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Mass. members of Congress seek to block opening of Weymouth Compressor Station

The Weymouth Compressor Station was under construction in January.
The Weymouth Compressor Station was under construction in January.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/David L Ryan, Globe Staff

The state’s two Democratic senators and a South Shore congressman called for the federal government to block the planned opening Thursday of a controversial gas compression station in Weymouth after equipment failures led to emergency shutdowns of the facility.

The Weymouth Compressor Station had a “dangerous blowout event” Wednesday morning involving its emergency shutdown system — the second safety incident at the facility this month, according to Representative Stephen F. Lynch, who represents Weymouth.

Lynch said Wednesday afternoon that officials at the facility were “in the process of ordering a temporary emergency shutdown of the station.”

The station’s emergency shutdown system was activated around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, and the system “operated as designed and safely isolated the station and vented the natural gas in a controlled manner,” according to a spokesman for Enbridge, the Canada-based owner of the station.

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“While we continue to gather additional information, we have found no issues which would affect the safety of the station,” Max Bergeron, an Enbridge spokesman at the company’s local office in Waltham, said in a statement Wednesday night. “We have notified state and local officials, and are proceeding with safety as our priority. There was no risk to public safety as a result of this event.”

Lynch said the “accidents endangered the lives of local residents and are indicative of a much larger threat that the Weymouth Compressor Station poses to Weymouth, Quincy, Abington and Braintree residents, as well as surrounding communities, by operating in such a densely residential area.”

Separately Wednesday, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey asked a federal regulator to block the opening of the station and “conduct a thorough review of [an earlier] natural gas leak and the station’s ongoing activities."

The station was in the process of “commissioning activities” in preparation for its opening when a gasket failed and pressurized gas was released on Sept. 11, leading a worker to manually trigger an emergency shutdown system, according to a letter to regulators from Enbridge.

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“The quantity of natural gas released during the gas leak emergency was equivalent to the average daily natural gas consumption of more than 930 Massachusetts homes,” Warren and Markey wrote in their letter to the head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“Concerns have been raised that this amount of gas, vented at ground level, could have possibly been ignited by a spark from a passing vehicle and caused a fire or an explosion," they said.

But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week approved the facility’s request to begin operations Thursday, Warren and Markey wrote.

“An emergency leak is unacceptable, and we ask that you fulfill your responsibility and conduct an investigation into this issue to protect public safety,” they wrote.

Opponents have argued for years that the Weymouth site, located on a peninsula, is too small, too polluted, and too close to too many dangers to safely accommodate the compressor.

Lynch said he has asked that an official from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration join him for a walk-through of the facility when he returns to Boston later this week.

“I have already asked the Secretary of Transportation to suspend the opening of the compressor station pending a comprehensive review," Lynch said, “and I am now demanding the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission … revoke the certificate of approval for the site and suspend operations due to the repetitive occurrence of these extremely dangerous events.”

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Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.