Chelsea Rises Up Against Ethanol

Chelsea activists protest Ethanol trains coming through Chelsea to Global Oil’s facility on the East Boston/Revere line outside last weeks Department of Environmental Protection hearing at Revere City Hall.

Activists from Chelsea Greenspace, elected officials and other residents were out in full force to protest Global Oil’s plan to bring the hazardous material Ethanol through Chelsea to its storage facility on the East Boston/Revere line.

At a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hearing at Revere City Hall last Thursday Chelsea activists showed up an hour early to the 6 p.m. meeting and held anti-Ethanol signs and chanted slogans that expressed their opposition to the plan.

The Chelsea activists were joined by opposition groups from Revere and East Boston as well as elected officials from those cities opposed to Global Oil Company’s plan to transport millions of gallons of Ethanol per year over the commuter rail tracks through Chelsea that will end up at the company’s storage facility on the Revere/Eastie line.

Inside the DEP hearing most people that testified were against the plan citing Global Oil’s proximity to many densely populated cities in towns and the fact the trains would also have to travel through these areas carrying the highly volatile fuel.

“The only people that would benefit from this plan would be Global Oil,” said one Chelsea Green Space youth activist at the hearing. “If something were to happen we in the communities of East Boston, Chelsea and Revere would have a lot to lose.”

The teen pointed to an incident in Rockford, Illinois in 2009 when an Ethanol train derailed and exploded killing one and hurting nine others in the rural town. It took 24-hours for the fire to be contained forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people from their homes.

The teen questioned what would happen if an accident like the one in Illinois happened in a more densely populated city like Chelsea, Revere or Eastie.

While most Ethanol trains do operate without incident every day around the U.S., on some occasions trains have had accidents in which the Ethanol product has exploded in a chain reaction, causing great fires.

Most of those explosions have happened in remote, rural areas because typically Ethanol isn’t typically transported through dense, residential urban neighborhoods.

Global’s plan, however, would call for Ethanol trains traversing through residential areas on the commuter rail tracks in 25 cities and towns, including Chelsea.

The trains would come down the commuter rail line from Ayer/Ft. Devins during the night hours when the commuter trains are not running. It would pass through the western suburbs and into Boston, where it would then transfer onto the Chelsea line and end up on the Revere/Eastie line, backing into the Global Oil terminal.

No one is exactly sure what the plan is for bringing in such large quantities of the product. Many companies do ship Ethanol into the area by truck and by sea barge, but Global’s plan, by far, exceeds any quantities now coming in.

Each train would carry around 1.8 million gallons of Ethanol and there are expected to be at least two trains per week. Each tank car on the train holds 30,000 gallons.

Some believe Global will be using the Ethanol to blend much larger quantities of gasoline in order to supply a recent acquisition of hundreds of Exxon Mobile gas stations throughout New England.

“While looking at the issue I keep coming across three terms and they are the safety, health and welfare of the resident Chelsea, Revere and East Boston,” said Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash. “There is nothing in this plan that would enhance these issues. I’m especially concerned in this post 911 world of the safety of our community here and the potential of brining a new potential target to the area. I’m also concerned about the public along the rail line, which includes homes, schools, nursing homes. I can’t see why we would want to add to a potential disaster if a disaster or worse was to occur along the rail line here in Chelsea.”

Ash also had several questions he wanted answered by Global Oil and the DEP concerning safety of the trains, security of the rail lines and plans for potential hazardous material cleanup if the project was to move forward and spill was to occur in Chelsea.

Chelsea City Councilor Matt Frank said he didn’t think it was fair to further burden the areas of Chelsea, Revere and East Boston with more industry.

“We already hold all the oil for the airport, all the salt for the roads, now a company wants to add ethanol to this three mile or four stretch,” said Frank. “Not fair for our residents to suffer another incremental threat to their community.”

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