With arrogance born of always getting their way, the corporations behind the Access Northeast fracked gas pipeline are pushing their proposal once again – this time in apparent disregard of the catastrophic gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley.
As 2019 begins, we should reflect on hard lessons learned last year, and how we might do better.
This would be a good year to reduce the Commonwealth’s over-reliance on gas (almost 70 % of our electricity is fueled by gas) and find additional ways to move toward a clean energy future.
And not just because fracked gas is a dirty fossil fuel that accelerates climate change. Our neighbors in Merrimack Valley suffered enormous hardship last fall, as fracked gas explosions caused a tragic death, multiple injuries, destruction, and dislocation for over 8,000 families.
Several of our staff members attended the Senate hearing on Monday in Lawrence about the gas explosions. Zachary M van Luling shared this moving account of the hearing.
We were all stunned when we saw the news coverage of the pipeline disaster in Lawrence and Andover, and then when we learned that thousands of residents had been forced out of their homes.
But sometimes it takes just a few simple words from the people most affected to truly understand the depth of the tragedy.
Hundreds of people attended the US Senate hearing on the pipeline explosions last Monday at a middle school in Lawrence.
And we suddenly understood just how horrible this disaster was when the hearing started with a few simple words from the sister of the young man, Leonel Rondon, who was killed as his house exploded.
His sister, Lucianny Rondon, said, “the grief we feel is unbearable. but we know Leonel would want us to stay strong. We will stand with the community on his behalf. We hope there will be justice for him and the community.”
That’s all she said, before she couldn’t continue. But those few words made me fully understand what a horror has happened to our neighbors.
The company responsible, Columbia Gas, was incompetent from the start. The explosions occurred because a technician failed to connect a pressure gauge to the right pipe. It took hours for the company to notify customers of the problem. Many people lost their homes. And thousands of people, instead of preparing for the holidays, are still stuck in temporary housing, with the company pushing back the deadline for getting them back home, again and again.
We still have much to learn about this tragedy. One thing we can’t forget is that gas is inherently dangerous. It can kill people. We are in the middle of a debate in our state about our energy future. The utility companies still want more gas, including new pipelines to bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania.
But let’s stop and think for a minute. We need to reassess our energy future and make sure we focus on clean and safe energy sources in the future.
The pipeline explosions in the Merrimack Valley have awoken us to the dangers related to fracked gas and the pipelines that deliver it to our homes and businesses. This analysis by David Abel, a Boston Globe environmental reporter, summarizes the dangers: health risks, ground water contamination, gas leaks near our homes and under our streets (over 15,000 in MA), greenhouse gas emissions that may exceed coal and, of course, public safety.
We must contiune to work to stop more fracked gas pipelines, and to accelerate the transformation to renewable power. Fossil fuels are a bad choice, and we do have a choice.
In the meantime, please consider a donation to help the people and businesses that have been harmed in the Merrimack Valley. Click here to donate.
The findings of a WBUR/MassINC poll reported last week show a dramatic drop in confidence in natural gas infrastructure and a drop in the public's view of gas in the state's energy mix. While some have attributed this to the aftermath of the Merrimack Valley explosions, a closer look at past data suggests that skepticism about gas had already taken hold among the electorate.
First, There is overwhelming support for renewables: 84 percent of respondents said there should be more solar power in Massachusetts, while 80 percent said the state should rely more on wind power.
Reporting focused on the recent shift: Natural gas saw the greatest shift in voter attitudes from 2015, when WBUR asked the same question.
This year, Forty-two percent of 2018 respondents said Massachusetts should rely on gas more.; 41 percent chose less. Three years ago, 50 percent of respondents said the state should rely more on gas and 31 percent chose less.
But the drop in support was even more dramatic in the previous 3 year period. In 2011, fully 66% of people thought we should rely more on gas. Gas adherents have gone from a 2-1 edge to an even question.
Despite many millions in corporate advertising and a relentless political push, this fossil fuel is on its way to extinction.
