Investigative reporting reveals MassDEP withheld data and now permit is in jeapardy

DeSmog shows MassDEP knew it’s air data was incomplete months ago, but did not ask lab for the rest until Itai Vardi’s investigation exposed the existence of missing canisters. Thank goodness for a free press to uncover a corrupt process.

Last week, MassDEP released a new set of air quality data in the middle of our appeal hearing of Enbridge’s air quality quality plan approval. MassDEP released the new, 750+ page report the night before the hearing was scheduled to conclude. It was a really shocking event. MassDEP claimed that they received the report from the laboratory three days before (Monday, May 13) but waited until Thursday to send it out. Why did they wait those three days? The data in the report was collected in July of 2018, so why did they only receive it in May of 2019? We have many questions and are still awaiting answers.

Prior to last week’s data dump by the DEP, Desmog reported that the DEP had sent air samples to a lab in Rhode Island but never released the data. The samples from the lab showed elevated levels of 1,3-butadiene (a carcinogen) and acetone. Despite having these data, the DEP still went ahead and approved Enbridge’s air quality plan.

The presiding officer is seeking answers from DEP and has threatened to place sanctions on the department. The air quality plan approval could be in jeopardy now.

Itai Vardi covered DEP’s recent data dump in Desmog and how it connects to previous reporting. You can read it here: After DeSmog’s Revelations, Enbridge’s Weymouth Gas Facility Air Permit in Jeopardy.

“In a surprise move that threw a controversial fossil fuel project into a whirlwind, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) late last week revealed new evidence of toxins in the area of a proposed natural gas facility in the greater Boston area.

The sequence of events leading to the disclosure was set in motion by DeSmog’s recent revelations that the state had not released air pollution data, including evidence of carcinogens, which were collected from the proposed site of Enbridge’s gas compressor station in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Now, DEP’s air permit for the compressor station, which is currently under appeal, is teetering. …

The amended report indicated the presence of at least 12 toxins not previously included in the earlier report, including elevated levels beyond state limits of the carcinogen 1,3-butadiene. The presence of these newly reported toxins is consistent with ones detected in other samples the DEP sent at the time from Weymouth to a state lab in Rhode Island — another batch of data that was withheld from the public but which DeSmog revealed last month.

It was this revelation that apparently prompted the DEP to request the amended report from Alpha Analytical. …

On Monday this week, Jane Rothchild, DEP’s hearing officer presiding over the appeal, scolded the agency for the eleventh-hour data dump, calling it “unacceptable.” She suspended the hearings and threatened the department with sanctions, ordering it to disclose its recent communications with Alpha Analytical and explain why it shared the report with the parties in the appeal three days after it received it from the lab.

In response, a senior DEP official said in an affidavit today that the department received the first batch of new data from Alpha Analytical on May 10 — nearly a week before the DEP publicly released the lab’s entire report. The official explained that several other officials at DEP, including its general counsel, had to review the report before its release, which explains the delay.” (Itai Vardi, Desmog)