes to have it operational by 2020, according to news reports from Japan.
"http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/18/toshiba-oil-sands-reactor_n_2505...

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Now if they could only get the New York to Dracut line approved...maybe the new gas fired generators (Salem) could buy long term instead of spot market.

Let's run it through your back yard. Beats using "eminent domain", what a joke, to destroy farmland whose owners will in no way be compensated for the destruction of generations of work.

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Here's an observation of mine.

I live in Hopkinton where there is a huge natural gas plant owned by Kinder-Morgan. There are 3 large storage tanks plus a large processing plant. There are gas pipelines all over town leading to the plant. You wouldn't even know there was a pipeline there, if it weren't for the yellow stakes sticking out of the ground. In some cases, the brush is cleared to various widths. Other than that, birds are chirping, people are walking thru the woods, deer and other wildlife wander - life goes on.

So when people start screaming "The land will be ruined!", "Devastation!", "Explosions and FIRES!", "Wildlife barriers!", I just laugh because they haven't a clue. Yes, things will change, the land will be a little different, and it will even look ugly immediately after the pipe is laid, with all the dirt, But soon, the land won't look much different than before the pipe.

No, I don't work for a gas company. I'm just a guy that lives amongst the pipes and can honestly say that it's not a big deal.

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My man , I was going to bring this up , as well as some others , but don't want to spill the beans. These places take safety and security very seriously.

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I stink at this cut and paste link concept on my iPad. I have a link. I clearly don't have commenting skills.

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I know you're probably joking about cold-fusion, but there have been some exciting breakthroughs in energy within the last year:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/high-powered-lasers-deliver-fu...

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In the last few years, oil and gasoline trucks have caused a lot of damage and mayhem, too.

The reason they want to open this facility is likely due to increased demand for natural gas for heating, as domestic supply is way up and prices are down relative to heating oil.

Yes, there are risks - but there are risks of trucking oil all over the place. A reckless truck driver dumped a whole lot of it in the Mystic River recently, and I'm too lazy to do the google search on "oil truck tanker accident" that will likely turn up other examples.

Also too lazy to check out the affiliations of this expert. Yes, there are hazards, but there has been such a facility in my neighborhood for a very long time and it isn't exactly in a lightly populated area, either. We don't have quarrying activity nearby, however.

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Yeah, um, I don't recall any oil tanker incidents that leveled 35 houses, caused an eight-alarm fire and killed eight people. Call me crazy, but when you have a consultant from the industry in question telling you that this is a bad (or extremely atypical, at least) location, you should listen.

"Hm... natural gas transfer facility right across the street from an active quarry... what could possibly go wrong?"

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Add up all the tanker accidents versus this one incident ...

Single large incidents get the press and memory. Numerous smaller incidents that add up to massive damage and mayhem do not. A prime example is that 30,000+ people die due to motor vehicle travel every year ... one or two at at time ... and yet many people get far more worked up over terrorism risks on transit. That isn't to say these risks don't exist - just to say that a sense of overall proportion needs to enter into the discussion.

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I'm pretty sure that if you add up all the houses destroyed by oil tankers in the last four or five years, the number is still less than 35.

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That was a train disaster, but still part of the vehicle based transport of fuel vs. pipeline.

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From the Wall Street Journal of all places ...

http://online.wsj.com/articles/north-dakota-fracking-behind-the-oil-trai...

Lac-Megantic isn't the only one. Here's a compilation of recent mayhem:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/07/140723-united-sta...

I also drove past the wreckage of a massive train wreck in Saskatchwan in September that (thankfully) wasn't near any thing except the highway. It wasn't an oil-only train, but there were some burned out tankers. They were still repairing TransCanada 1 in that area as a result.

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How about that oil tanker that spilled in Everett a few years ago and torched a neighborhood? It wasn't 35 houses but I'm sure if you add up all the mayhem caused by oil truck accidents, electrical fires, and electrocutions those two utilities cause far more deaths than natural gas. Natural gas explosions are just more dramatic.

Besides, this project sounds like it will only help avoid an accident like the one in California. It will allow for reduced pressure in mains and will be built to modern standards, with far better welds than they could produce in the 1950's when the California pipeline was built.

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...I guess the Lac Megantic disaster would probably qualify, although it was rail and not road. But it's really neither here nor there, is it? As my granddad would say, "This is not a competition to see who's the worst." The fact that rail and road disasters happen doesn't somehow make other delivery mechanisms safe; what bizarre and childish thinking is that?