If you would like to help the families who have been displaced or suffered hardship as a result of the pipeline explosions in the Merrimack Valley, please go to http://eccf.org/GLdisasterrelieffund
Best wishes for a clean, healthy and safe enviornment,
We've been cruising around the state in the #NoPipelineTax Mobile to educate as many residents as possible about the environmental and economic impacts of new fracked gas pipelines and a pipeline tax. If we're going to stop the pipelines and the pipeline tax, we need to get everyone on board!
We'd love for you to stop by at any of our upcoming events:
- Wednesday, August 22nd 10am-3pm @ Lawrence Farmer's Market - Campagnone North Common, Lawrence, MA
- Thursday, August 23rd 3pm-7pm @ Medford Farmer's Market - Condon Shell Park
- Friday, August 24th 10am -3 pm- Lawrence Farmer's Market (Methuen) - 254 Broadway, RT 28, Methuen, MA
- Saturday, August 25th 8:30am - 1pm @ Braintree Farmer's Market - Braintree Town Hall
And don't forget to plan ahead so you can join us and other organizations at East Boston's American Legion Playground on September 8th at noon for Boston RISE for Climate, Jobs, Justice: Rally & People's School.
The legislative session ended last week, with two new environmental laws: an Environmental Bond Bill, authorizing the expenditure of $2.4 billion for climate change adaptation projects, and a Clean Energy Bill, that passed without the anti-pipeline tax provision.
…But the fight is not over: the pipeline companies are planning to introduce legislation next session, so we will be calling on you to help again! We’ll update you soon.
Leaked gas - which is 99% methane - is 80 times more powerful than carbon as a greenhouse gas. The gas industry is not eager to tell this part of the truth. But NPR is, and reported this week that the amount of leaked gas may be far more extensive than previously thought.
Thank you so much for your help, and for the solid victory that we achieved yesterday in the State Senate. Our senators gave us many, many reasons to be proud, as they passed S.2545, the Omnibus Energy Bill, unanimously.
The bill includes a number of important provisions that would prohibit, and/or eliminate the "need" for natural gas pipelines, including:
- a prohibition on pipeline taxes for any new gas pipelines that would provide gas for electric generators;
- a requirement that the Commonwealth consider alternatives to natural gas before building new pipelines;
- a provision that gives new authority to localities in the approval of compressor stations, and requires air monitoring near existing stations;
- a provision that would accelerate the amount of renewable energy in basic electric service from a 1% to a 3% increase annually; and
- a requirement that the Commonwealth develop a plan, by 2023, for meeting Global Warming Solutions Act targets for 2030, 2040 an 2050.
he prohibition on pipeline taxes would be enoug to kill Access Northeast, and prevent similar pipeline proposals in the future. But the Senate kindly provided a belt and suspenders, two extra pairs of sox, galoshes and an umbrella ... just in case. Hats off to them!
Of course, the House must now pass similar provisions, or agree to the Senate's, and we have our work cut out for us there, over the next month or so.
But that is for tomorrow. Today, please take the time to pat yourself on the back, and click on this link to thank your state senator.
Thanks to you, we are now closer to a safe, healthy and clean environment.
By the time new fracked gas pipelines are built, most renewable energy will cost less than gas, causing many gas-fired plants to close. That's the conclusion of a new study, released this week by the Rocky Mountain Institute and reported in Forbes.
Even after these pipelines close, ratepayers like you and me will continue to pay for them, which, if you’re the Eversource Corporation - is the beauty of it. Massachusetts allows regulated pipeline companies and their investors to make the highest guaranteed profit margins in the country - up to 14% in some cases- which we pay for in our bills, until the pipelines are paid off, whether they are used or not!
Do we want more pipelines that we will never need, never use, and that we will be forced to pay for over the next 20 years? If you think that’s a good idea, please ignore this post. If not, please help us to defeat them, now and in the future.
The best way to do that is to urge your elected officials to stop new fracked gas pipelines! Just click here to send a letter.
