Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Reaches Settlement with Operator of Natural Gas Pipeline in Dracut
"We have long championed environmental compliance by companies in the power sector, whether they convey natural gas or other fuels, or generate electrical power. This is vital to protect the public health from further air pollution," said Attorney General Coakley. "Although we are fortunate that the public health was not greatly compromised by Maritimes' actions, we will remain vigilant to prevent necessary services from endangering the community."
"Reducing sources of air pollution is a battle that businesses, government and environmental groups are fighting every day, and it's simply unacceptable that a company would install and operate, without approval, this equipment that contributed pollutants to the air for eight years," said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Laurie Burt.
The complaint, also filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Maritimes modified the metering station by adding two pipeline heaters without obtaining a required MassDEP preconstruction permit, and then operated them for about eight years without the required permit. The complaint further alleges that the unpermitted operation of the existing heaters caused uncontrolled emission of oxides of nitrogen ("NOx") to the ambient air and a condition of air pollution.
The unpermitted installation of the existing heaters occurred in or about 1999, according to the complaint. The alleged violation came to the attention of the MassDEP in January 2008 when Maritimes submitted a letter and an application to the agency for permission to install another heater at the metering station and to use the two unpermitted existing heaters. MassDEP discovered that the unpermitted use of the existing heaters caused increased NOx emissions.
NOx emitted into the atmosphere combines with volatile organic compounds ("VOCs") in the presence of heat and sunlight to form ground level ozone (smog) that can, among other things, cause or worsen human respiratory and cardiac problems, and even cause premature death in sufficient concentrations. Ozone can also cause toxic effects in plants, reduce crop yields, degrade man-made materials such as rubber and fabrics, increase nitrogen loading in water bodies, affect aquatic plants and animals, and accelerate "eutrophication" that reduces fish and shellfish populations.
Assistant Attorney General Fred Augenstern, of Attorney General Coakley's Office Environmental Protection Division, handled the case. Handling the case for MassDEP, were Marc Altobelli, Ed Braczyk and Jim Belsky from MassDEP's Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington, and Jeanne Argento, from MassDEP's Office of General Counsel.