WE SAY : TIME TO PRIORITIZE ALTERNATIVES TO FOSSIL FUEL

From Governor Charlie Baker’s office a few days ago came the following announcement :

“We have filed legislation to increase access to clean, cost-effective

To which was attached, at the @MassGovernor twitter account, the following meme :

clean energy

Included in the Governor’s announcement was this statement by Vivien Li, one of Boston’s busiest and most diversely committed activists : “Diversifying energy production makes sense as Massachusetts works to reach its Global Warming Solutions Act targets,” said Vivien Li, President of the Boston Harbor Association. “The legislation proposed by the administration strikes an important balance by including hydroelectric power and Class 1 RPS-eligible resources without overwhelming the market with one form of generation. I commend the Baker-Polito Administration for its leadership in helping to address impacts of climate change within the Commonwealth.”

As Li’s quote shows, Baker’s legislation calls upon hydropower to alleviate a full five percent of all the carbon reductions the state has committed to achieve by year 2025. Five percent may not sound like much, but it represents, according to Baker’s announcement the equivalent of removing 1,200,000 cars from our highways.

This substantial infusion of hydropower will come from Canada, where water energy abounds. It will be imported from Quebec via a system known as “Northern Pass,” Much publicity has accrued to the Northern Pass route of high-wire electricity lines; now, it seems, these will come to be.

I’ve viewed alternative energy proposals skeptically. Fossil energy employs millions and represents  major portion of the national economy. It is fairly cheap, compared to the cost of alternatives.  It is not to be parted with casually or soon. Until recently, I have not seen the need to move away from fossil fuels, nor any method of doing so that won’t burden city people. But now I do see a need.

What I have seen is the situation in West Roxbury, where Spectra Pipeline proposes to run a gas transmission pipe under streets directly adjacent to the Lorusso Family’s Quarry, known to all as West Roxbury Crushed Stone.

Blasting goes on at the quarry. It’s how quarries operate. That Spectra was unable to procure a different pipe route — has had to propose one having a substantial risk of pipeline damage from quarry blasting — tells me that it’s time to reduce dependence on natural gas.

Spectra would hardly have committed to a pipe route so dangerous were it not that the Boston area lacks natural gas supply significantly enough to impede the economy. We do need almost double the amount of gas currently available in present pipeline capacity. This is where the Governor’s hydropower legislation helps out. If Boston can buy its energy shortage via imports of hydropower, it will not need to require extra gas pipelines.

The Spectra pipeline comes despite a high incidence of gas leaks in existing pipelines. Fixing those existing lines would relieve some of Boston’s gas shortage.

Folks who purchased homes adjacent to the Lorusso Quarry did so despite the quarry being their immediate neighbor. I therefore dismiss complaints they voice about it. But these same people did not assume an expectation of having a gas pipeline routed underneath their street and hard by the quarry. They should not now be asked to acquiesce in it.

That things have come to this level of snag seems to me to make it urgent to unlock, at least somewhat, from fossil fuel and to commit the State to other energy sources., We should support the Governor’s legislation.

The Governor filed his bill in the State Senate, where strong support flourishes for alternative energy initiatives  In that body one meets Senator Jamie Eldridge (D, Middlesex & Worcester), perhaps the state’s leading advocate of, and expert in the policies of, alternative energy. I look forward to see how Eldridge shepherds the Baker hydropower bill to a positive legislative outcome.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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