Rosenberg issues nuanced statement on gas pipeline

Last modified: Thursday, July 31, 2014
Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, clarified his position Wednesday on Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s Northeast Energy Direct project in a statement, as three area legislators prepared to attend a rally across from the Statehouse emphasizing their own positions opposing the nearly 300-mile pipeline.

In an open letter to constituents in Franklin, Hampshire and Worcester counties, Rosenberg emphasized the need to balance his opposition to having “a pipeline running through some of the most beautiful areas of Franklin County” with a need to replace 25 percent of New England’s power generation that is expected go offline in the next six years.

Rosenberg, who is widely expected to become Senate president next year, included himself as opposing the $3 billion-to-$4 billion project from crossing state-protected environmentally sensitive land, which under the Massachusetts Constitution would require a two-thirds legislative vote.

Sen. Stan Rosenberg's statement on the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline through Franklin County

“All of the members of the Franklin County legislative delegation are united on this,” wrote Rosenberg, whose letter follows a joint letter opposing the project last week by Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, with Reps. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, Denise Andrews, D-Orange, and Paul Mark, D-Peru.

Yet Rosenberg, whose silence on the issue until now came under criticism in a letter to the editor in The Recorder last week, said in his open letter Wednesday, “I don’t have complete answers yet. What I do know is that the situation is complex and fluid, and unless we take appropriate steps in the near term, especially as approximately 8,300 megawatts of power from fossil and nuclear sources will have gone off-line in the New England region in the next six years, representing approximately 25 percent of all our region’s electric power, our residents, our businesses, our schools, our hospitals, our Commonwealth, could see a tripling of energy costs in the foreseeable future. Experts agree that brownouts and blackouts at peak usage times are likely across our region if those approximately 8,300 megawatts are not replaced.”

Rosenberg, who described himself as “an unabashed policy wonk” who has been a longtime champion of renewable energy and energy conservation programs for the state, added, “I issued a challenge to the energy experts I’ve been consulting: What do we need to do to be energy self-sufficient, meaning no pipelines, no transmission lines bringing hydro energy from Canada, no wind energy from Maine, utilizing only green and renewable technologies and indigenous sources, and conservation measures? What will it cost and how quickly can it be phased in to meet current and projected usage?”

He concluded by saying he doesn’t want residents and employers having to pay “exorbitant energy costs or face brownouts or blackouts because of our failure to act ... Saying ‘no’ to a proposal we don’t want is not enough. We have to show that it is unnecessary. I want the future to be powered by the greenest, most affordable, most sustainable energy possible. That’s what I’m working for.”

Immediately after Wednesday’s rally on the Boston Common, two groups of Rosenberg’s constituents walked to his office and met with a staff assistant to say that they appreciated the senator wanting to fully understand the issue, but urged him to move quickly to represent the clear sense of his constituents opposing the project, according to Mark Burton of Ashfield, who was in attendance.