Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
Outgoing state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles has read through CSX’s Environmental Notification Form and declared yesterday that there was no need for the large freight company to file a more extensive and rigorous Environmental Impact Report. From the Telegram:
State officials yesterday issued an environmental certificate for the proposed $100 million CSX freight yard expansion in downtown Worcester, ruling the project will not require an environmental impact report.
Shortly before noon, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian A. Bowles issued the certificate, which will allow the project to proceed without further environmental review by the state.
Some questions still remain:
-Since the deal was struck in February the acreage of the site has been reported hundreds of times in the media and government hearings as 50 acres, but there’s no concern that the reported site area jumped up to 79 acres once CSX filed their MEPA. The rational of the higher number may be sound, but there should be skepticism that the real number came out so late.
-There’s been no mention of the type of “switcher engines” that will be used in the freight yard. In many rail yards — Chicago’s is one example — old engines are used for pulling trains/cars to different tracks. These engines are typically the dirtiest, and since they don’t take anti-freeze they run constantly but never leave the freight yard, which concentrates the diesel particulate emissions over one small area of town. That question has been asked of the company on two separate occasions, but they’ve yet to provide an answer.
-CSX was able to skirt groundwater issues as well, since the Blackstone River/Reservoir doesn’t warrant as strict environmental protection as others, such as the Nashua or Chicopee. The City says they have no worries about chemicals from the rail yard seeping into the Blackstone because any overflow in the area will be pre-treated at the Quinsagmond St. treatment facility before flowing in the Upper Blackstone plant.
As we reported here, CSX will still have to deal with some environmental questions during the permitting process, but the EIR seemed the last best effort for a more comprehensive study of air quality and noise pollution (among other issues). According to the T&G, 73 letters were written to the EOEEA regarding an environmental review.