The state Appeals Court recently rejected the latest legal challenge to a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, dealing another setback to Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, a community group long opposed to the project.
The court’s ruling came down on Dec. 16, with Justice Sabita Singh writing in a 14-page opinion that the advocacy group lacks standing to challenge a key ruling on the project.
The group, Singh wrote, can’t seek judicial review of a 2019 decision from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management that the compressor station is “consistent with the enforceable policies” of the Commonwealth’s coastal management program.
The residents group had argued, in part, that the appeals court should review the decision because it was made during a meeting that was judicial or quasi-judicial in nature. Singh wrote that the agency had been required to make public notice of the meeting and accept comments, but it “was not required to hold a hearing, let alone hear sworn testimony.”
Singh added that it is the federal government, not any state agency, that permits the construction of facilities like the compressor station.
“We are also unpersuaded by [the residents’] argument that there is no other reasonably adequate remedy, that there would be a substantial injury or injustice arising from the proceeding under review, and that, accordingly, there is an equitable need for judicial review,” Singh wrote.
“In particular, [the residents group] argues that absent judicial review, there are no checks and balances to ensure that CZM carried out its statutory purpose,” she continued. “This argument overlooks the fact that the State permits underlying CZM’s consistency determination have been the subject of legal challenges.”
The residents group said it was disappointed by the ruling but called its suit “a difficult case.”
“When Coastal Zone Management … makes a determination, the petitioners have no recourse to appeal with either the agency or the courts,” the group said in a statement. “Only the applicant — in this case Enbridge — has standing to appeal a decision that is not favorable to them.”
The group said it had joined the appeal after it was filed by the Town of Weymouth, but the town withdrew its opposition in October 2020 in exchange for a $10 million “payout from Enbridge,” which left the residents group on its own.
“We believed that we were entitled to be heard, but that would have required the Appeals Court to set a precedent for CZM,” the group said. “Unfortunately, the Court was not willing to look at this with new eyes.”
Weymouth officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.
A spokesperson for Enbridge, the Canadian pipeline giant that built the 7,700-horsepower compressor as part of its $600 million Atlantic Bridge project, said via e-mail Tuesday that the company was satisfied with the ruling.
“We are pleased with the Massachusetts Appeals Court’s decision related to the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management consistency determination for the Weymouth Compressor Station,” said Enbridge spokesman Max Bergeron. “We are committed to continuing to operate the Weymouth Compressor Station safely and responsibly.”
Compressor stations are placed along gas pipelines to boost pressure and help the gas travel long distances. The Weymouth site is designed to usher gas through New England for distribution in Maine and Canada.
The site has long faced opposition from local politicians and activists, who say it brings unnecessary danger to a densely populated South Shore community. That opposition has escalated after a series of incidents last year and earlier this year.
After two previous unplanned releases of gas in September 2020, federal authorities forced the facility to shut down. Regulators authorized the station to resume operations in January 2021.
Bergeron told the Globe in December 2020 that Enbridge had identified and addressed “the preliminary direct cause” for each of the two September shutdowns that caused 444,000 cubic feet of methane gas to be vented into the air — a faulty gasket for the first, and an electrical failure in the station’s emergency shutdown panel for the second.
Then, just months after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced plans to reexamine the facility’s safety protocols, the site released more gas in April. The station shut down again in May for what Enbridge described as routine maintenance work.
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.