Boston politicians and regional activist groups have asked federal regulators to reconsider their approval last month of a controversial pipeline expansion.
The administrative appeals are the latest challenge to the Algonquin Incremental Market project, which would expand the main pipeline that supplies New England with natural gas. If the requests are rejected, opponents could file a federal lawsuit that could stop or significantly slow the project.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Congressman Stephen Lynch, and several state and local politicians representing West Roxbury asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Thursday morning to revoke its approval. In their motion, the Boston politicians argued the commission disregarded the threat posed by building a pipeline adjacent to the West Roxbury gravel quarry where dynamite is detonated on a regular basis.
“I have listened to the concerns of the community, and we have asked Algonquin Gas and Spectra Energy several times to find a new route for this pipeline,” said Mayor Walsh in a statement. “The project as proposed poses real public safety risks for West Roxbury residents.”
A coalition of environmental and community activist groups said they plan on Thursday to file their own appeal of the expansion project. Susan Van Dolsen, an anti-pipeline activist in Westchester County, N.Y., said the activists used private donations to hire a Washington-based lawyer to make their case. The Algonquin pipeline runs from New Jersey to Massachusetts.
The activists argue that the pipeline’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear power plant could turn a hazardous situation into a catastrophic one. Van Dolsen said opponents make a strong case in the appeal and she is “optimistic” about its success, even though the appeal will be heard by they same commission that previously ruled against the group’s concerns.
Supporters of the pipeline expansion have argued it would lower energy prices in New England, which generates a large and growing share of its electricity from natural gas-burning power plants. Previously, pipeline constraints during the winter have sent gas prices surging, which has led to high electricity prices.
Houston-based Spectra Energy Corp., which operates the Algonquin pipeline, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.