A federal appeals court vacated an air permit Massachusetts regulators awarded to a controversial natural gas project, ruling Wednesday [June 3] that the state did not sufficiently assess emissions-reducing technology set to be used. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit scrapped the air permit for Enbridge’s under-construction natural gas compressor station in Weymouth and ordered the state Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a new analysis of what would be the best available control technology to limit air pollution. In a lengthy decision Wednesday, Judge William Kayatta said the permit cannot stand because the DEP did not follow its own procedures when it approved a turbine rather than an electric motor to cut emissions. Kayatta disagreed with many of the other arguments that petitioners made in their attempts to get the permit tossed, declining to fault the DEP for not considering existing concentrations of toxic substances in the Fore River area and deeming approval of the project not a violation of Massachusetts environmental justice policy.

The case will now go back to the state level, where the DEP must conduct further proceedings limited to the control-technology question that Kayatta identified. Opposition to the compressor station has been vocal for years, prompting protests against the DEP and Gov. Charlie Baker from activists and community members who allege it will create negative health and environmental impacts.

By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service. June 3, 2020.