REHOBOTH — Massachusetts doesn’t need additional gas capacity in order to serve its electricity needs, a state assistant attorney general told a forum of local residents opposing construction of a compressor station and expanded gas infrastructure in town.
The forum, attended by about 60 people at the Grange hall, comes ahead of Monday’s non-binding vote on whether local residents support the project. The compressor station, which would be built near the Attleboro and Seekonk town lines, is part of a $3 billion Spectra Energy plan to expand gas capacity in the northeast.
Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Mahoney said a study by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office concluded that additional gas capacity is not needed and that future energy demands can be met by increasing energy efficiency, “demand response” measures such as voluntary shutdowns by major power users at certain peaks and purchasing more renewable energy.
“There’s a more cost effective way of meeting our energy needs,” Mahoney said. As a result of a 2016 law passed by the state Legislature, the state is seeking proposals for 1,200 megawatts of renewable power this spring and another 1,600 megawatts later this year.
Thursday’s discussion followed Wednesday’s massive gas leak in Providence that shut down Interstate 195 for several hours. Some at Thursday’s meeting cited the Providence incident as an example of what could go wrong with a compressor station or other gas expansion projects.
Dr. Susan Racine, a Boston internist, and Kasey Tenerowicz, a nurse practitioner, said a compressor station could release large quantities of gas and pollutants during a “blowdown” designed to normalize pressure in the pipeline, as well as create low frequency noise.
“It’s called natural gas, but most of the gas being used in the United States right now is really fracked gas,” said Dr. Racine, referring to a process in which water is pumped into shale below ground to release its gas content. Racine said impurities that might be released along with the gas may be linked to a host of medical conditions ranging from COPD to diabetes.
Proponents of the expansion project, called Northeast Direct, have said additional capacity is needed to serve a growing need for gas by the region’s electricity generators and would result in savings to energy consumers. They say the gas is “clean” and that a pipeline is the safest method for transporting it.
Voting is scheduled 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday with Precinct 1 polls at town hall; Precinct 2 polls at the COA Senior Center and Precinct 3 polls at the South Fire Station, 104 Pleasant St.