A day after academic experts slammed a plan to place a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, energy giant Enbridge had its chance Thursday afternoon at an appeal hearing to defend its permit for a facility the company said would not cause significant or environmental health impacts.

The second day of the three-day appeal hearing opened with two more witnesses who alleged that the state Department of Environmental Protection should not have issued an air-quality permit to Enbridge in January, a key step toward final approval for the controversial facility.

Enbridge intends to use the facility, located near the Weymouth shoreline along the Fore River, to connect existing natural-gas pipeline infrastructure as part of its Atlantic Bridge project. The DEP issued an air-quality permit in January allowing the process to go forward, noting at the time that a health impact assessment concluded any air emissions would fall within limits and that no other negative health effects would be directly caused.

A group of residents and the communities of Weymouth, Quincy, Hingham and Braintree disagreed with the state’s decision and filed a formal appeal, prompting this week’s hearings. Air compliance specialist John Hinckley, a witness called Thursday by the town of Weymouth, said his own analysis suggests the station would release formaldehyde at an excessive level.

“The facility doesn’t presently meet the intent of the regulations, meaning the current project design and proposed operation – when you model that, the modeling shows that a condition of air pollution would occur,” Hinckley said while being questioned by Enbridge attorneys. “The Massachusetts air pollution control regulations prohibit a condition of air pollution from occurring.”

Peter Valberg, a health scientist at Gradient, a consulting firm Enbridge contracted with for the appeals process, said he believes opponents who say the compressor station will lead to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals are incorrect. The DEP’s permitting process, he said, found that expected emissions of formaldehyde and benzene are within federal guidelines.

“These hypothetical cancer risks should not be viewed as providing evidence of unacceptable existing air quality,” Valberg said during Thursday’s hearing.

Parties will return to DEP’s Boston headquarters for a final day of testimony today. Hearing officer Jane Rothchild will then review the submitted materials and make a recommendation on the appeal to DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg, who will issue a ruling by June 28.

Neighbors, Energy Giant Battle over Natural Gas Compressor in Weymouth

by State House News Service time to read: 2 min