(BOSTON) –  State Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) declared her intention to refile an important civil rights bill next legislative session in response to the gasket failure which allowed hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of methane gas to escape from the Weymouth Compressor Station into the adjacent residential community on Friday, September 11, 2020.

Despite strong opposition by residents, local, state and federal elected officials, public health officials, and environmental advocacy groups, Enbridge began testing the compressor station facilities last week.  Instantly, the communities’ worst fears were realized, as a gasket failure released a significant amount of methane gas into the community at ground level.  The geographic and meteorological characteristics of the Fore River Basin pushed the escaped methane gas into the basin and trapped it on the ground preventing the gas from dispersing.

Both Enbridge and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection released statements confirming the accident occurred.

Representative Meschino believes that the residents of the region should have access to state courts to seek legal recourse when confronted with regulations that allow permitting projects, such as the Weymouth Compressor Station, with such potentially devastating public health impacts and public safety consequences.  Representative Meschino intends to file legislation next session to allow just that.

Representative Meschino’s civil rights bill, entitled An Act to create access to justice, would restore the right of an individual to bring a claim in state court against a government agency when policies have a disparate impact on individuals designated as a protected class under Massachusetts state law.   In this situation, the immediately adjacent neighborhood is designated as an environmental justice community.

“The Compressor Station should never have been built at this location,” said Representative Meschino. “We need to learn from our ongoing fight, make needed changes to the law and regulations, and enfranchise residents at the state level to ensure no such projects are permitted in the middle of a residential community again.  Let’s not wait for a catastrophic calamity before we give voice to local residents confronted with major public health and safety issues.”

The next legislative session will begin in January, 2021.