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The Argument

Should Massachusetts oppose further natural gas pipeline construction in the state?

YES

Paul Lauenstein
Paul Lauensteinhandout

Paul Lauenstein

Sharon resident; member, No Sharon Gas Pipeline

Here are eight reasons why we must not expand gas pipelines, compressor stations, LNG (liquid natural gas) storage tanks, and other gas infrastructure in Massachusetts:

1. It is not needed. According to a report by state Attorney General Maura Healey, existing gas infrastructure is sufficient for our electrical reliability needs through at least 2030, even in a worst-case scenario. Peak demand for gas in New England is trending downward and clean wind and solar energy sources are coming online rapidly.

2. Gas infrastructure expansion plans would cost billions of dollars, which could be paid by Massachusetts residents through an unconventional surcharge on their electric bills.

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3. Over-reliance on a single energy source such as gas would make New England more vulnerable to volatile gas prices. Instead, we should diversify and decentralize our energy sources by adding clean solar and wind capacity, and promoting energy efficiency and other demand-side solutions.

4. Investing in energy efficiency and clean wind and solar facilities creates more jobs than expanding gas infrastructure, according to a 2015 report by the Global Green Growth Institute and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

5. High-pressure gas pipelines, compressor stations, and LNG tanks are inherently dangerous, especially in densely populated areas. Serious accidents and safety violations are commonplace in the gas industry.

6. We should strive to reduce our reliance on gas to avoid further harm to communities impacted by fracking operations.

7. The gas industry has failed miserably to prevent leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. There are more than 20,000 unrepaired gas leaks in Massachusetts.

8. Building new fossil fuel infrastructure is incompatible with meeting the goal of the 2008 state Global Warming Solutions Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. We are already at risk of not meeting the interim goal of a 25 percent reduction by 2020.

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Why, then, is expansion of gas infrastructure being promoted? Because stockholders and executives of energy utilities stand to profit from the export of fracked gas to overseas markets where the price is much higher than here in New England, especially if they can foist infrastructure expansion costs onto Massachusetts ratepayers.

NO

Scott Gustafson
Scott Gustafsonhandout

Scott Gustafson

Plymouth resident, organizer, Laborers International Union of North America

When it comes to a responsible energy solution, “no” is not a policy that will keep the lights on. And yet there are those who flatly refuse any new projects without providing realistic alternatives.

Massachusetts faces an energy crisis. Based on our analysis of federal projections, my union estimates national electricity demand will rise about 14 percent by 2030. Factoring in the loss of power when the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station closes, and the required 18 percent emissions cut under the federal Clean Power Plan, we calculate there will be a 32 percent power deficit. Natural gas – and the infrastructure to deliver it – is our best option to keep the lights on and meet clean power goals.

Despite the extremist rhetoric, pipelines are the safest way to transport natural gas. I am proud to stand with thousands of your neighbors across Southeastern Massachusetts who belong to an organization with extensive experience safely building pipelines and other energy infrastructure from oil and natural gas to hydropower, solar, and wind projects. When pipelines are union-built by responsible contractors and a skilled workforce, they can bring millions in economic benefits and ensure that thousands of highly-skilled construction workers have job opportunities with family-supporting wages and benefits.

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Two projects nearby, the Atlantic Bridge Project and Access Northeast, could deliver environmental progress, along with hundreds of jobs and support for the area’s power grid.

Though the vocal “keep it in the ground” crowd share my hope for a cleaner Massachusetts, what is their plan? They advocate for renewables, but those technologies aren’t even close to meeting our energy needs right now. It would take 38,000 acres of solar panels – an area the size of Boston – to meet the 32 percent deficit, based on a formula provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Natural gas can carry the weight until renewables advance enough for large-scale use.

Natural gas is a cleaner-burning resource that is already helping Massachusetts residents cut energy bills and reduce emissions. The state should lead the way – not stand in the way – with progressive policies that help us power our homes in the safest and cleanest way possible.

Last week’s Argument: Should Rockland exceed its tax limit to fund the current plan for a new athletic complex?

Yes: 61 percent (11 votes)

No: 39 percent (7 votes)


As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.