Alternative facts are catching on in Massachusetts like a bad habit, especially with those advocating for more natural gas pipelines. For example, we’re told that we need to “diversify our energy supply” which sounds very much like a true fact, until you find out that natural gas accounts for almost 60% of our energy supply already.
Pipeline proponents are either using alternative facts or alternative math. To diversify energy in Massachusetts, we must increase renewables, which make up only 11% of our energy supply. If we add more gas, we continue to put our eggs in an overfilled basket. Not prudent.
Many of our political leaders who are pro-pipeline say that this is not State House decision. When questioned on a radio call-in show recently, Governor Baker said that it’s the federal government that calls the shots on interstate pipelines. “FERC controls this process,” he said. “If you don’t want pipelines, talk to your representatives in Washington.”
That’s often true, but regarding the Access Northeast pipeline (ANE), it’s an alternative fact. ANE depends on forcing ratepayers to pay for it through a pipeline tax, an unprecedented proposal that the Governor and House Leadership can reject in a nanosecond. (The State Senate voted 39-0 last session against it.) Katy’s Eiseman’s excellent article identifies other ways that the Baker Administration could stop these unneeded pipelines from being built, https://commonwealthmagazine.org/environment/governors-can-wield-influence-over-pipelines/
The pipeline developers have also caught the alternative fact bug, constantly repeating this whopper: “the Access Northeast Pipeline will cost New England ratepayers $3.2 billion.”
Tsk, tsk, tsk. In December 2015, expert witnesses for the pipeline developers testified before DPU that the pipeline would cost ratepayers $500 million per year, for 20 years. In present value terms, that translates to $6.6 billion dollars -- over twice as much as they have been saying.
To be candid, I sometimes use alternative facts myself, when bragging about my athletic prowess, or exaggerating my height (when I’m on the phone or the internet). That reminds me. Today is opening day at Fenway Park and I’ll be in the bullpen for the Red Sox, ready to take my turn on the mound if they need me.