The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday to install an air quality monitoring station in the Fore River Basin, adjacent to the site of the proposed natural gas compressor station in North Weymouth. The bill, H.4008 An Act relative to air monitoring stations, was advanced by South Shore lawmakers in response to the troubling process that resulted in the granting of an air quality permit for the project.
“Generations of residents in the Fore River Basin have been exposed to a disproportionate level of industrial pollution. This legislation seeks to answer a basic question that has gone unanswered for far too long in the Fore River Basin: ‘What is in the air we are breathing?’” said House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano. “I understand federal preemption limits what the state can do in this space. But, at time when FERC is increasingly held captive by the industry it is intended to regulate, surely Massachusetts can do more to protect its residents and its interests.”
The bill would install an air quality monitoring station on the Fore River Bridge to measure a comprehensive list of air contaminants, including nearly 100 volatile organic compounds, as well as meteorological factors that might worsen exposure to surrounding communities.
Importantly, the bill also adopts the recommendation made by the Hearing Officer during the recent administrative appeal of the air permit that MassDEP change its current practice of ignoring background levels of emissions when evaluating whether a proposed source’s emissions exceed acceptable standards. This will ensure that the air permitting process for future natural gas compressor stations is truly reflective of the station’s impact on ambient air quality.
The bill now must be approved by the Senate and the governor before becoming law.