The planning board took no action on Spectra Energy’s proposal to construct a 7,700 horsepower compressor station in North Weymouth because it had no legal basis to reject the plan, according to Mayor Robert Hedlund.
Hedlund said there is multiple layers to Spectra’s plan to construct the facility and town solicitor Joseph Callanan advised the board to take no action on the proposal when it met Feb. 28.
"They took no action so the plan goes into effect," Hedlund said.
The board’s decision to take no action does not mean Spectra can start constructing the compressor station because Weymouth is challenging the firm’s purchase of a parcel for the facility in the state’s land court.
Spectra acquired a site near the Fore River Bridge from Calpine Energy on Dec. 2 to construct the proposed compressor station.
Calpine was paid $13 million for the parcel by Spectra, according to the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds.
Weymouth officials allege Calpine broke a state subdivision law that requires the town to approve the sale of a parcel when a portion of the land is sold to a buyer.
Spectra asked the planning board for an Approval Not Required stipulation under the state’s subdivision law.
An ANR certificate can be granted to a developer if new roads are not needed in a build plan.
Callanan said Spectra previously filed a plan for the compressor station with the planning board in late 2016, prior to the land sale, but the firm withdrew the proposal because a portion of the parcel was located in Quincy.
"The north part of the parcel was too small and the lot had to be labeled unbuildable," he said.
Callanan said Spectra purchased the land shortly after they withdrew the site plan and resubmitted a proposal to the board that did not include the unbuildable lot and the acres in Quincy.
"Calpine sold the land to Spectra and we filed our lawsuit because of the subdivision of the land," he said. "Spectra then felt more comfortable with its plan and filed it Feb. 8 with the board."
Callanan said he reviewed the plan and advised board members there was no legal basis to reject it.
"We could have exposed the town to legal damage," he said.
Spectra subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission received a conditional certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Jan. 25 to construct the compressor station.
The conditional certificate requires Algonquin to receive approval for its project plans from the state's Office of Coastal Zone Management and several state environmental agencies.
Callanan said he feels comfortable with how the town is challenging the land sale in court.
"If we expect natural gas companies to go by the rules, we should play by the rules," he said.
Alice Arena, a co-leader with the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, said Spectra’s plan to seek an Approval Not Required certificate is still open for debate.
"We have been getting in touch with people who can see if it can be done under an ANR," she said. "Our argument is it can’t be done under an ANR given the issues. We are not sure why the town would look at the plan given it is still tied up in land court. We are not questioning the town. We are looking at this deeper to see if something was missed."
Arena said Fore River Residents Against the Compressor is consulting with people who understand how Approval Not Required certificates can be given to developers by towns.
"We are looking at local and state ordinances," she said.
Arena said an attorney for FRRAC is requesting a new hearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its decision to award Spectra subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission a conditional certificate to construct the compressor station.
"We filed a motion with FERC on Feb. 24," she said.
Arena said FRACC is requesting the hearing with FERC because the agency commissioners did not have a quorum when they met and granted a conditional certificate to Algonquin.
Callanan previously said he is reviewing FERC's decision to grant a conditional certificate to Algonquin without having a quorum.
Follow Ed Baker on Twitter @EdBakerWeymouth.
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