Chelsea legislators take action to address ethanol issue

The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed separate versions of a $1.3 billion dollar transportation bill, including amendments in both versions that would require further study of a proposed plan to transport increased quantities of ethanol via train through Chelsea and other affected communities.  This provision, sponsored by Senators Anthony Petruccelli and Sal DiDomenico in the Senate, and Speaker Robert DeLeo and Representatives Eugene O’Flaherty and Kathi-Anne Reinstein in the House, comes in response to a proposed plan by Global Petroleum to transport increased quantities of ethanol via MBTA commuter rail tracks, which run through a number of urban communities – including Chelsea – to their facility in Revere.  Global Petroleum recently filed an application for a Chapter 91 Waterway license with DEP to gain approval for the project.

Both the House and Senate amendment require the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to conduct a study to determine the impact of transporting ethanol by rail through Chelsea and other affected communities will have on public safety, which must be completed within 6 months of the enactment of the bill.   The Senate version also prohibits the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from issuing a license for transportation of ethanol through these communities until it has received the completed report.

“I am pleased that the transportation bond bill has been passed by the Senate, and that our amendment to study the effects of transportation of ethanol has been included in the final version,” said Senator DiDomenico. “The plan to bring increased quantities of ethanol via train through our districts raises serious public safety concerns and potential negative environmental impacts for residents of my district. The proposal to transport increased quantities of ethanol through densely populated urban areas raises major public safety concerns for the communities we represent and should not move forward until all of the impacts can be studied thoroughly. The public needs to be properly informed on the potential hazards of this plan and their safety should not be compromised for expediency.”

“The city of Chelsea and its surrounding communities bear the brunt of many urban environmental hazards, and as elected officials, we must remain vigilant in ensuring that any proposed expansions are studied and scrutinized.  The health of my constituents is paramount, as is the quality of life in our community, and I am committed to fully vetting this proposal before it moves forward,” said State Representative Eugene L. O’Flaherty.

“These amendments will allow further research to be conducted on the serious dangers of transporting ethanol through densely populated residential areas such as Chelsea and Revere,”  Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein (D-Revere) said.  “I feel implementing the use of ethanol trains in the communities of my district is a reckless idea that sacrifices public safety to profit a billion dollar company.  I know these amendments will help support the strong opposition voiced by the area’s residents and legislators.”

The transportation bond bill was recently passed by the Legislature and will provide funding to continue current transportation-related projects through Fiscal Year 2013. The bill authorizes the state to borrow $885 million to fund existing programs, ensuring that state dollars will be available to leverage federal funding for transportation improvement projects totaling $1.5 billion. The legislation also includes $200 million in Chapter 90 funds for cities and towns across the Commonwealth that may be used for local projects such as rebuilding and repairing local roads and bridges.

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