Mass. Supreme Judicial Court strikes down ‘pipeline tax’

The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled today (Aug. 17, 2016) that residential electricity customers (you!) won’t have to subsidize privately owned natural gas pipelines through a “pipeline tax.” The case was ENGIE Gas & LNG LLC v. Department of Public Utilities — SJC 12051.

Media release from the Mass Power Forward Coalition:

“Mass Power Forward Coalition Celebrates SJC Decision To Strike Down Pipeline Tax”

Mary Serreze’s articles for the Springfield Republican:

“Strong reactions as state’s highest court nixes pipeline funding mechanism”

“Massachusetts high court strikes down ‘pipeline tax,’ ruling electric utilities may not finance major natural gas projects”

The AP article in the Boston Herald:

“Unanimous SJC shoots down gas ‘pipeline tax’ for electric ratepayers”

Civil disobedience against dangerous pipeline in West Roxbury: April 23, 2016

We encourage SWRL members to show their support by coming to this event, sponsored by Resistthepipeline.org. RSVP on Facebook

On Saturday, April 23 from 9 am-noon, with growing grassroots support from across the region, opponents of the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline (WRL) will again engage in non-violent civil disobedience (NVCD) to stop its construction.

Protesters will gather at 9 am at Draper Playground (5279 Washington St. at Tobin Rd) in West Roxbury, Mass. where construction by Texas-based Spectra Energy Corp. has recently resumed. At 10 am, protesters will engage in civil disobedience if construction is in progress. Organizers expect upwards of 200 persons, representing local residents, supporters from the greater Boston area, and a number of environmental organizations.

April 23 flyer

While lawsuits against the project by both the City of Boston and Town of Dedham are pending, organizers point out that it will be several months before the cases can even be heard in federal court, and the chances of a successful appeal are unclear.

Last summer and fall saw the first wave of NVCD, as well as other protest activity, against the WRL, as Dedham Selectman Mike Butler was arrested at a Spectra construction site near the Legacy Place shopping center. By last fall 41 people had been arrested for civil disobedience, and nearly 300 have now pledged to take such action this year. Several hundred others have pledged to support them, and there is a waiting list of over 200 for new sessions of NVCD training arranged by organizers.

The April 23 action is part of a larger resistance to this project along its entire route from Pennsylvania through New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. It is organized by several local groups that have recently coalesced to fight the WRL: Resist the Pipeline (resistthepipeline.org), Stop the West Roxbury Lateral (swrl.info), Students against the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline (Facebook Page), Unitarian Universalist Mass Action, and the First Parish Bedford Climate Justice Group.

The project, driven by a desire for corporate profit over community safety and responsible energy policy, has been deemed both dangerous and unnecessary. You can read more on www.swrl.info.

Nov 7, 2015: Protesters shut down Spectra construction site for the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline

Over 150 residents and environmental activists celebrated an important victory on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, as they rallied along Washington St. in West Roxbury to stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, effectively stopping construction for the day.

Informed earlier of the protest plans, the project’s developer, Spectra Energy Corp. of Houston, Texas, notified Boston Police Dept. that it would suspend all construction activity for the day. Over 40 protesters were prepared to risk arrest by blocking construction in a spirit of nonviolent civil disobedience.

“Today is a victory…” said local resident Nancy Wilson. “If the Keystone XL pipeline can be stopped even though much construction had already taken place and billions of dollars spent on that project, then we can certainly feel good about defeating the West Roxbury Lateral. We will return this week to keep up the pressure.”

“We are not opposed to good jobs,” said Chuck Collins, an event organizer. “There are plenty of gas leaks to be fixed in our city. But we don’t need any new fossil fuel infrastructure built in Boston that locks us into decades of unneeded gas when we should be investing in conservation and renewables.”

Rally Nov 7 2015 Honk If You're With Us

Answering skeptics as to whether the project can be stopped, West Roxbury resident Paul Horn pointed out that in 1971, then-Governor Sargent called a moratorium on construction of the so-called “Inner Belt” highway that would have slashed through neighborhoods like Cambridge and Jamaica Plain. “Communities united in opposition and applied enough political pressure to stop the project and launch plans for a transit-based solution (the new Orange Line and SW Corridor Park), even though “millions had already been spent on property takings, demolition and engineering,” said Horn.

