Commissioner Allison Clements Statement
January 20, 2022
Docket Nos. CP16-9-011, CP16-9-012
I concur in today’s order because, on the record before us, we lack the legal foundation to provide the relief requested by Petitioners and other parties who have serious concerns about the potential environmental, health and safety impacts of the Weymouth Compressor Station. I am deeply sympathetic to the communities and individuals in the area, who have suffered – as any of us would in their shoes – great apprehension because of the repeated unplanned blowdown events at the compressor station. These unplanned natural gas releases are particularly troubling in environmental justice communities that already face disproportionate risks arising from the combination of concentrated industrial development and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Commission issued the certificate for the Atlantic Bridge Project on January 25, 2017. Thereafter, via delegated authority, the Commission issued authorizations approving construction and commencing operations. I joined the Commission after those authorizations, in time to vote for the Briefing Order underlying today’s decision. In light of the multiple unplanned blowdowns at the Weymouth Compressor Station, the significant impact of COVID-19 in the area, and PHMSA’s then-pending investigation and corrective action order relating to the two unplanned blowdowns in September 2020, in my view taking a pause to consider potential remedial action was the only responsible thing to do.
Although the Commission does not have the legal grounds to provide the requested relief, we can and must apply the lessons that the record developed in this proceeding teaches. The certificate for the Atlantic Bridge Project was awarded under the Commission’s outdated 1999 certification policy statement, which I have consistently urged be reformed. The policy is unsatisfactory and insufficient to produce a full analysis of what constitutes need in 2022 and beyond or of potential environmental, health and safety impacts. Among other lessons, the record in this proceeding shows that we must have heightened scrutiny of the need for, impacts of, and alternatives to, projects proposed for siting in or near environmental justice communities as we formulate and implement a modernized certification policy statement.
The Commission’s establishment of the Office of Public Participation is an important step in assisting the public to understand and engage in the Commission’s decision-making process and will undoubtedly improve community and individual engagement going forward. But the Office cannot change the outdated nature of our certification policy statement. It is up to this Commission to modernize our review of need and environmental impacts under section 7 of the Natural Gas Act.