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Massachusetts senators urge caution on pipeline project

Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey sent a letter to a federal energy regulator Thursday warning of “serious consequences” if a controversial pipeline project were speedily approved.

The senators’ letter, which also was signed by US Representative Stephen Lynch of South Boston, comes on the heels of another letter sent on Jan. 22 by five senators from other New England states that urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to quickly approve the Algonquin Incremental Market project. The proposed project would increase the capacity of the 1,100-mile Algonquin pipeline, which supplies the region with much of its natural gas, and build new spurs, including one adjacent to the West Roxbury gravel quarry.

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“We cannot disagree more strongly with our colleagues,” Warren, Markey, and Lynch wrote in their Thursday letter. “Permitting decisions must be done deliberately and must involve all stakeholders to confirm that all necessary precautions and best practices have been followed.”

The lawmakers said many constituents felt they had not had “an equal voice” in the pipeline approval process, which began in 2013 and has included town-hall meetings for residents of a few towns along the route of the pipeline, which stretches from northern New Jersey to Boston.

Lynch had previously filed a letter with the federal regulator, citing “grave concerns” about the project.

The latest letter comes almost a week after the commission filed its final environmental impact statement on the project, which concluded its effect on the land and communities of New England would be “less than significant.” That report was met by a torrent of opposition from community groups in New York and Boston, which have filed hundreds of comments opposing aspects of the expansion.

Houston-based Spectra Energy Corp., which owns the pipeline, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The company has previously said it wanted to complete the pipeline project by November 2017.

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Rickie Harvey, an environmental activist with West Roxbury Saves Energy, said in an e-mail the group was “grateful” that Massachusetts senators signed the letter. But she added the letter “does not go as far as we would have liked,” and suggested federal regulators would disregard it.


Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.