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Aldermen: Keep Your Ethanol-Filled Freight Trains Out of Somerville

The Somerville Board of Aldermen doesn't want an oil company to ship ethanol through the city on Commuter Rail lines.

The Somerville Board of Aldermen want to prevent an oil company from shipping 187 million gallons of ethanol through the city each year on Commuter Rail lines, according to proceedings from a Board of Aldermen meeting.

Global Oil in Revere wants to use freight trains to ship the ethanol to its facilities, and those trains could come right through Somervile, aldermen said. At their Thursday night meeting, the aldermen passed a resolution opposing those plans.

In doing so, Somerville has joined the cities of Chelsea and Revere, and the town of Shirley, in opposition to the ethanol freight trains.

Speaking in support of the resolution, Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, a member of the public health and public safety committee that reviewed the matter, said, "I think people need to know the seriousness of this situation."

"We learned that one of these trains could be traveling on the Fitchburg [Commuter Rail] Line, which goes right through Porter Square," she said. "Another train could be traveling on the line that goes right up the city and through Ball Square. So this is a real impact on our residents."

The Somerville Board of Aldermen took up the issue after receiving notice from the city councils of Chelsea and Revere about the ethanol freight-train plans.

According to a resolution passed by Chelsea, the oil company is "proposing to bring 60-car trains, each car carrying 30,000 gallons of ethanol, into its facility twice per week, every week."

That means 187.2 million gallons of ethanol on freight trains each year, the Chelsea resolution says.

At-Large Aldermen William White said, "It's very likely that the train will be traveling through the city of Somerville," and this is a concern because ethanol is a highly volatile and inflammable fuel. The Chelsea resolution expressed concern that such trains could become targets of terrorism, and it says, "Should a fire or explosion occur, thousands of people and dozens of businesses can be impacted—entire neighborhoods decimated."

The Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line goes close to Union Square and through residential neighborhoods around Somerville Avenue. The Lowell Line travels past residential areas of East Somerville and the central part of the city.

Gewirtz said that if efforts to stop the freight trains are successful, the oil company's other option might be to use trucks, another thing she doesn't want.

"I don't think they should be doing it at all. They shouldn't be doing it through dense, urban, heavily populated cities," she said. 

Pyotr Petrovich May 25, 2012 at 03:27 PM
So I suppose 90 trucks rather than one train is preferred? The solution is rather simple, stop using cars and walk or bike. Eventually, the trains will be approved. Why not focus on something actually productive and in the public interest like emergency plans and track and crossing improvements? NIMBY may be good politics, but helps no one.
Jonah Petri July 01, 2012 at 03:30 PM
There's nothing wrong with being concerned when it's a huge company (GLP) worth more than half a billion dollars profiting from, but not protecting or supporting, the community it is using as its dumping ground for massive diesel pollution. Somerville already has the highest number of diesel trains per area in the state, and there are measurable and disastrous health impacts associated with diesel emissions. Who pays for the measurable increase in childhood asthma which these new trains will cause? What about the measurable increase in heart disease and strokes? I'm not saying I have the answers. But I am saying that the questions are totally valid ones to ask.
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