Best wishes for a clean, healthy and safe environment,
As we’ve noted over the past year, ISO-New England is obsessed with getting more fracked gas pipelines into MA- even though independent analysis shows that we don’t need them and that they will cost consumers billions. In January, ISO published yet another pro-pipeline report, this one labeled “fuel security,” saying, again, that we risk blackouts on very cold winter days with without more fracked gas.
That ISO report turns out to have been dead wrong—and was based on “flawed assumptions and unrealistic scenarios," according to the highly respected Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). And, amazingly, ISO has corrected itself, issuing a revised report based on more accurate information. The revised report now shows, according to CLF, that:
“[T]here is virtually zero risk of rolling blackouts in the winter as long as the New England states continue to successfully invest in clean and renewable energy and energy efficiency on the pace required by existing state laws.”
The Attorney General, the environmental community and consumer advocacy groups, like ours, have been saying this for a long time.
The revised report is very good news, but we can’t rest until the legislature takes action to stop these expensive, unneeded pipelines, and the multi-billion dollar tax on consumers that will come along with them.
Please take action. Write your legislators today.
PS: If you want to read CLF’s press release, or the report itself, you can click on this link.
The big companies that extract gas from the earth and the big utilities that use it don’t want us to know these three things about fracked gas:
1) It isn’t safe
2) It isn’t clean
3) It isn’t cheap
Yes – what these big companies have been telling us about the virtues of so-called “natural” gas just isn’t true. They’ve just been fracking us.
It’s not safe. Before it's burned, fracked gas is 99% methane. Methane leaks constantly, from fracking wells, interstate pipelines, and the distribution pipes that run down your street and into your home. Methane contains over 70 toxic substances, quite hazardous to your family's health. When not burned completely, it can also release deadly carbon monoxide into your home. According to U.S. Government health and safety experts, carbon monoxide kills hundreds of children and adults every year.
It’s not clean. Fracked gas is horrible for the environment, especially for the climate. Leaked methane is one of the worst contributors to climate change – 84 times more damaging than coal or oil, and accounting for about 25% of climate change.
It’s not cheap. At least not to deliver. Eversource's proposal to build more gas pipelines in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast is hugely expensive. They want us – their customers – to pay billions for more gas pipelines that we don't need. Even ISO-NE, the regional electric grid operator responsible for keeping the lights on, says so.
This is a local issue. Massachusetts has at least 15,000 known methane leaks, some of which have been around for over 30 years. You and I pay for the leaked gas (!) which is one of many reasons industry is dragging its feet on finding, reporting and repairing them.
What can you do? Massachusetts is a leader in energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and other actions that slow climate change, reduce pollution and protect our health.
To keep us on steady path to eliminate fossil fuels, please click here to write your state legislators and urge them to pass S.2302, "An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future".
We don't need, don't want and can't afford more fracked gas or the pipelines that bring methane and CO into our communities, our environment, our lungs and our wallets. Please help us stop them.
P.S. A big Shout Out to Mothers Out Front for their leadership on getting the leaking pipelines fixed.
It’s well known that you can’t kill zombies: they’re called the “undead” for a reason. You can use any kind of weapon (my personal favorite is the “flazooka,” a combination flame thrower and bazooka), but just when you think they’re toast, they jump up and come running after you, full speed.
New England has zombie pipelines and one is back with a vengeance.
Last June, ratepayers, environmentalists, public health advocates, and threatened communities throughout New England breathed a huge sigh of relief when Access Northeast - the multi-state, $6.6 Billion, environmental monstrosity of a fracked gas pipeline was put “on hold”.
But guess what? It’s back. Undead. (Never dead, actually.) With help from the cold snap and a steady soundtrack of editorials and opinion columns from a variety of outlets, childishly linking local environmentalists to Vladimir Putin, Access Northeast has jumped up again.
We’re being chased by a 125-mile long zombie pipeline, hell-bent for our wallets, our environment, our quality of life, and our health. Don’t take it from me. Here’s the Globe’s Jon Chesto, with news of the rising.
