Monopolies have an unfair advantage
By allowing the utilities to get the first say on the future of natural gas, the state Department of Public Utilities has given these regulated monopolies an unfair advantage in the negotiation process (“Utilities get first say on future without natural gas,” Page A1, Oct. 15). In bargaining, the first proposal is referred to as an anchor, to which other stakeholders must try to adjust. Since the anchor in this case will be a published report, making changes will be burdensome.
A more unbiased solution for developing this plan to remedy natural gas’s contribution to the existential climate crisis is to appoint cochairs to develop the report. Two possible candidates for this endeavor would be the state attorney general or the Department of Energy Resources, the Commonwealth’s energy policy agency. In order to ensure a fair process, each cochair must have equal financial resources to provide analysis of the design and inputs of the models that will support the final recommendations.
Lawrence O. Masland
The writer recently retired as an energy efficiency planner after working for 22 years in the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.
Gas companies don’t offer a viable solution for replacing gas
Regarding the utilities writing the first draft of the blueprint of a gas-free future, what is sorely needed here is a commission composed of industry-knowledgeable people, outside the Department of Public Utilities, who are not beholden to the industry and have unassailable judgment. There are so many aspects of converting to a carbon-free future: jobs lost and gained, environmental justice communities facing higher heating costs, the replacement of the gas pipelines.
And faced with this challenge, what do the utilities offer? They want to replace explosive natural gas with hydrogen, an even more explosive gas that corrodes pipe, costs more, and would create even more pollution. And why do they want to do this? Because it will keep them in business.
Do not let the gas companies and the DPU write the future.
G. Lee Humphrey
Steps we can take without the DPU
It is certainly disappointing that the Department of Public Utilities has delegated its responsibility to the fossil fuel utilities. However, it is also problematic that the primary responsibility to solve the climate crisis has been delegated to our government. Everyone can do their part:
▪ Electric cars are available from many manufacturers and can save money on gas and maintenance; bicycles give you exercise, and public transit is relatively cheap.
▪ There are a variety of 100 percent renewable electricity suppliers out there, and the cost difference is minimal.
▪ Electric heat pumps can be installed in almost any home; they work well to greatly reduce or eliminate heating fuel bills, and can cool you in summer as a bonus.
Living free of fossil fuels now takes some investment but will save not only money on fuel bills but, more important, our future. We will not have a future free of fossil fuel pollution and consequent climate disaster unless we all, each of us, stop burning fossil fuels.
Conflict of interest jeopardizes future generations
Sabrina Shankman’s article made very clear that there is an astonishing conflict of interest in putting the gas companies in charge of defining for the rest of us the future of gas in the Commonwealth. Whoever thought that would be a good idea?
But another point needs to be elevated in this discussion. When we are talking about the future of anything, we are talking about the legacy we are choosing to leave behind for the children alive today.
This summer, around the world, the catastrophic power of global warming came crashing down. The world we are leaving our children isn’t looking like one we should be proud of.
I suspect that the children of the world would prefer that we look to just about anyone else than the leaders of the fossil fuel industry for decisions about their future.
Yes, foxes are now guarding the chicken coop
Under our current climate law, the DPU is charged with addressing equity, emissions, and security of utility operations, as well as the established concerns of cost, reliability, and safety. The DPU is handing over responsibility for its new mission to the utilities, whose profits are most threatened by this change. Foxes, please submit application: Address to chicken coop.
The DPU is disregarding its mandate to address cost equity, which is, and increasingly will be, felt by those neighbors and communities most affected and most unable to afford the transition to clean energy. The agency is dragging its feet on taking real responsibility to phase out fossil (especially fracked) gas to meet our climate goals under law.
Currently, as a result of utilities’ previous actions, sanctioned by the DPU, these communities are already overburdened with polluting gas infrastructure in their neighborhoods as well as subject to poor air quality. Some housing with poor ventilation is at levels that would be illegal if found outside. Residents suffer worse health outcomes, including much higher rates of kids with asthma.
These neighbors are several times more likely to die in heat waves due to less access to air conditioning, an increasing concern as the climate crisis advances. We had five heat waves in Boston just this summer.
As renewables are added to the system, prices for electricity are likely to be the same as for gas in just a few years, then become cheaper still. More affluent customers who can afford to transition will move off of gas, increasing rates on those left behind who can least afford to transition. Are we going to leave remaining ratepayers holding the bag with higher utility bills for decades to pay for infrastructure being built now that will be stranded? Will we be on the hook as Massachusetts taxpayers to bail out this industry for its poor planning in the face of our reality?
Claire E. Humphrey