Pipelines We Will Never Need, Never Use, and Will Be Forced to Pay For

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, 


New Report: New England Does Not Need More Fracked Gas Pipelines

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 Three Big Lies About “Natural” Gas

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. 


New England's Zombie Pipeline

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 Specter Haunts New England

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.  

Why worry?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 

Eversource  Chutzpah Moment: Another Embarrassing and Greedy Action

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.   

Paying for Nothing?

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.

Andy Savitz

Please Vote for the Top Chutzpah Moments from Eversource

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.

  1. Asking ratepayers to bear the $6.6 billion cost of a pipeline to pump fracked gas we don’t need from Pennsylvania.
  2. 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.
  3. Asking ratepayers for $821,000 per year to pay dues to business groups that support new pipelines (DPU filings).
  4. Handing retiring CEO, Tom May, a $9.7 million-dollar goodbye kiss, and passing THAT on to ratepayers.
  5. 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!              
  6. Continuing to push for new gas pipelines that we don’t want, don’t need and certainly can’t afford.
  7. 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!


Eversource May Have Withheld Gas During Polar Vortex

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. 

Expensive Gas Pipelines Still Front Burner With Proponents

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.  

Andy Savitz

Connecticut's Energy Future at Stake

Guest blog post by Martha Klein, Chair, Sierra Club Connecticut Chapter

Yesterday, the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) released its draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy. This draft plan, once finalized, will impact Connecticut energy use and development for the next few years. 

Read more about the draft plan here. 

While Connecticut has made progress in advancing renewable energy and protecting the environment, it is disappointing that the state continues on a path to support major investment in fossil fuels. Fossil fuels harm the environment by polluting our air and water and harm consumers who will continue to foot the bill for unneeded fossil fuel infrastructure. It is both shocking and troubling that while President Trump is doubling down on fossil fuels and new pipelines in DC - Connecticut has chosen to follow his lead. 

Sadly, this CES draft simply does not hit the clear renewable energy goals to set forth by the Global Warming Solutions Act.  

I encourage every Connecticut resident concerned about the environment to turn out to public hearings  and tell our state leaders that it's time for Connecticut to be a leader in combating climate change and investing in clean, renewable energy! 

Public meetings on the CES will be held as follows:

  • August 14, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Webb Hall, Room 110, Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU), Eastern Road, Willimantic, Connecticut.
  • August 16, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Beacon Hall Events Center, Room 214, Housatonic Community College, 900 Lafayette Boulevard, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
  • August 21, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Fort Trumbull State Park Conference Center, 90 Walbach Street, New London, Connecticut.
  • August 29, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Auditorium, Torrington City Hall, 2nd floor, 140 Main Street, Torrington, Connecticut.
  • September 6, 2017, 4:00 p.m., Gina McCarthy Auditorium, 5th Floor, DEEP's Hartford Office, 79 Elm Street, Hartford, Connecticut.
  • September 7, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Jones Auditorium, Britton Building, 2nd Floor, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), 123 Huntington Street, New Haven, Connecticut. 

Access Northeast Pipeline: Not Dead Yet

Don’t be fooled by recent headlines in Massachusetts indicating that the Access Northeast Pipeline proposal has been withdrawn.  As Mark Twain supposedly said, when told that his obituary had appeared in a local newspaper, “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  

Yes, the decision to “pause,” made by Eversource, National Grid and Enbridge, may be positive news in terms canceling this utility rip-off. But it’s more likely to be a false positive. These companies have spent years claiming that Massachusetts is at critical risk for energy reliability.

But with gas demand heading into sharp decline due to the state’s nation-leading efforts on energy efficiency, renewable energy and emissions reductions, they have not yet convinced the state legislature to stick ratepayers with the $3.2 billion pipeline construction costs, ballooning to $6.6 billion with operations and maintenance (according to the independent energy analyst group Synapse.)

Attorney General Maura Healey has also deemed new natural gas pipelines unnecessary and the state Senate voted 39-0 against pipeline taxes.