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'' . An average of 80 tankcars per train was carried on this route[29] under the supervision of one person only ''

That does not add up to credible safe operating procedure in my book.

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"We don't have quarrying activity nearby, however."

THAT'S what I'm worried about. I'm 2 blocks from the quarry and once a month or so the blast shakes my house hard enough to tilt my picture frames. The pipeline would curve right around the quarry's edge. I would like to see A LOT of information on how well those pipe welds stand up to stress testing before I'll be comfortable with the idea of the pipeline there.

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Hydrogen is our friend , sometimes! Ouch....

http://tribktla.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/rig-fir.jpg?w=450&h=254

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Are there any local neighborhood or activist groups that are opposed to this pipeline?

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Now this is something to be up in arms about....

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Committee to Stop the WRLateral Pipeline - [email protected]; a group to JOIN on Facebook "No New Fracked Gas Infrastructure in West Roxbury, Dedham or NEW ENGLAND!"; and WestRoxburySavesEnergy.org has been informing the community about the legal and political status.

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Yes, 350 Massachusetts among others will organize campaigns to prevent both the pipelines currently under FERC review - the Kinder Morgan project as well as the Spectra plan. Natural gas may be less damaging than coal, but it is not a bridge fuel, despite the well-financed marketing with which the industry has inundated us and the mainstream media (including the Globe) has been all too happy to echo. Methane is a green house gas, much more potent at trapping heat in the short term than CO2. Furthermore, the gas being piped our way comes from the fracking wells in Pennsylvannia and New York state, and fracking not only allows significant leakage of methane, but also poisons the ground water. We need to develop and expand use of renewables through local, distributive networks. Developing new fossil fuel infrastructure is the worst thing we could do.

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If you don't need to heat your house, your carbon footprint will be much lower than a New England resident. Oh wait, that's too much inconvenience...

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A few hours a day, a few days of the year, our current energy infrastructure system comes near its limit. This "shortage" could easily be compensated for by a few deliveries of liquid natural gas that we already have, or MUCH better, we the public, take a FEW more, tiny steps to conserve. We the ratepayers (and the environment) don't need to foot the $billions$ to build new massive and dangerous high-pressure gas lines, just so corporations can earn $billions$ transporting tortured Marcellus Shale gas out to harbors to sell to other countries. Call MassSaves.com to get a high rebate to switch to a high efficiency heater, or put on a sweater and lower the thermostat a few degrees. The echoing drumbeat of intelligent people and news outlets repeating basically the lie that we need more gas saddens me. They are pawns in a "calculations con job" to justify pipeline export expansion. For details and stats, see sites: DPU, Mass Energy Facilities Siting Board, the Dept of Energy Resources and CLF - http://www.clf.org/blog/clean-energy-climate-change/renewable-energy-sav... and http://www.clf.org/blog/clean-energy-climate-change/isos-big-mistake-cou...

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This is about distribution and end-user demand, not about supply.

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And gas line pressure , my Swirls !

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In my comment above I foolishly forgot to mention that the BEST WAY TO PLAN for any energy "shortage" is through public policy decisions to invest in a diverse renewables energy grid, as is happening but too slowly, instead of a fossil fuel infrastructure that will last only 20 years while causing danger to people and great harm to the environment.

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Build safe pebble bed nukes, make EVERYTHING electric, and be done with all this fuel transport logistics/air pollution/ka-boom nonsense.

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The fuel pools at many reactors are massively overpacked and vulnerable to power outages.

You need to figure out some safe place to put the waste before you make any more (and, no, Yucca Mountain was not an appropriate one). Otherwise, it is utterly foolish to build more reactors when we have these massive dirty bombs sitting amidst heavily populated regions already.

BTW, there are transport and logistics issues with any nuclear facility. Ahem.

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Do what France does and allow for onsite recycling of spent fuel. Then there is NO WASTE to transport. Why the US stupidly banned reprocessing of spent fuel is beyond me. Every other nation which uses nuclear power does this and doesn't have tons of dangerous waste sitting around because of it.

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I hear the Sun accepts all waste, with or without a 5 cent deposit.
The trouble is getting it there, well really in getting it out of the gravity well.
So go for a space elevator first:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_elevator
Followed by abundant reactors.

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