Shrewsbury Town Meeting member, founder of Sustainable Shrewsbury Citizens Network
Spectra’s ‘pipe’ dream
It’s been about a year and a half since Spectra (now Enbridge) walked through the door of Shrewsbury Town Hall, telling us that we need the gas, it would save us money, and it was a federal issue. Spectra’s ‘pipe’ dream has turned out to be nothing but a nightmare for Shrewsbury residents now waking up to the reality.
It’s unnecessary: We do not need the gas
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, acting as a consumer advocate, commissioned a study whose results in late 2015 confirmed that there are cleaner and cheaper ways to meet our electrical reliability needs than to build nwe pipelines. Shrewsbury residents who use gas now to heat their homes won’t be left out in the cold and will continue to have gas with or without the new pipeline.
There’s no financing plan: our risk, their reward
Last summer, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the ‘pipeline tax’ financing scheme proposed by Spectra and its project partners was unlawful. Spectra wanted to pass the cost of building the pipeline onto the backs of hard-working citizens like those in Shrewsbury instead of onto the shoulders of the very shareholders seeking to profit from it.
Risk our water supply, high school, and neighbors?
Spectra spent a lot of time showing off very intricate maps of the proposed pipeline path. They forgot to mention that drilling 40-80 ft under Newton Pond is also going to mean drilling through Shrewsbury’s Aquifer Protection District. Based on my analysis of the map, the pipeline will also put Shrewsbury High School and residential neighborhoods in the pipeline’s Potential Impact Radius, also referred to as the “incineration zone.” Why would Shrewsbury ever consider putting a whole generation of Shrewsbury children at risk?
Shame on us?
I’m reminded of an old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, shame on me.” While Spectra may see lines and dots on a map and like to call it a federal issue, we see our town landmarks and fellow neighbors that we care deeply about, and so we’re going to call it like we see it: It’s a town issue for Shrewsbury now!
Shrewsbury resident; construction laborer; member, Laborers’ Local Union 243
Shrewsbury and Massachusetts have a lot to be proud of. In fact, US News and World Report recently placed us first in its “Best States” rankings. In areas like education and health care, Massachusetts soars above other states. But a closer reading of the survey confirms a major vulnerability, one that could have long-term negative implications for household budgets, small business bottom lines, and our regional economy, and that is our skyrocketing energy costs.
Buried beneath all the good news in the survey is that Massachusetts ranks 46th — that’s right, 46th — in how much we pay for electricity. This comes on the heels of a report from the federal government that found that households in New England paid electricity prices in December that were 47 percent higher than the national average.
One of the big reasons these high costs, if you listen to the experts, is that we can’t access sufficient supplies of low-cost domestic natural gas that we need to fuel our power plants. In an effort to wean the region off high-emitting oil and coal for electricity generation, power generators started to rely more and more on clean-burning natural gas. This shift resulted in a 44 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from electric generators from 1990 to 2012. But as we increased our reliance on natural gas, our infrastructure didn’t keep up, and that has created a supply bottleneck. That results from a simple lesson from Economics 101: When supply doesn’t meet demand, costs go up.
So what can we do? We can support targeted and scaled upgrades to our natural gas pipeline infrastructure, such as the Access Northeast pipeline, that allow us to access the supplies we need. These are supplies that will prevent us from relying once again on coal and oil generation, that will support intermittent renewables like wind and solar when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, and that will lower the energy costs for families and small businesses throughout Massachusetts. If we can do that, then Massachusetts will continue to be the best place to raise a family and work for years to come.
Last week’s Argument: Should Bedford approve the proposed ban on plastic bags?
Yes: 88 percent (22 votes)
No: 12 percent (3 votes)
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.