Three members of an environmental advisory committee for the Patrick administration resigned Monday in protest of policies they say hinder the state’s goal of significantly cutting the greenhouse gases that cause climate change by the end of the decade.
In a letter to officials at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the members of the Global Warming Solutions Act Implementation Advisory Committee called the administration’s recent policies and support of a controversial energy bill “deeply concerning.”
Environmental advocates on the committee have repeatedly protested the administration’s consideration of a proposal to build a natural gas pipeline across the state, as well as its support for a bill that would require utility companies to buy large amounts of hydroelectric power from Canada.
“These efforts are deeply flawed,” the three members wrote. “They seriously risk undermining the multiple benefits from’’ closing coal-fired plants.
One of the members, George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said he hoped his resignation would send a message to Governor Deval Patrick and the next administration. “We won’t be played,” he said. “Don’t use us as window dressing.”
He said the Clean Energy Resources bill’s reliance on large-scale hydropower would hamper the effort to cut carbon emissions. Canadian hydroelectric dams would flood forests, releasing carbon into the atmosphere, and transmission lines carrying the power would cut through the White Mountains.
“This is a flawed bill,” Bachrach said. “If lawmakers think the environmental community will applaud them for doing this, they will be wrong.”
Administration officials have said natural gas and hydropower could provide a bridge to address a looming gap in the state’s power needs as coal, oil, and nuclear plants close, and wind and solar projects are developed.
“We were disappointed to receive this resignation letter,” Amy Mahler, a spokeswoman for the energy agency, said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the resignation letter has mischaracterized the administration’s efforts related to our regional energy challenges, in particular clean energy resources and natural gas.”
Another member of the committee, Penn Loh, a lecturer on environmental policy at Tufts University, said he resigned because the committee was “overly constrained,” and allowed to offer advice “only on short-term, increment steps.” The panel, he said, “could have been a venue for dialogue and developing long-term solutions, but our attention was diverted to less-consequential matters.”
In their letter, the committee members urged the administration to consider forms of hydropower that don’t rely on large dams, and alternatives to natural gas for generating electric power. Their chief concern, they said, is additional natural gas and hydropower may impede wind and solar projects.
Peter Shattuck, an Environment Northeast official who also resigned from the committee, said he was concerned about the administration’s “inadequate evaluation” of alternative energy projects.
“We could be committing billions of public dollars to pipelines that will increase our reliance on fossil fuels, and shift investment risk from private companies onto electric ratepayers,” he said. Before making such a commitment, Shattuck said, “we need a transparent public discussion about utilizing all available options to meet our energy needs.”David Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.