Activists from Revere, East Boston and Chelsea were out in full force at a hearing last Thursday to protest Global Oil’s plan to bring large quantities of the hazardous material Ethanol to its fuel terminal on the East Boston/Revere line.
At the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hearing at Revere City Hall, concerned citizens and 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.
Activists from Eastie – who protested outside City Hall – were joined by opposition groups from Revere and Chelsea 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 the western suburbs and into Boston, then going to Chelsea and ending 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.
However, Global Oil Attorney Ed Faneuil was present at the meeting and testified that the plan was safe and that Global has been working with local Fire Departments to plan for the worst and to provide equipment to help fight such potential disasters.
On the flip side, Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo joined Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash in taking a hard stand against the transportation of Ethanol through and into Revere.
“I want to go on record in opposition to transporting Ethanol through Revere,” he told the DEP staff. “It is my job to keep the community and residents safe, so I do not support any Ethanol by rail or by truck.”
He also said that if the project does have to come to Revere, he wants to make sure all contingencies are planned for so that an accidental discharge would be contained.
Revere’s Ward 5 Councillor John Powers – whose ward would see a portion of the idling trains – said he would not support the plan and would vote ‘no’ if he had a vote on the matter.
“If I had the deciding vote to stop Ethanol from coming into my City it would be a ‘no’ vote,” he said. “I urge all of my citizens to once again send e-mails, letters and telephone messages to the DEP to make sure they know that we are saying loud and clear that we don’t want Ethanol. I represent an area of Revere with a train line that comes through a residential neighborhood. I hate to think of someday 50, 60 or 100 trains backed up on that line near homes and something devastating happening there. We don’t want Ethanol here…I don’t want it and the people don’t want it.”
The most vocal opponent from Revere, Ed O’Hara, gave a history on the issue and his involvement in it.
“Issue of these Ethanol trains came up for the first time at the Revere City Council in 2011 and we knew nothing about Ethanol,” he said. “Once I started looking at it I said that there will be no Ethanol trains in Revere while I’m alive. We have to talk about the people and people’s safety, their kids, their homes, the valuation of homes. We’ve never had a real public hearing on this issue except for a meeting at the Revere Police Station with 20 people. This can be stopped and people have to stand up and support a ballot question that will let the people decide.”
One Eastie youth said it would be the people of Chelsea, Revere and East Boston that would pay if there were an accident.
“The only people that would benefit from this plan would be Global Oil,” said the Eastie 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 Eastie 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 industrial Midwestern city. It took 24-hours for the fire to be contained, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people from their homes.
The Eastie teen questioned what would happen if an accident like the one in Illinois happened in a more densely populated city like Eastie, Chelsea or Revere.
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 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 and Revere.
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.
“Global Oil has shown me that the villains that you see only in the movies actually do exist,” said another Eastie activist. “Is it worth it to sacrifice our safety for money? I think Global Oil is downplaying how volatile Ethanol is and ignoring serious incidents that happened in other parts of the country like Rockford, Illinois and Oklahoma.”