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Effort to halt ethanol transport by train scores key victory in State House

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  June 4, 2013 04:30 PM

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Ethanol possible routes from MassDOT.jpg

MassDOT

A map from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation safety study shows potential routes for ethanol trains in red.

Activists in East Boston and communities north of the city have scored a key victory in their effort to block a plan that would bring ethanol through their neighborhoods by train.

After two days of debate, on May 23 the state Senate adopted 195 amendments to the state budget, including one that would prevent the state Department of Environmental Protection from issuing a license to any facility handling ethanol in densely populated communities.

If the anti-ethanol amendment survives the conference committee, where six members of the House and Senate will negotiate the differences between their versions of the budget, it may effectively put an end to a controversial plan by Global Partners LP to transport ethanol to its storage terminal in Revere over MBTA commuter rail lines.

“I am enthusiastic at the adoption of our amendment and the prospect of working with the Senate and House leadership and the bill’s conference committee to ensure its final passage,” said state Senator Anthony Petruccelli of East Boston, lead sponsor of the amendment, in a statement.

The Chelsea Creek Action Group has worked for more than a year to rally opposition to the plan to transport ethanol through densely populated northern communities that include Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, and Chelsea. An online petition has garnered about 400 signatures.

Opponents fear the devastation that could be caused by an accidental derailment — or one triggered deliberately, as an act or terror — of a train carrying as much as 2 million gallons of the highly flammable, hard-to-extinguish fuel.

The amendment’s co-sponsors, Senators Sal DiDomenico of Everett and Pat Jehlen of Somerville, also voiced their satisfaction that the amendment had survived the lengthy budget debate. Another 725 amendments did not make the cut.

“The plan to bring increased quantities of ethanol via train through our districts raises serious public safety concerns and potential negative environmental impacts for residents of my district,” DiDomenico said. “Ethanol is an extremely dangerous substance and the safety our residents should not be compromised for the sake of expediency and profit.”

“The adoption of this amendment is an important step in deterring the transport of dangerous substances through our community,” Jehlen said. “Ethanol, which could so easily endanger the lives of residents, does not belong on railroad tracks so close to neighborhoods and homes.”

Material from the State House News Service was used in this report.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow East Boston on Twitter: @YourEastBoston.

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