State Senate Moves to Block Ethanol Trains

State Senate Moves to Block Ethanol Trains

An amendment to the State environmental law would, if approved, block a license required for track upgrade

The Massachusetts State Senate last Thursday approved an amendment that would, if agreed to by the House and signed by the Governor, block a permit required by Global Petroleum before it can begin repairs on a rail siding it must use if it is to receive trains carrying ethanol at its Chelsea facility.

Global currently receives ethanol at that facility by barge from Providence, RI and is seeking to complete an all-rail route that would bring ethanol from the midwest to Chelsea, where it is blended with gasoline. In order to receive the "unit trains", trains whose rail cars consist of a single bulk delivery Global needs to modernize the rail spur and siding located next to its blending facility. Because the rail line is located within 200 feet of the Chelsea Creek and within its flood plain, these upgrades require a license from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Global has faced growing opposition to its plans and the Legislature, as part of its Transportation Bond Bill, prohibited the DEP from issuing a license until the Department of Transportation (DOT) completed a safety study. That study showed that the cities through which the ethanol trains would travel - Somerville, Cambridge, Chelsea, Revere, and Boston - were unprepared for the risks and that an accident could involve the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people. Despite these risks, federal law supersedes any state regulation of freight transported by rail, leaving the DOT with no leverage to even require that rail cars meet current safety standards.

The State Senate approved an amendedment offered by Senators Petruccelli, DiDomenico, Jehlen, and Brownsberger that would prohibit the DEP from licensing:

An ethanol storage or blending facility that stores or blends or is intended to store or blend more than an average of 5,000 gallons of ethanol per day and is located within one mile of a Census block that has a population density of greater than 4,000 people per square mile ... For the purposes of this section, ethanol shall be defined as any mixture composed of not less than 30% ethanol.

The State Senate budget proposal now goes to a joint House/Senate Conference Committee to reconcile differences between their respective budget bills then on to the Governor for his signature.

The Cambridge legislative delegation will host two forums about ethanol trains. The first meeting will occur on June 4 at 5:30 PM at the King Open School, 850 Cambridge St., Cambridge. The second meeting will take place on June 5 at 6:15 PM at Graham and Parks School, 44 Linnaean St., Cambridge. Representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will present the findings of their ethanol safety study and answer questions from the public. Following this presentation, elected officials will facilitate an open discussion about the proposed plan and explore opportunities for public involvement.

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Comments

Saul, cool use of Document Cloud, and I like the block quote. Nice way to break up the article.

I'm interested in sitting down with you to talk more about some of the tools you've been using in your posts. I think NM could really benefit from them, and perhaps we can have a few trainings on them. We'll talk soon.