The recent media coverage includes quotes from the pipeline developers that they are reloading for a fresh lobbying assault, as early as this fall.  An Enbridge vice president said the company is confident of getting “back on track” with state legislators and federal regulators. A National Grid senior vice president said he hoped, “we can get cooler heads to prevail and get the votes.”

The big utilities really hope that they can get legislators to lose their heads, using their old scare tactics, supported by ISO- NE, an agency that makes its living by crying wolf. 

Natural gas was briefly seen, a decade ago, as a welcome bridge from coal and oil in slashing greenhouse gas emissions. But we are now well past its environmental and economic benefits. More fossil fuel will accelerate climate change and make it more expensive to address. We need to stop the Access Northeast pipeline now and forever.

Please take a minute to write your elected officials.  They need to continue to stop the pipeline tax, and fight the pipelines themselves, no matter what fakery the developers try.  Why should we be forced to pay for pipelines that we don’t need, don’t want and can’t afford, just to enrich gas developers?


Let’s Not Give Them the Money:  No Pipeline Tax!

The more President Trump pushes to reverse decades of environmental progress, the harder our state and local activists push back.  It’s inspiring and important work.

The MA Sierra Club, Mass Power Forward, Mothers Out Front, the New England Pipeline Awareness Network, and No Fracked Gas in Mass, have scored big wins against Eversource, NGrid, and their international pipeline partner Spectra/Enbridge – all desperate to build natural gas pipelines that we don’t need and can’t afford.

So far, the MA Attorney General, Synapse Energy Economics, and the University of New Hampshire say we don’t need more natural gas.  The MA Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the developers’ greedy plan to impose a $6.6 BILLION pipeline tax on electric ratepayers to build gas pipelines (go figure), and the MA Senate seconded that opinion, voting 39-0 against the scheme.

So, with no need, a huge price tag, a climate change crisis, and opposition coming from many quarters, what’s motivating these companies to keep pushing?

Simple. They want to use our money to export their gas to Europe, where they can get much higher prices than here.

Let’s not give them the money:  No Pipeline Tax!

Read more at https://commonwealthmagazine.org/opinion/exports-explain-interest-in-gas-pipeline/

Democracy Lesson in Shrewsbury

The momentum is growing against natural gas pipelines, and against making consumers pay for them. 

Town Meetings in Grafton, Norfolk and Shrewsbury recently voted against hosting the West Boylston Lateral, a 27-mile, 16-inch, high-pressure, fracked gas pipeline, running from Medway to West Boylston. 

Anti-pipeline advocate Steve Fishman demonstrating the size difference between an average residential distribution pipeline versus the proposed 16" high pressure transmission pipeline. 

Anti-pipeline advocate Steve Fishman demonstrating the size difference between an average residential distribution pipeline versus the proposed 16" high pressure transmission pipeline. 

The towns don’t want it, they don’t need it and they can’t afford it. And they apparently aren’t going to take it, at least not without a fight.  

I attended the Shrewsbury Town Meeting recently -- an inspiring lesson in small town, New England- style democracy. I wish my kids had been there.  I wish every kid in Shrewsbury and in Massachusetts had been there.

Despite strong opposition from the town’s leadership, including its Finance Committee, its Selectmen, and its Administrator, Town Meeting Members, led by a small group of political newcomers, stood up, tall and determined, voting against the pipeline: 120-91.  

Townhall in Shrewsbury ended with a standing vote, with opponents of the pipeline being heard loud and clear. 

Townhall in Shrewsbury ended with a standing vote, with opponents of the pipeline being heard loud and clear. 

A moment earlier, a voice vote had been ruled as having gone in favor of the pipeline, but anti-pipeline forces immediately called for a standing vote.  When a convincing majority stood up against the pipeline, in defiance of the Town’s pro-pipeline leadership, it was a triumphant and dramatic moment for the democratic process.   It was also a victory for consumers, the environment and the town. Watch the video here. 

The big mystery is this: why would the Shrewsbury Selectman and Finance committees favor a gas pipeline running through their small town, adjacent to their “jewel-in-the-crown” High School, and directly under an aquifer that supplies drinking water for many residents?  Why agree to having “incineration zones,” and “evacuation zones,” in town, along with the administrative burden that the pipeline will require?

