Conservation groups urge Baker to oppose new pipelines

Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Concerns that pipelines carrying fracked gas will affect the state’s ability to fight climate change and meet goals of reduced greenhouse gases are prompting 74 conservation commissions in Massachusetts to encourage Gov. Charlie Baker to oppose any new pipelines.

Northampton, Amherst and Williamsburg are among local communities whose commissions have signed onto a letter to the governor asking him to focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency, rather than pipeline capacity. Commissions in Leverett, Whately and Chesterfield are also signatories to the letter.

A portion of the letter reads: “With climate change, our cities and towns will be facing more violent storms, more extreme precipitation, and longer periods of unremitting heat in the summer months. Communities along our beautiful coastline are making plans to defend themselves against sea level rise. Inland communities must protect against costly river flooding that washes out roads and buildings and ruins people’s lives. Climate change will disrupt our state’s natural ecosystems and built infrastructure.”

Beth Willson, the wetlands administrator for Amherst, said the town’s commission in December, by a 4-2 vote, endorsed the contents of the letter that focuses on energy efficiency efforts, investments in renewables and combating climate change.

“Our commission certainly supports that,” Willson said.

The letter states that more fracked-gas pipelines would limit the state’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas reduction goals in the Global Warming Solutions Act, as well as Baker’s own Integrated Climate Change Strategy.

It also cites a Feb. 7 study by Synapse Energy Economics of Cambridge that projects New England will need less natural gas as a result of renewable energy policies, and that the Access Northeast pipeline will cost $6.6 billion, or more than double the $3.2 billion estimate.

Eugene Benson, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, said in a statement that opposition to pipelines needs to happen in Massachusetts to counter what is going on nationally.

“We need Gov. Baker to fight to preserve and protect our habitats, not destroy them for fossil fuel profits and for pipelines we don’t need, especially now when the environment is under attack by the Trump Administration,” Benson said.

Sierra Club Massachusetts Director Emily Norton praised the letter, noting in a statement that 100,000 Massachusetts residents are employed in the clean energy industry.

“To invest in gas pipelines now is the wrong direction for jobs, for the environment and for ratepayers,” Norton said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com