Patrick Does Not Sign Petruccelli Amendment to Block Ethanol Trains

Last Friday Governor Deval Patrick sent the amendment to the state’s Chapter 91 law back to legislators for further changes and made his own recommendations to the law.

Senators Anthony Petruccelli, Sal DiDomenico and Patricia Jehlen’s amendment was aimed at blocking Global Oil’s proposal to bring 1.8 million gallons of ethanol by train twice a week into their facility on the East Boston/Revere border and was passed in Conference Committee.

Pressure from lawmakers and environmental activists forced Global to pull its application for a Chapter 91 license on July 1 thus ending the local ethanol battle here.

Because the facility is along the Chelsea Creek, Global needed a Chapter 91 license to modify the facility in order to store ethanol along the banks of the Creek.

The language inserted into the Chapter 91 law states that “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 shall not be granted a license under this chapter.  For the purposes of this section, ethanol shall be defined as any mixture composed of not less than 30 percent ethanol”.

Patrick’s proposed amendment puts a two-year moratorium on new routes of ethanol transport by rail in the Eastie, Revere and Chelsea Creek Designated Port Areas, and calls on the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to develop a comprehensive ethanol transport response plan for all municipalities where the ethanol trains may travel.

“We’re encouraged that that Governor has begun to listen,” said Director of Community Building and Environment at NOAH Kim Foltz. “But his revised amendment is only a temporary solution. How can you mitigate a horrific rail accident?”

The group again pointed to the recent derailment of a fuel train in Quebec as an example. On July 6th, a train carrying crude oil derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec and exploded, killing 50 people instantly, and destroying 30 buildings.

“Will a new study make me safer?” asked local resident Judie Dyer. “My house is a few feet from the train tracks. These ethanol trains should never be allowed to come.”

During a City of Boston hearing on the issue last year, the Boston Fire Department Commissioner Roderick Fraser testified that a special foam being handled by a specially trained firefighting force is the only way to put out an ethanol fire. However, the BFD did not elaborate if they currently have the capability of fighting an ethanol fire.

A map of Eastie, Chelsea, Everett and Revere showed just how many people would have to be evacuated in order to contain an ethanol fire. If a train derailed in Chelsea mostly all of Chelsea would have to be evacuated with parts of Eastie, Everett and Revere suffering impacts that would force thousands from their homes.

Again, activists pointed to incidents in Rockford, Illinois and rural Ohio as examples of ethanol trains, or ‘bomb trains’ as opponents have dubbed them, wreaked havoc in largely unpopulated areas. The activists wondered what would happen in more densely populated areas and the type of devastation that would ensue if a train derailed here.

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