Fortunately, we’ve just been handed a supersonic, zombie pipeline death ray. The Senate Committee on Global Warming has introduced a bill - S.2302, the Omnibus Energy bill- that would do many great things, including ending our zombie pipelines -- forever.
The great news is that everyone has a chance to pull the trigger. All you have to do is click here to tell your legislators to vote YES on Senate Bill 2302 that will kill the pipeline – again.
A new fracked gas pipeline offensive is on the horizon. Fossil fuel forces are on the attack, aggressively seeking a legislative opportunity, and counting on our complacency because of the success we’ve had to date.
- As soon as it got cold, Eversource began blaming the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) for rejecting the pipeline tax, and the environmental community for defeating the Access Northeast Pipeline.
- Eversource simultaneously sought to silence its critics, threatening to sue the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental organization, for reporting that they manipulated prices during the 2014 polar vortex – resulting in $3.6 billion of consumer overcharges.
- Pipeline proponents, with characteristic chutzpah, used market spikes of a few hours in 2018 to claim that New England ratepayers pay “the highest price on the planet” for gas, as if that was a permanent reality.
- ISO-New England issued a highly pessimistic report, based on faulty assumptions. that blackouts are likely in 2024, due to lack of pipeline capacity. The facts have been refuted, but the report remains as a talking point.
- The Baker Administration is still saying we need more gas to “diversify our energy supply” even though gas already accounts for 60% of our energy supply.
- Senator Pacheco’s 134-page omnibus energy bill was attacked editorially for two sentences that would codify the SJC decision prohibiting ratepayers from paying for pipelines. In fact, the state’s leading newspaper has editorialized in favor of pipelines four times in the last seven weeks, saying that pipeline opponents were to blame for the Russian natural gas extraction’s impact on wildlife.
The gas pipeline forces are using an old playbook: seize on a “crisis” for public relations momentum; organize their big business buddies; call in political favors from those whose pockets they’ve lined; and demonize the opposition.
Make no mistake. This is a huge effort by a big utility that thinks they own the state, or at least its energy policies. They will strike, suddenly and swiftly, and in the middle of the night.
There is a way to defeat them. The Omnibus Energy Bill S.2302 contains a prohibition against the pipeline tax and many provisions that would accelerate our transformation to renewable energy. Click here to contact your State Senator to ask him or her to support this important bill.
Not content with nearly $1 Billion profit annually, Eversource will now charge residents an annual fee of over $100 if they install solar panels after December 31, 2018.
Eversource is the first energy company in the nation to seek such a charge, which was appoved last month by the Mass Department of Public Utilities.
Eversource campaigns hard gainst any solar power development that it doesn’t own or control. The company does a lot to limit solar power so that it can build gas pipelines that we don't want, don't need and can't afford.
Read more here.
How many sneaky ways can Eversource find to charge ratepayers for activities that provide us with no benefits? Far more than you can imagine.
It’s just come to light that consumers reimburse Eversource for over $800,000, per year, for dues paid to trade associations, many of whom work for fossil fuel interests. Consumers get nothing for that, other than more air pollution and climate change. We also learned that we paid $4.9 million, for lobbyists and lawyers whose goal is to raise our electric rates!
Another report revealed that New England consumers got whacked for an additional $3.6 billion on their electric bills, when Eversource, and Avangrid — a $31B energy delivery company with operations in 27 states — reserved gas pipeline capacity between 2013-2016 that they didn’t need, never used, and kept from other companies. Consumers got nothing for this money, other than higher prices.
While the Attorney General and utility regulators work to get to the bottom of these rip-offs, we need the Legislature to stop it from happening again. CSE is supporting several bills that would stop new gas infrastructure, thus eliminating these and many other questionable practices.
You can help. Please click here to write your representatives about supporting these bills.
Best wishes for a healthy, safe and clean environment.
As New England’s largest electric and natural gas provider, Eversource boasts 3.7 million electric and natural gas customers. It claims to want to be “the best energy company in the nation by 2020,” delivering reliable energy and “top tier financial performance.”
