University lawyers will file a petition in Suffolk Superior Court today for review of the January 31 decision of a state environmental agency blocking construction of a key portion of Harvard's Medical Area power plant.
In addition to today's motion, Harvard's lawyers have requested an adjudicatory hearing within the Department of Environmental Quality Engineering (DEQE), and the department has scheduled a prehearing conference on March 10 to decide the ground rules. Lawyers representing Harvard and power plant opposition groups, including local citizen's groups, will attend the conference. The final hearing date has not yet been set.
Members of more than 40 community groups opposing the power plant project met last night to formalize their ad hoc coalition and to discuss strategy for publicity, fund raising and legal hearings, Dr. John A. Hermos, president of the Brookline Citizens to Protect the Environment, one of the groups, said yesterday.
The DEQE's January 31 decision rejected the Medical Area project's planned diesel electric generators because they would discharge dangerous levels of nitrous dioxide in the heavily populated Mission Hill area of Boston.
Although construction of the electric generators was halted by the decision, work has continued on the steam and chilled water producing portions of the plant, L. Edward Lashman, director of external projects, said yesterday.
The University has now spent more than $35 million on the power plant, which would provide energy to the Medical School, several Harvard teaching hospitals, and other institutions in the Medical Area. The project has been more than five years in the planning stage and would cost a total of $110 million. According to University estimates, the plant would yield $2 million of annual savings.
Mission Hill residents opposed to the project believe that it would create an environmental health hazard, destroy the character of their neighborhood, raise taxes and result in Harvard controlling the area, Michael Lambert, a member of the Mission Hill Planning Commission, said yesterday.
University officials in the past have stressed that the economic success of the Medical Area Total Energy Plant depends on its "co-generation" of steam, chilled water and electricity in one facility. If Harvard is not allowed to build the diesel generators that would produce electricity, the project may be a financial failure.