Background on the issue and the struggle

The WRLP is a new extension of the Algonquin Incremental Market system which originates in Pennsylvania and would carry gas from the Marcellus Shale region of that that state through New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It is one of several proposed new pipelines that have sparked opposition in Massachusetts as well as other parts of New England, New York and Pennsylvania.

Opposition to the West Roxbury Lateral grew quickly late last year after it was learned that it would carry highly toxic fracked gas at a pressure (750 psi) normally reserved for pipelines located in rural or far more secluded areas. Of specific concern is that it would terminate in a “metering and regulating” (M&R) station right across from West Roxbury Sand and Gravel, a local quarry with regular blasting that has caused damage to area homes for many years.

Opponents are skeptical of industry assurances of the pipeline’s safety, pointing to Spectra’s spotty safety record around the country, and have called for independent studies. “We don’t think it’s wise to take the word of the developer’s own consultant on health and safety issues,” said local resident Howard Sorett, who pointed out that the Department of Homeland Security has specifically included M&R stations on its list of potential terrorist targets. “You read about gas explosions somewhere almost every day,” said Sorett, “and the devastating 2010 explosion in San Bruno, Calif., involved a pipeline with only one-half the pressure of the West Roxbury Lateral.”

Alerted to these and other dangers by a local gas safety consultant last fall, two local groups, West Roxbury Saves Energy and Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline Coalition, began mobilizing community opposition and enlisting the support of elected officials.

Led by Congressman Stephen Lynch, local politicians including Mayor Walsh, District Councilor O’Malley, State Representative Coppinger and State Senator Mike Rush, soon voiced their opposition to the pipeline but were discouraged by a recent federal court decision that confirmed Spectra’s authority, under powers granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to preempt local review and permitting and proceed with property taking and construction. Robert Kennedy Jr. has called FERC a “rogue agency.”

But opponents stress that their opposition goes well beyond issues of safety. “Contrary to industry claims that this gas is needed as a ‘bridge fuel,’ said local resident and SWRL member Mary Boyle, “particularly for electricity generation during cold winter temperatures, it’s clear from the industry’s own statements that this gas is headed for lucrative overseas markets while consumers will bear the cost of this infrastructure for many years and this fracked gas, with its high methane content, adds to the crisis of climate change. Let’s get National Grid to fix the extensive leaks in the current system – the damaging release of gas for which we are already paying! We’ve got alternatives for those cold winter months – let’s use them and invest more in renewables!”

Tim DeChristopher, climate activist, speaking to the crowd at the Nov 7, 2015 rally
Tim DeChristopher, climate activist, speaking to the crowd. Photo credit: William Brokhof.

Crowd holding signs at rally on Nov 7, 2015
Photo credit: Mary Wallace

Watch the rally as captured by WBZ News (Channel 4) with reporter Paul Burton: “Activists protest Spectra Energy pipeline project”

This was the Facebook event page.

Putting Our Lives on the Line!

We are literally putting our lives on the line…the pipeline. Please join forces with us as residents of Boston, as residents of North America, to prevent this pipeline from wreaking havoc with our community, our city and our planet. Join us every morning between 8-9 am out on Washington Street near Tobin Street to keep letting everyone know that this pipeline must stop.

Atlantic Bridge Q-1 Loop expansion: Canceled, for now?

We heard yesterday (May 26) that Spectra is canceling (at least for now) the Atlantic Bridge Q-1 Loop expansion of the Algonquin pipeline in Franklin, Bellingham and Medway. Therefore, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board hearing in Franklin for Thursday, May 28, has also been canceled. Abutters should have received hand-delivered letters today (May 27).

The energy industry has a piecemeal approach to build its network of pipelines. In addition to AIM (of which the WRL is a part) and Atlantic Bridge (which has the canceled Q-1 Loop expansion), other important projects to know about are Access Northeast and the Weymouth compressor station. The compressor station will push the gas through Boston Harbor up to the North Shore of Massachusetts. Spectra still plans to move forward with the proposed Weymouth compressor station.

Boston City Council passes unanimous resolution opposing West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline

BOSTON  Today, the Boston City Council, led by City Councilor Matt O’Malley, unanimously passed a resolution opposing the planned West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. The Council additionally requested a baseline Health Commission study to investigate the potential impact of the pipeline on its proposed path.

