Climate activists stage a picnic to disrupt construction on Eversource's East Boston substation site
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Extinction Rebellion Boston disrupts construction of Eversource's East Boston substation by staging a picnic on the construction site, calls on Governor Healey to move the substation to Logan Airport
Climate activists trespass onto Eversource's substation and hold a picnic, continuing to protest construction of the East Boston substation, calling on Governor Healey to intervene on behalf of the local community and move the substation to Logan Airport.
Governor Healey must place the health of Massachusetts communities above the interests of Investor-owned utilities like Eversource. Activists call on her to intervene on the Eastie Substation issue and to stop building dangerous infrastructure in low-income and communities of color.
Extinction Rebellion decries placing an electric substation in a climate-induced flood area adjacent to a playground, and near jet fuel storage for Logan Airport. Electric substations explode when flooded.2
BOSTON, MA — On Tuesday, June 27 at 9 am, climate activists from the local community and Extinction Rebellion Boston (XR) continued to protest the East Boston substation. Four activists trespassed onto Eversource's construction site, climbed over the site's chain link fence, and set up a picnic with picnic baskets and classic Americana-styled picnic blankets spray-painted with "No Eastie Substation." Activists disrupted construction while demonstrating what the site was originally supposed to be, a green space for the community. They are calling on Governor Healey to move Eversource's substation from Eagle Hill to Logan Airport. All 4 activists were arrested. This demonstration was reported in the Boston Globe.
At 5 pm that same day, a publicly advertised community parade opposing the substation was held in Maverick Square. Environmental justice activists and community members marched from the Maverick Square T stop to Central Square park. Several activists dressed in clown costumes and juggled, calling on Governor Healey to "stop clowning around" with the lives of East Boston and Chelsea residents. They sang, chanted, and held colorful signs and banners with the messages “No Eastie Substation” and “Pull the Plug on Eversource”. Since Eversource began construction on January 11th, eight protests have been organized and there have been in total eight local residents and climate activists arrested during two different protests before they were able to unfurl their banners.10,11,12 The cases of the eight arrested rebels were dismissed before arraignment on April 3rd.
“We are here disrupting construction out of desperation. No other form of protest has had an effect on stopping Eversource's substation. Our community has been resisting this egregious example of environmental injustice for 8 years. This is a classic case of David vs Goliath. The state is allowing an investor-owned utility to put our already overburdened community at risk. We are appealing to Governor Healey. Do the right thing: Bring Eversource and Massport to the table and move this substation to Logan Airport," said John Walkey, an East Boston resident risking arrest. Walkey is the Director of Waterfront and Climate Justice Initiatives at GreenRoots Inc.
As it stands, the Governor is not taking action to move the Eversource substation out of Eagle Hill, despite stating that the EFSB's February 2021 decision to approve the substation lacked energy justice. On June 14th Climate Chief Hoffer and an attorney from the Healey administration met with GreenRoots representatives and insisted there was no legal avenue for the Healey administration to take action on behalf of the local community, despite her executive powers. On February 14, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper and Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer met with #NoEastieSubstation activists and listened to how the Eversource MA substation will further harm Environmental Justice communities like East Boston. Tepper and Hoffer made a commitment on behalf of the Healey administration that they would review all legal procedures in relation to the construction of the substation.13
The local community has been resisting Eversource's substation project since 2014. Residents and environmental justice allies have been showing up to public hearings, rallying, and engaging in direct action to stop this project. In August of 2021, members of XR Boston shut down the entrance to the Energy and Environmental affairs office to get then EEA Secretary Kathleen Theoharides to deny Eversource their needed Chapter 91 permits.7 In November of 2021, 85% of Bostonian residents voted in favor of moving the substation to Logan Airport in a non-binding ballot question.6 In May of 2022, members of XR Boston occupied the lawn of Eversource CEO Joseph Nolan, demanding that he take action to move the substation.8 Following the Energy and Facilities Siting Board's (EFSB) decision to green-light construction in November 2022, GreenRoots and the Conservation Law Foundation filed an appeal on the EFSB's decision to the Supreme Judicial Court in late December.9
We demand that the East Boston substation project be moved to Massport. We call on Governor Healey and first-in-the-nation Climate Chief Hoffer to intervene on the local community's behalf.
Before allowing construction of the Eversource East Boston substation, Eversource and the Commonwealth must:
- Move the substation to the Massport site, as they are the largest single user of electricity in East Boston.