Lately however, Eversource has become much better known for its chutzpah in trying to fleece the public for its extravagant finances and outrageous future plans. The examples are so numerous, we’re asking you to vote for your top three Eversource “Chutzpah” moments.
Please vote for up to three of the following. If you have your own, please write it in. We will publish the results on Friday, November 10th.
- Asking ratepayers to bear the $6.6 billion cost of a pipeline to pump fracked gas we don’t need from Pennsylvania.
- Withholding gas capacity from pipelines -- even during the polar vortex of 2014 -- causing ratepayers to pay an extra $3.6 billion -- then claiming we need more pipelines to increase capacity.
- Asking ratepayers for $821,000 per year to pay dues to business groups that support new pipelines (DPU filings).
- Handing retiring CEO, Tom May, a $9.7 million-dollar goodbye kiss, and passing THAT on to ratepayers.
- Claiming we need more pipelines while failing to repair thousands of gas leaks for decades, ignoring health and environmental concerns. And charging ratepayers for the leaked gas!
- Continuing to push for new gas pipelines that we don’t want, don’t need and certainly can’t afford.
- Asking ratepayers to pay $4.9 million for the legal costs of proposing a large rate increase – making us pay to get them a rate increase.
Cast your vote by filling out the below. Thank you!
Research from Vanderbilt and the University of California shows Eversource may have withheld available gas during the so-called "polar vortex," according to an article in the Boston Globe. It is deeply disturbing that Eversource may have been manipulating the cost of gas and electricity. If intentional, the company was secretly gouging New England consumers to the tune of $3.6B.
Eversource now says that the reserved gas wasn't needed, which is why they let it go elsewhere (or nowhere, as it turned out). But that makes no sense, given that during those super cold days, gas prices were rising through the roof, as the result of what Eversource has said was a pipeline capacity shortage.
If the research is correct, there was no gas or capacity shortage at all. What caused the prices to spike was the failure of Eversource to release gas that it controlled.
At a minimum, this casts devastating doubt on Eversource's claim that it needs new pipelines to keep prices stable. But the failure to use the reserved gas caused prices to rise by $3.6 billion.
In other words, no price spike and no argument for new gas pipelines.
Something is rotten in New England. Let's hope someone gets to the bottom of this, fast.
If you think that Eversource, NGrid, and their Canadian pipeline partner, Enbridge, have given up on building more gas pipelines to bring unneeded, carbon-emitting, natural gas to MA, please listen to what they are saying. They’ve told investors that they will ask the Legislature, once again, to force MA consumers to pay a pipeline tax of $6.6 BILLION to finance their projects.
The Legislature has wisely refused to pass a pipeline tax, the Supreme Judicial Court has unanimously said “no way,” and residents and businesses from Cummington to the Cape have risen up against more in protest. Now, it seems that pipeline proponents may be planning an end run, with help from ISO - New England, the regional grid operator.
Gas-obsessed ISO, and its CEO, Gordon van Welie, might ask FERC to impose a “regional tariff,” -- a huge rate hike across New England, that would bypass state legislatures and the courts, but not consumers, who would still be stuck with the tab.
In its mission to keep power flowing, ISO is supposed to be fuel- neutral. Despite this mandate, Chairman van Welie has long been a natural gas cheerleader. He would be risking the credibility and effectiveness of ISO by trying to defeat the legislature, the courts, and the people all at the same time, and using scare tactics to do it.
I wrote an article that appeared last week in Commonwealth Magazine to provide details regarding ISO’s bogus attempts to frighten us into caving to the fossil fuel industry.
Sometime in October, fittingly, perhaps, on Halloween, ISO is due to release a fuel security study, the details of which remain closely guarded, but that will likely suggest, once again, that New England will be freezing in the dark or facing rolling blackouts unless we come to our senses and pay for gas pipelines that we don’t need, don’t want and can’t afford. BOO!
You have it wrong Mr. Van Welie. The future is in clean, renewable power, not more climate changing fossil fuels.
If you have a moment, please read the article and pass it along.
Best wishes for a clean, healthy and safe environment.