[Read the text of the resolution as a PDF]

[Watch the recorded Council hearing, with pipeline-related comments beginning at 1:05:14 into the video]

Councilor O’Malley, who represents District 6 in Boston, which includes the neighborhoods of West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, parts of Roslindale and Roxbury, and the Back of the Hill, is one of several city and state officials who are staunch opponents of the proposed pipeline. This resolution was unanimously passed by the Councilor and the four at-large Boston City Councilors, Michael Flaherty, Stephen Murphy, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu.

The Resolution comes on the heels of Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s April 2nd request for a rehearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with regard to FERC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for this project. FERC’s findings would allow Algonquin Gas to build a new, 750 psi high pressure gas transport line that would run next to West Roxbury Crushed Stone. FERC’s findings are of serious concern to the local community due to the public safety issues of having a natural gas pipeline constructed adjacent to a quarry that uses dynamite on a daily basis.

“We are strongly encouraged by the Council’s decision today,” said Paul Horn, spokesperson for The Committee to Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline (SWRL). “The dangers inherent in a high pressure natural gas transport pipeline are numerous. You only have to look at the 2010 San Bruno, Calif. natural gas pipeline explosion to see the potential for destruction on a massive scale that would affect West Roxbury, Dedham, and neighboring areas. This type of pipeline simply does not belong in any densely settled neighborhood, particularly in proximity to an active quarry.”

In San Bruno in September 2010, a natural gas pipeline with an internal pressure of only 350 psi exploded, killing eight people, destroying 38 homes, and damaging many others. It left a crater in the earth measuring 167 feet long by 26 feet wide.

As Mayor Walsh said in a public statement in early April, “I have listened to the concerns of the community, and we have asked Algonquin Gas and Spectra Energy several times to find a new route for this pipeline. The project as proposed poses real public safety risks for West Roxbury residents, and we must work together with the community and with our city, state and federal partners to find a solution that is in the best interests of West Roxbury residents.”

Contact:

Paul Horn

The Committee to Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline

617-323-5205 / 617-780-6979

stopWRLpipeline@gmail.com

www.swrl.info

###

Lobbying campaign continues: Activists calling for a pipeline moratorium

Boston – A fledgling movement continued April 7, 2015 with visits to the offices of US Senator Edward Markey, US Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. It is called the “Campaign for a Pipeline Moratorium.” Supporters of Stop West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline Coalition (SWRL) vow to increase public pressure for key decision-makers to stand up to the fracked gas industry.

Despite no direct response to letters and two prior visits, Senator Warren and Markey aides told representatives of eight environmental groups that their lines of communication have always been open but that there is nothing more they can do to get the Senators to respond to the request. The activists want a pipeline moratorium, pending stringent health department safety studies.

The senators were asked to respond to urgent pleas to oppose the pipeline by April 16 in time to be part of publicity on Earth Day April 22 either congratulating their courage and vision or expressing alarm at their inability to protect their constituents.

SWRL was forced to act by the recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline expansion. The proposed expansion includes a new pipeline passing through Westwood, Dedham and West Roxbury en route to a metering and regulating station only 200 feet from an active blasting quarry. Construction is scheduled to begin by the end of this month.

Jestin Jose, who lives within the blast radius of the proposed metering and regulation station, is concerned about his family’s safety. “It’s so sad that the company wants to put their metering station next to the blasting quarry. I have three kids. I am worried about their lives.”

In addition to safety, they are concerned that leaks from these fracked gas pipelines release methane which traps 87 times more heat than carbon dioxide, contributing to irreversible climate change. The pipeline would bring in three times more fracked gas than is needed for local consumption. They assert that the excess capacity is headed to Canada for export to overseas markets and that the profit-driven expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure will only precipitate further desperate crises related to climate change, raising the specter of more violent storms, increasing floods, and intensifying drought, famine, civil unrest and resource wars.

SWRL.info

Media contact: David Ludlow, davidludlow1@gmail.com 617-522-4246

Senators’ and Mayor’s aides:

Chris Lange for Senator Warren: chris_lange@warren.senate.gov 617-565-3170
David Brade for Senator Markey: david_brade@markey.senate.gov 617-565-8519
Chris Rusk for Mayor Walsh: christopher.rusk@boston.gov 617-635-4818