Katy Eiseman: Proposed gas pipeline wrong policy for New England

Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2014

CUMMINGTON — In the last several weeks, landowners across the state — from the Berkshires to Essex County — have been contacted by representatives of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC (a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP) for permission to survey land for the proposed “Northeast Expansion” natural gas pipeline.

I urge landowners to deny the company permission to survey, or to rescind permission where it has been granted. I am also calling on local, state and federal officials to do everything in their power to block this unnecessary and ill-conceived pipeline, and to champion sustainable solutions to our energy needs.

According to the Boston Globe, natural gas already accounts for 67 percent of our state’s electrical generation. Increasing our reliance on this single, nonrenewable source of energy would make ratepayers even more beholden to volatile commodities markets. The intent for this route to link up to Canada also belies claims that more pipelines would decrease prices. (According to a TGP memo, intended customers include developers of liquefied natural gas projects in New England and Atlantic Canada.) Exporting American gas would drive prices up and would perpetuate the perceived need for more pipelines. At present, the New England governors are seeking to require electric ratepayers to pay for new pipelines with a new tariff.

The environmental and safety problems with these shale gas pipelines are well documented. The possibility that land protected under state law could be crossed by this pipeline is outrageous. Fatalities, fires, explosions and evacuations due to leaks in the natural gas infrastructure seem to be occurring with increasing frequency.

At the source of the gas, the environmental devastation wrought by hydraulic fracturing across the country has already been substantial. Also, while natural gas is touted as “clean energy” because of its relatively low carbon dioxide emissions, leaks in extraction and transmission emit methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Massachusetts citizens should not be forced to aid and abet this dangerous and shortsighted exploitation of our nation’s natural resources.

The hyped “need” for new pipelines is a fallacy. Proponents have claimed that the capacity of this single pipeline would provide much more energy than our projected energy shortfall. Simply fixing the leaks in existing pipelines in our region would likely cover about one-third of the shortfall; investments in energy efficiency could cover much if not all of the rest. Sustainable, renewable energy should be where we turn for any increase in capacity.

In a perversion of market incentives, our state and others cap the amount of energy that can be sold back to the grid by customers with their own renewable energy systems. If there are to be any caps in place, they should be on fossil fuel sources, not renewables.

The “3,000 jobs” this pipeline would allegedly create would be mostly temporary jobs for employees of the gas company from out of state. The pipeline would also compromise affected landowners’ ability to obtain mortgages or sell their property and leave a tainted legacy on the land for generations to come.

Locally based energy infrastructure (e.g., rooftop wind and solar) would bring long-term, local jobs and real energy independence.

Such a “distributed energy” generation infrastructure would also be safer in terms of national security and the potential for sabotage and terrorism.

In sum, this pipeline would continue a reckless and misguided energy policy that fortifies our reliance on fossil fuels. Instead, we should devote our resources to creating a comprehensive, sustainable renewable energy infrastructure.

Katy Eiseman of Cummington is co-founder of nofrackedgasinmass.org. She holds a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


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