Yet the biggest news about unsafe, expensive and mismanaged gas systems isn’t a look back at last year’s disaster. Instead, it’s the revelation that the system isn’t any better that was back then. When it comes to our energy future, gas is still a risky, destructive and increasingly expensive option. In both economic and environmental terms, it remains a bad investment. (That’s a message you can help deliver to state officials by clicking here).
In a must-read story about California’s efforts to implement a gradual phaseout of fracked gas, reporter Lauren Sommer outlines the creative and courageous ways that local and state governments can encourage the transformation that must occur – and soon – in order to preserve the nation’s health economy and quality of life.
After a horribly botched review process, MA DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg has given the go-ahead to Enbridge/Spectra Energy to build a new compressor facility on the banks of the Fore River in Weymouth. That project isn’t totally out of the woods yet – it faces a lawsuit and requires some additional permitting.
But Suuberg’s approval is a disappointing and major step backwards in the state’s effort to fight climate change and a step forward in the gas industry’s efforts to expand the use of dirty, dangerous, climate-shifting, fracked gas in Massachusetts, New England, the Canadian Maritime provinces, and Europe.
Senior officials in the US Energy Department have begun to refer to fracked gas as “freedom gas,” equating its export to the soldiers we sent to Europe in WWII. The Assistant Secretary proclaimed that we are spreading “molecules of freedom.” And in twisted, demented logic, Professor Will Happer, a doddering White House climate change denier, who should simply retire, said "the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the Jews under Hitler."
The loss of faith in gas, and all fossil fuels, which may have been ignited by the Merrimack Valley disaster, has now been accelerated by the failure of the industry and of state environmental officials to test for, and admit to, the serious health and safety risks of Enbridge’s proposed compressor station in Weymouth.
In Connecticut, there’s growing momentum to repeal that state’s retrograde pipeline tax law, which allows gas utilities to make consumers pay for new pipelines through pipeline tax. Supporters of this anti-consumer, anti-environment law maintain that it needs to stay on the books because it provides a back-up source of funding for new fossil fuel infrastructure that may become necessary in case of some “unforeseeable emergency.”
In an unexpected development, the disaster last fall in the Merrimack Valley ignited the passion of teenagers who see it as a call to action on urgent issues that transcend pipeline safety. For their graduation project, seniors at Four Rivers Public Charter School in Greenfield produced the documentary, Under Pressure.
Energy and pipeline companies continue to claim, falsely, that we need massive new fracked-gas pipelines. Unless we pay them billions to build and run them for the next 40 years, we’ll end up freezing in the dark. Some western MA gas companies have even refused to provide new gas hookups, and other services, until we pony up.
Gas prices stayed stable during the recent cold snap, due to the availability of liquid natural gas -- powerful evidence that additional fracked-gas pipelines are NOT needed to insure reliability or keep prices low. All this according to David Ismay, a senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation.
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.