- Explore options for community control of energy infrastructure in East Boston to address systemic inequalities and promote environmental justice.
- Ensure a conservative design of the facility for realistic climate crisis scenarios and compensate the community commensurate with the waterfront and public use that they have lost.
“This is a classic example of environmental injustice. The East Boston neighborhoods have been overburdened with industrial infrastructure serving the entire region of New England. We do need more greenspace, not a dangerous electrical substation in a climate-induced flood zone. Water and electricity doesn't mix well.” said Jule Manitz, a Chelsea resident and organizer for Extinction Rebellion Boston.
A substation is a piece of infrastructure that allows high voltage electricity to be dropped to a lower distribution level voltage that can be used in households. Residents in the Eagle Hill area of East Boston are concerned about this particular substation because it will be located adjacent to Chelsea Creek. This area floods during storms. Electricity and water do not blend well, and community members are concerned about the possibility of a dangerous explosion. The proposed site is also adjacent to a playground and only a few hundred feet from a storage area for Massport’s jet fuel. A fire would be disastrous.
This site had been promised to the community as a space for outdoor recreation. The working-class, immigrant-heavy community has already been overburdened with industrial pollution from the nearby airport and highway, regional stockpiles of jet fuel, residential heating oil, and road salt. Taking away another public green space without informed consent from the community is an egregious act of environmental racism. The substation project is opposed by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and numerous elected officials, as well as the local community.
Many residents of East Boston have felt excluded from full participation in public hearings about the substation, for reasons that include inadequate outreach to residents and language accessibility. Massachusetts has made some recent progress on codifying environmental justice into law, but the substation was approved prior to the new climate bill’s approval.
The cost for the substation was recently hiked from $50 million to $103 million, the burden of which would be passed onto Eversource’s ratepayers, regardless of their opposition to or benefit from the project. The addition of infrastructure allows utility companies to continue making profits on their investments, even as they continue to lobby against the expansion of solar energy.
The substation was initially approved by the EFSB in February 2021. The approval process for the project has taken over 5 years, due in part to opposition from the community. Opponents demanded that the need for the substation be re-examined, as local energy demand has undoubtedly changed during those years, but the EFSB refused.
If Eversource’s claims of increased energy demand are well-founded, a cleaner, more affordable, and more democratic solution would be to install rooftop solar panels, and pair them with battery storage. The Union of Concerned Scientists undertook a study that determined this option is a feasible alternative. Such a solution could be part of a just transition away from fossil fuel energy, centering and providing benefits to a community made vulnerable by years of environmental injustice.
Extinction Rebellion Boston is an autonomous chapter of the international grassroots movement, Extinction Rebellion (XR), which started in London in 2018. The purpose of XR is to tell the truth about how dire the ecological and climate crisis is and spark immediate action in order to prevent complete climate and ecological collapse. We aim to mobilize people around the world to utilize nonviolent direct action to demand that governments take radical action to avert societal collapse caused by widespread climate and ecological disaster, and to protect frontline communities, biodiversity, and the natural world. This movement is non-political and unites all of humanity behind a singular goal of a just and livable future. Learn more at: xrboston.org
- East Boston and Power: An Environmental Justice Community in Transition
- Hurricane Sandy Plunges Lower Manhattan into Darkness
- Boston.gov, Mayor Janey calls on Eversource to cancel the proposed substation in East Boston, 5/6/21
- WBUR, 16 Mass. Elected Officials Challenge State Agency On East Boston Substation, 12/7/20
- WBUR, Some East Boston Residents Are Wary Of Proposed Electrical Substation, 8/22/19
- Boston voted overwhelmingly against a planned East Boston substation. Does it matter?, 11/9/21
- Activists protest Eversource substation; block entrance to Energy and Environmental Affairs office
- Extinction Rebellion Boston demands that Eversource stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure and move the East Boston substation
- GreenRoots Media Statement 1/6/23
- WBUR, 6 arrested while protesting at an East Boston electrical substation site, 01/17/23
- Climate protesters arrested while blocking entrance to controversial East Boston substation construction site, 01/17/23
- Eversource Substation Still Being Protested, 1/18/23
- Secretary Rebecca Tepper and Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer met with #NoEastieSubstation activists today
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Nadia Colburn, PhD and member of Extinction Rebellion Media team, discusses how to talk about the climate and ecological crisis with family and friends.
Wed Oct 4th @ 9 a.m.
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