Gov. Charlie Baker made his annual stop by the Salvation Army kettle in Downtown Crossing on Thursday, ringing one of the group’s bells to encourage donations this holiday season.
This year, however, the sounds of Baker’s clanging bell were joined by a chorus of angry protesters.
“We brought our own bells,” one protester said ahead of the demonstration.
Surrounding the Massachusetts governor during his unique appearance on the downtown Boston street corner, the small group chanted in opposition to a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, which received final approval last month from federal officials. Construction on the controversial project began Dec. 4.
The Weymouth compressor station is part of the energy company Enbridge’s larger plans to connect two existing interstate pipelines and increase its capacity to deliver gas to New England and Canada. However, local South Shore residents and environmental advocates have protested the location over opposition to the region’s reliance on fossil fuels and safety concerns based on incidents at other similar stations.
A number of local Democratic elected officials — including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Reps. Stephen Lynch and Joe Kennedy III — have spoken out in opposition. Baker hasn’t taken a definitive stance, though he did acknowledge “serious concerns” in a 2017 letter to Weymouth’s mayor. The Swampscott Republican has said that the issue is under the primary jurisdiction of federal officials.
After health and air quality assessments — and a legal settlement with Enbridge — Baker said in January that the state “basically had no choice” other than grant approval.
Citing the work of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to block natural gas projects, opponents of the Weymouth compressor say Baker could do more.
Per a Facebook live stream from Boston University professor Nathan Phillips, the group of protesters waited for Baker to appear from inside the Primark store in Downtown Crossing. When the governor arrived, they began confrontationally yelling “Shame!” and chanting “Weymouth compressor has got to go.”
After several minutes of chants in the brutal cold, Baker departed the Salvation Army post into a car.
Constantly being surrounded by Weymouth compressor protesters is one of the reasons the governor doesn't stand out in public very often pic.twitter.com/oU5ldUUdSQ
— Mike Deehan (@deehan) December 19, 2019