The anti-pipeline forces have pointed out, over and over, that the only benefit to Shrewsbury, would be an annual tax payment of $25,000 a year. That’s peanuts compared to the disruption, the additional administrative costs, and the damages that could occur in the event of a problem.

Most residents, and the town’s leadership, remember the gas explosion that occurred in the town a few years ago. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the damage was considerable.

Gas pipe explosion on 15 Colonial Drive, Shrewsbury, December 27, 2013. 

Gas pipe explosion on 15 Colonial Drive, Shrewsbury, December 27, 2013. 

For those of us who care deeply about a clean energy future in Massachusetts, and about the rights of our towns to control their fates, this fight is important. Prior to the Town Meeting, the Town Administrator had given the pipeline developers permission to go onto town-owned land, to conduct a land survey to prepare the way for the pipeline. The pipeline fighters want to get that permission rescinded, now that the Town Meeting has said “no pipeline.”.

Forget Game of Thrones.  Stay tuned to Shrewsbury, and this blog, for further episodes.

The MA Clean Energy Future Tour is coming to a Town Near you

The Massachusetts Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, chaired by Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Pacheco, is holding hearings so that people across the Commonwealth can express their thoughts and concerns about climate change. If you care about the environment and the future of our planet we urge you to participate in a community meeting closest to you. Click here for more information and to find a meeting close to you.

Some points you may wish to make:

  • thank the Committee, and the entire MA Senate, for voting, (39-0 last session), against the pipeline tax; 
  • express your opposition to new gas pipelines, which will bring fracked gas and more greenhouse gas emissions to MA - exactly what we don't need; and
  • ask them to remain firm against the $6.6. BILLION pipeline tax and against new fracked gas pipelines.

The next two hearings are:

  1. Melrose Hearing: Monday May 15th | 6PM | Melrose Memorial Hall 590 Main St, Melrose, MA 02176
  2. Taunton Hearing: Tuesday May 16th | 6PM | Benjamin Friedman Middle School 500 Norton Ave, Taunton, MA 02780

You can also send comments to the committee by clicking here.

Attention Norfolk Residents

Please come to the Town Meeting at the King Philip Jr. High School, this Tuesday, May 9th, from 7 pm, to stand against a proposed interstate pipeline to be built through Norfolk.

We don’t want to pay billions for a pipeline that we don’t need, don’t want and is likely being built to export fracked gas to Canada and Europe!  We should not have our towns and land dug up, with no say in the matter, for the benefit of private corporations. 

We will be article #22 out of #24, so if you need to come a little late, we can still use your help! 

Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/344125282601941/

Thank you

Attention Shrewsbury Residents

Please come to the following 2 events, to stand against a proposed interstate pipeline to be built through Shrewsbury and seven other Worcester County Towns:

  • MAY 9th TUES 6:45 PM – Board of Selectmen – Vote – Town Hall
  • MAY 15th MON 6:45 PM – Annual Town Meeting – Oak Middle School

As you know, the pipeline poses direct threats to our health, to our children’s well-being and to our drinking water by going through the aquifer protection overlay district. It is close to our High School, will go directly under high tension lines, and will create a “blast zone” and an “evacuation zone” in Shrewsbury. All of this will inevitably add costs and burden to our already overtaxed town Boards and Administration,

You can also help by sending an email to our Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen to urge them to SUPPORT ARTICLE 12, which opposes the West Boylston Lateral Pipeline in Shrewsbury.  You’ll need to include both your name and street address and a quick message letting them you’d like them to SUPPORT ARTICLE 12 to stop the West Boylston Lateral Pipeline! Their emails are:

·         selectmen@shrewsburyma.gov  (DEADLINE FOR EMAILS IS FRIDAY AT NOON)

·         financecommittee@shrewsburyma.gov

Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NoGasPipelineShrewsbury/


Thank you, and best wishes for a clean, healthy and safe environment.

