Mayor Robert Hedlund says he’s talking to Spectra Energy about a mitigation package involving millions of dollars for the town if the company builds a natural-gas compressor station near the Fore River Bridge — despite his opposition to the project and calls from local residents to stop the talks.
“It would be irresponsible not to talk with them,” Hedlund said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We’re backed into a corner.”
The offer calls for a $12 million payment in the fall of 2016, followed by another $1 million annually for the next 14 years, and potentially more in property tax adjustments, according to Hedlund’s office.
Hedlund said attorneys for the town advised him that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission did not appear to be swayed by Weymouth’s concerns that the compressor station posed a safety threat — and would probably approve Spectra’s plans soon. The federal agency has ultimate authority over the project.
A spokesman for Spectra did not respond to several requests for comment.
The Fore River station is part of the Texas-based company’s $1 billion plan to upgrade and expand its pipeline systems to bring in more natural gas from its network to New England and Canada. The company has said the project is needed to meet consumer demand, and the compressor station is needed to keep the gas flowing smoothly.
Spectra is the only company planning a major natural-gas project in Massachusetts after energy giant Kinder Morgan Inc. pulled the plug on its controversial $3.3 billion plan to build a pipeline through parts of Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. The announcement in April cited lack of demand from natural-gas customers.
Opponents of the Fore River station held a press conference at the site to urge Hedlund and other local officials to refuse any mitigation money.
“There is no amount of money that would be worth our health, our safety, our environment, or our economic well-being,” said Alice Arena, who chairs Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station.
The advocacy group and local officials, including Hedlund and the Weymouth Town Council, have argued that compressor stations usually are built in rural areas to minimize any potential impact from pollution or explosions. They say the Fore River location is unsuitable because it is too close to homes, a major commuter route, and numerous other existing hazardous sites such as the Citgo marine petroleum terminal.
Hedlund said discussing mitigation with Spectra didn’t “allay my concerns or dislike of this project,” but he was compelled to try to get the town the best deal possible if the project was inevitable.
He said the talks involved only the first half of Spectra’s plans. The company has divided its proposal into two separate projects called the Atlantic Bridge Project and the Access Northeast Project.
The compressor station is part of the Atlantic Bridge Project. The Access Northeast Project includes construction of at least 4 miles of new large gas pipelines in Weymouth and expansion of the new compressor station.