East Boston residents seeking ballot question about proposed power substation

East Boston residents are pushing to get a question on the city’s November ballot about the controversial substation proposed there.

“If this goes on the ballot, I think everybody in the city will know about it,” Heather O’Brien of Eastie said.

The proposed power substation, which would tuck in off of Condor Street behind the new police station that’s currently under construction, has drawn controversy for years. The ire came to a head last fall, when dozens of residents and activists testified in a virtual meeting before the city’s conservation commission against the structure.

They claimed, among other things, that when the low-lying land along the Chelsea Creek floods, as it periodically does, the place could “explode” — causing the giant tanks of jet fuel a few hundred feet away to violently detonate. There’s also concerns over the fact that the heavily minority area near the airport could be subject to yet more pollution.

“Eight million gallons of jet fuel, a playground — let’s sandwich a substation in there,” O’Brien said sarcastically on Tuesday. “Come on.”

The proposed ballot measure would need the approval of the council and signature by the mayor to move forward. It isn’t binding, but would aim to be an expression of will against the proposal.

The substation cleared a significant state permitting hurdle on Monday and is moving toward final approval.

Eversource has defended its proposal, saying it’s taking safety concerns into account, and saying that while substations are always unpopular, they’re necessary.

East Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards is introducing a resolution — also nonbinding — in support of the ballot measure, which she says she hopes will be a “poke in the eye” of Eversource.

“This shouldn’t be in East Boston,” she said, adding that she thinks Eversource is taking advantage of the heavily Hispanic and lower-income community there. “This just wouldn’t happen on Beacon Hill, it wouldn’t happen in Newton, this wouldn’t happen in Wellesley.”

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