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A Natural Gas Pipeline for Massachusetts?

By Bob Andrews

Almost everyone has heard about that big Keystone XL Pipeline that is currently being debated in Washington. Have you heard, though, that Kinder Morgan (KM), one of the country’s largest fossil fuel companies, is planning a brand new pipeline that would bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania through Massachusetts? Massachusetts, if KM has its way, will underwrite this pipeline, and citizens of Massachusetts will be asked to help pay for it.

KM states, as justification for this pipeline, that it is prompted by a growing demand in the Northeast region for natural gas, which they describe as “a clean, environmentally friendly energy source that is produced domestically.” To meet this demand and make sure that consumers are not hit with high energy prices at peak demand times, the company argues that the existing fuel transportation infrastructure must be expanded.

There are many reasons for opposing this pipeline. An extremely important one is that a new and very expensive state commitment to natural gas infrastructure can seriously undermine our very encouraging progress toward alternative energy, which is critically important for addressing global climate change. Natural gas, as we discussed in last month’s ConcordCAN! column, is not the “clean” transition fuel that some are claiming. It is a fossil fuel that when burned or released into the atmosphere by gas leaks substantially fuels climate change. In fact, natural (methane) gas, when it escapes into the atmosphere, is about 80 times more damaging than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, molecule for molecule.

Massachusetts is on the brink of a genuine alternative energy revolution. Last year, we became the most energy efficient state in the country, and we are one of the top states for solar. Despite this, New England’s governors were apparently impressed, at first, by KM’s arguments.

Nonetheless, grassroots opposition to the pipeline has been on the rise statewide. Many individuals, groups, and communities along the originally proposed route protested strongly over the past few years since the pipeline project would have ripped up a great deal of private property as well as public parks, forests, and more. Governor Patrick was apparently impressed by the level of opposition to the plan and modified his stance about it.

As the opposition rose to a peak across this state, the plan for the location of the pipeline shifted so that it would not impinge upon so many Massachusetts towns and would, instead, shift northward into New Hampshire, following existing rights of way along utility lines.

ConcordCAN! believes that this pipeline, regardless of the route, is a bad idea for everyone but those who will profit from its construction. The construction of a natural gas pipeline for fracked gas means expanded fracking and increased production, leading to an increase in global warming pollution and more damage to our underground water supplies wherever fracking takes place. And there will still be environmentally damaging and unjustifiable incursions on private and public lands. Additionally, there is good reason to believe that the pipe capacity is about four times as much as the electric companies are saying is needed.

Because ConcordCAN! sees this pipeline and increased reliance on fossil fuels as inconsistent with Concord’s sustainability principles and a threat to the natural environment, it will be the topic for discussion at the January Sustainable Concord Coffee. Speaker(s) have yet to be determined, but will be people who are highly informed about this issue. We hope to see you at the coffee at the Harvey Wheeler Community Center on Tuesday, January 20, from 7:30-9 AM.

Bob Andrews is a Concord resident and member of the ConcordCAN! Steering Group.