It’s good to see the discussion and expertise on the particulate
matter pollution, as it is very important that we have as many
citizens as possible advocating for the broadest mitigation measures
possible with the Green Line project.
To date, the Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) has been
disturbingly lukewarm on the issue of mitigation. When the lack of
any mention of mitigation measures in the 2008 Annual Status Report
on the project was pointed out, EOT responded that “Any costs for
mitigation – which the project will include – must be balanced
against public requests for project amenities and other
In my view, mitigation is a necessity that far outweighs
any “amenities” or “enhancements” the public might request.
There are many challenges to getting EOT to commit to mitigation
measures, particularly in regard to the diesel pollution:
1. EOT is falling back on (some might say hiding behind) the federal
regulations that only require mitigation if the project increases
the noise, vibration and pollution by a specific amount over the
existing condition. So, in layperson’s terms, if the pollution from
the diesel trains is so awful now that moving the tracks by 15 feet
doesn’t it make it significantly worse, according to the federal
formula, then no mitigation is required.
2. With the Green Line project, ozone is the pollution of concern;
Eastern Massachusetts is “non-attainment” for ozone, meaning there
is too much of it in the air and the state is not in compliance with
the federal Clean Air Act. The intent of the Green Line project (and
the other Big Dig transit commitments) is to get more people to use
transit instead of cars (the largest contributor to greenhouse
gases), thus bringing the state into compliance with the Clean Air
While it is of no consolation to anyone, especially the closest
abutters to the commuter rail line in Medford, Eastern Mass. IS in
attainment for particulate matter pollution, and thus does not face
the same legal mandate to improve conditions.
But no one denies the diesel particular pollution is bad; we just
need to convince the EOT to improve it as part of this project, even
though it technically might not have to.
These measures can include installing on the existing locomotives
Diesel Particulate Filters, which trap particulate matter in the
exhaust, or oxidation catalyst (Oxicat) filters, which are placed
inside the engine exhaust manifold and function like a catalytic
converter on cars and trucks.
The best solution – electrification of the commuter rail lines and
eliminating the diesel emissions – is not even in the MBTA’s 25-year
vision plan, so we can’t wait for that.
It’s up to us to get the EOT and MBTA to address the current problem
now. A good way is to speak up at the upcoming meetings that will be
held on the Green Line project, and submit written comments when the
Draft Environmental Impact Report on the Green Line project is
released this spring.
These meetings and comment periods will be announced on this list.