We’re Getting FERC’d

Spoiler Alert:  this is not a call to action or an announcement related to our movement to prevent new natural gas pipelines from bringing fracked gas into Massachusetts. Most of you already realize we don’t need or want new gas pipelines, and with price tag of $6.6 billion, we certainly can’t afford them. Fracked gas pipelines mean more fossil fuels, so they are also a major setback to our collective efforts to become more reliant on renewable energy. 

No, this is an open lament, and a way to connect with others who may be feeling the same way. 

Massachusetts has lost over 50,000 acres of forests in the past decade, so it was very unwelcome news that Kinder Morgan, the Texas based pipeline company that owns Tennessee Gas, received permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to fell trees to make way for its gas pipeline - the “Connecticut Expansion” project. Click here for the story.

To add insult to injury, many of the trees will fall in and around Otis State Forest, which is conservation land protected by Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution.  Federal law overrules our state Constitution where interstate pipelines are concerned. 

Otis is a treasure, with pristine lakes and waterways, combined with one of the few old growth forests left in the state.   

If losing old trees, in and old forest, in a state park, explicitly protected by the state constitution, in the face of significant local opposition, for unneeded pipelines isn’t cause enough for complaint, how about the fact that the pipeline is not likely to serve Massachusetts consumers? The extra gas is destined for Connecticut.

Now I like the Nutmeg state as much as the next guy or gal, but this is a bad deal for Massachusetts. We lose trees, we take the risk that the pipeline will leak methane, or cause other forms of pollution, we pay to help build it, and we get nothing in return.

As State Representative William Pignatelli (D-Lenox) has artfully said: “We are getting FERC’d again.” 

This isn’t the first time FERC has tried to FERC us. Last year, Kinder Morgan was very close to getting approval for another project - the largest of the New England pipelines projects – “Northeast Energy Direct,” an expensive, needless pipeline, cutting through many towns along its 185-mile in- state route, to bring fracked gas to Dracut, MA.

Instead, people from all over the State and the region raised their voices and took action, holding thousands of meetings, and hundreds of rallies, marches and demonstrations, along with writing and calling their elected officials to say “no.” Those efforts changed the course of history, turning what started as “not in my back yard” issue into a “not in my New England” issue. 

In the face of unprecedented, widespread opposition, Kinder Morgan eventually put NED on hold, albeit ready to be revived at the slightest hint of an opening. Now they are pushing for this project, seeking to expand an existing pipeline, with some trees being a small price to pay.

It may be a small price to pay for the pipeline developers, but I doubt that I’m alone in feeling that trees are important. Do you remember the first tree you ever climbed?  I do, and I also remember the goldenrod tree that my grandmother planted when my mother was born, and how I stood under it on my mother’s 40th birthday. I remember the huge red oak under which I was married, and I remember the first time I ever saw a baobab tree.

So, this week I can only imagine how those who love the Otis State forest and its trees are feeling about their impending loss. Probably a combination of anger, betrayal, and sadness.

They should also be feeling exploited, because these trees don’t need to die, for the simple reason that we don’t need the extra gas. Several recent independent reports have shown that by the time any new pipelines are operational, we won’t need them as solar, wind, and good old fashioned New England efficiency will displace the need for more natural gas. [1] And even in the unlikely event that more gas is needed a few times a year, there are far better and cheaper ways to get it than building or expanding pipelines that will soon be unneeded, but for which ratepayers will be paying for decades to come.

Make no mistake.  These pipelines - and several others that are planned for New England - including the $6.6 billion Access Northeast pipeline – will be built primarily to enrich the companies that are building them. Like the infamous bridge to nowhere, these pipelines are designed to siphon money from your wallet into theirs.  

I am sure we all applaud the concerted efforts of Senators Warren and Markey, who are working hard to get FERC to reconsider this very poor decision. Read their letter to FERC here

  1. “New England’s Shrinking Need for Natural Gas ” Synapse Energy Economics, www.Synapse-Energy.com, (February 7, 2017)

Pipeline proponents using alternative facts or alternative math

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.

footnote: http://www.synapse-energy.com/sites/default/files/New-Englands-Shrinking-Need-for-Natural-Gas-16-109.pdf