An update on the fight: Unethical behavior, possible sanctions, and more

What a week it has been! Intense cross-examinations, shady moves by the DEP, and possible sanctions. Our fight is truly picking up a lot of steam. There has been A LOT happening and it can be hard to keep up with everything, so we wanted to give you an overview of where the fight stands today. Read on for a summary!  

LAST WEEK: DEP Hearing on our appeal of Enbridge’s Air Quality Plan Approval

Hearing Dates: May 15 - May 17, MassDEP Boston

  • In January of this year, MassDEP approved Enbridge’s air quality plan. FRRACS, Hingham residents group, Weymouth, Braintree, Quincy, and Hingham filed appeals.

  • We heard testimonies from close to 20 expert witnesses split between FRRACS, Weymouth, Braintree, Enbridge, and DEP.  

  • Some topics included: air pollution modeling, fumigation, stack height, safety, sound, conflicts of interest, existing pollution levels, the relevance of background pollution, existing DEP policies, and more.

Brief highlights:

  • Professor Nathan Phillips called Enbridge and DEP out for their unethical behavior (watch here).

  • Weymouth witness, John Hinckley, stated that Enbridge did not model for startups, which release 400x more emissions than normal operations.

  • Our attorney got an Enbridge witness to admit that if sound from the compressor is determined to cause a nuisance, the air permit should not be approved.

  • Peter Valberg, a witness for Enbridge, took the stand and was questioned about his work on a case related to mesothelioma. He was contacted by a law firm and asked to collaborate on scientific literature to connect mesothelioma with smoking, even though it was widely known at the time that mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure. Mr. Valberg then published an article in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity with financial support from the same law firm that initially contacted him. He then cited that article during the case when he took the position that exposure to asbestos did not cause mesothelioma, but instead was caused by smoking. He was also a witness in a case for Philip Morris

Reporters were present every day: State House News Service, WGBH, and Investigative Journalist Itai Vardi. A community member recorded the entire hearing. Videos will be available soon. (BIG thanks to the media and other supporters for making the hearing available to the public).

Media CoverageWGBHState House News ServiceThe Patriot Ledger

LAST THURSDAY: DEP released NEW air quality data (Breaking News!)

Around 6 pm on Thursday evening (5/16), parties in the air quality appeal received a new set of air quality data from the DEP. The report was a whopping 759 pages. They received the data last Monday, but waited until Thursday to send it. We still don’t know why. This was an incredibly unethical move on DEP’s part. The presiding officer, Jane Rothchild, was not impressed. DEP tried to claim that the new data were not relevant to the hearing. Ms. Rothchild disagreed and made the decision to extend the hearing to allow the petitioners the opportunity to review the new data.

A quick review of the report found many pollutants that were present in the new report but were missing from previous reports, including 1,3-butadiene (carcinogen), chloromethane (possible carcinogen), 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene (associated w/respiratory problems), freon-113, n-hexane, trichlorofluoromethane, and vinyl acetate. Read more here

Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility (GB PSR) found more than 9,000 insertions and deletions in this amended report, and the presence of previously unreported additional carcinogenic and hazardous compounds.

Media coverage: State House News Service - DEP introduces new air quality data in compressor case (link)

THIS WEEK: GB PSR Press Release, Possible DEP Sanctions, MAPC Speaks Out

GB PSR Call on Baker to Extend Appeal: Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility (GB PSR) issued a press release on Monday calling for an extension to the AQ plan approval appeal. You can read the press release here.

  • We cannot thank GB PSR enough for their ongoing support in this fight. They continue to use their voice, expertise, and platform to fight for the health of our community. We are grateful to have their support.

DEP Sanctions: The Presiding Officer for the air quality plan approval appeal announced that she will consider imposing sanctions on the DEP after the move that they pulled last week.

  • “The Department’s delay in disclosing the data to the other parties to the appeal until after the close of business on May 16, 2019, is unacceptable and may warrant the imposition of sanctions against the Department pursuant to 310 CMR 1.01.” - Ms. Rothchild

  • She has given the DEP until TODAY (5/22) at 5 pm to respond to a series of questions as to how and why this happened. More details here. Stay tuned for updates.

Deadline to review new data extended: Presiding Officer Jane Rothchild announced on Tuesday that she will give parties until this Thursday, May 23 to submit a written response to the new DEP air quality data. This is a 2-day extension.

  • Our expert witnesses have been diligently sifting through the 700+ page report over the past few days, comparing it to previous DEP reports to determine what is different. We are grateful for the immense amount of time that they are putting into this. More info here.

  • Investigative journalist Itai Vardi has been sifting through the document, too, and has already found many differences. You can read more here.

Big News: MAPC speaks out about the new data
MAPC, the agency that conducted the Health Impact Assessment (HIA), released a statement in response to DEP's air quality data dump. If the new data show levels of toxins above protective health thresholds, they believe that the AQ permit should be reconsidered. We thank MAPC for making this statement and for being willing to push back against the narrative coming from the state. You can read their full statement here