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US rejects objections to West Roxbury pipeline

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David Gallogly, of Roslindale, was one of the hundreds of anti-pipeline activists who marched last July.Dina Rudick

In a test of vows they made to West Roxbury residents, local officials who oppose a natural gas pipeline under construction in West Roxbury must now decide whether they will challenge the project in federal court.

On Thursday, federal energy regulators officially rejected a series of objections to the pipeline filed by opponents, clearing the way for work on the controversial project to continue and leaving its critics with few options.

A subsidiary of Houston-based Spectra Energy Partners LP began construction last year on the so-called West Roxbury Lateral pipeline, a 5-mile spur of a larger, $1 billion project to increase the capacity of New England's largest natural gas pipeline.


The line, which was approved last March, will deliver natural gas to National Grid, Eversource, and other energy distributors. The companies have said the new pipeline is needed to meet demand.

A group of elected officials, including Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston and US Representative Stephen Lynch, have fought Spectra at every turn, saying the pipeline should be rerouted to avoid passing near a quarry in West Roxbury whose operators use dynamite to excavate stone.

Neighbors have sharply criticized federal regulators and gas companies for ignoring what they say are serious environmental and safety concerns; they also question whether the Boston area really needs more gas pipelines.

In its ruling Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said opponents "have not demonstrated that they will suffer irreparable harm."

Commission spokeswoman, Tamara Young-Allen, said agency staff have recommended ways to minimize the potential impact and that Spectra's subsidiary is required to undertake extensive safety and environmental measures. She added that Spectra had demonstrated a need for the pipeline by indicating that 10 energy companies were interested in using it.

A spokeswoman for Walsh said City Hall was reviewing the decision.


In a statement, Lynch said he was disappointed with the decision, which he termed "reckless."

"They're actually building a high pressure gas line in an active blast zone which is adjacent to a residential community," Lynch said. "I will talk with Mayor Walsh and our local elected officials and see what our options are."

A spokeswoman for Spectra said the company was pleased with Thursday's ruling.

Residents who have been fighting the pipeline said they expected the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject their appeals.

Rickie Harvey, chairwoman of West Roxbury Saves Energy , said her organization and other citizens groups are unlikely to recruit or afford a lawyer for an appeal, meaning it would be up to Walsh or other officials to challenge the decision in court.

For now, Harvey said, residents are simply hoping Spectra will sit down with them to discuss ways to reduce the impact of the project.

"At this point, I am not hopeful," Harvey said.

The new line will run beneath Centre, Grove, and Washington streets in West Roxbury, as well as through Dedham and Westwood. Construction on the Dedham segments began last year, as did work on a metering and regulation station near the quarry. Construction on the West Roxbury portion of the pipeline itself won’t begin until mid-April because of a ban on digging up Boston roads during winter.

Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielAdams86.