Statement on 2015-11-16 to Acton Board of Selectmen from Debra Simes about new gas pipelines in Acton

The natural gas industry has worked hard over the last few years at its greenwashing campaign, which aims to convince the public that natural gas is a “bridge fuel” and that we have a natural gas “crisis.” This manufactured “crisis” in New England is primarily about regulators’ and industry’s failure to have planned for replacing some of the capacity that is being lost due to welcome decommissioning of coal-powered plants. Regulators and industry have panicked because they’ve been asleep at the wheel, and have moved to replace that capacity (and way more, planning for significant overbuilding) by replacing capacity with more of the same (fossil fuel infrastructure) for natural gas.

Every time we permit new construction with natural gas feeds, or allow the building of natural gas pipelines, or permit new natural gas storage facilities, we encourage fracking — a technology that wreaks all manner of havoc, including contamination of aquifers, destabilizing of geology and resultant earthquakes, compromised human health because of the toxic chemicals it uses, extreme levels of water consumption, and significant greenhouse gas contributions at well sites from flaring methane. Every time we allow more fossil fuel infrastructure, we lock ourselves into coming decades of fossil fuel use and worsening disruption of the climate.

This is not necessary. There are a number of ways to ratchet down our need for fossil fuels, reduce our emissions, and transition to a renewables energy portfolio, including efficiency measures, demand response, boosts on renewables projects, and development of a new green grid. People have too often swallowed the greenwashed message of “natural gas as a bridge fuel,” and think that natural gas will make their electricity cheaper this year, next year, etc. If we continue to buy into this idea, it will be a short-lived and narrow savings, because here’s what it really will do:

  • it will tie us into 19th-century technology for decades to come
  • it will encourage more high-risk NG pipelines
  • it will make ratepayers pay for an outdated and destructive set of technologies
  • it will hurt investment in renewables
  • it will advance the awful fracking industry
  • it will indirectly mobilize fuel for global markets
  • it will endanger public safety, conservation land, aquifers and wells, and agricultural soils

At all levels, including locally, we need to stand for a renewables energy future, and not for a planet-warming, polluting, and dangerous technology from two centuries ago.

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