As a resident of Pepperell who was present at the May 12 informational meeting, I thought people would benefit from some basic facts about fracked gas and the proposed project by Kinder Morgan.
Since I didn't perceive any real information presented by Kinder Morgan, I have spent the time since the meeting researching the subject. It was clear that emotions ran high the other night, and while passion about our community's welfare is a very good thing, I believe that facts should dictate whether or not the town should support the project. To that end, here is some basic information available from several sited sources that appear on the nofrackedgasinmass.org and massplan.org websites.
* The fracking (hydraulic fracturing) process uses more than 600 chemicals, including EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals that affect fertility and hormone regulation), known carcinogens and neurotoxins. One class of chemicals used dissolves cell walls to allow cell permeability. These have the same affect on plants, animals and people.
* Fracked gas needs to travel at high pressure, increasing the likelihood of leaks, ruptures and/or explosions. Industry-wide, the loss in transmission is 8-12 percent. These leaks can occur even in underground and underwater sections of the pipeline. Even with shut-offs, a ruptured pipeline leads to extremely hot fires after catastrophic explosions, fueled by the gas in the miles of pipeline between the shut-off stations.
* Dozens of chemicals left over from the fracking process, including methane, have been proven to off-gas at compressor stations (every 50-60 miles) along the pipeline. These are facilities that are several acres in size with multiple compressor engines and large exhaust fans.
* Methane emissions along transmission routes are 25-75 percent higher than original EPA estimates, particularly at compressor stations. Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more powerful than carbon. Even though the carbon emissions are lower, leaks in the fracking and transmission process have been shown to negate any environmental plusses of natural gas over oil or coal. And natural gas is no more renewable than coal or oil.
* There have been more than 990 natural-gas transmission line accidents since 2000, resulting in 137 injuries and 34 fatalities.
* The 2005 Energy Bill contains "The Haliburton Loophole," which exempts the gas and oil industries from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, CERCLA/Superfund Act and about a dozen more federal regulations.
* The construction process includes clearing, excavation and blasting of a permanent 50-foot swath for the length of the project. The one-time easement payment won't compensate for the inability to sell the property, obtain a mortgage or the negation of insurance policies. Any local tax revenues will be offset by increased safety monitoring and emergency response should a catastrophe happen.
* While the construction process may produce up to 3,000 temporary jobs, Kinder Morgan stated that the two additional compressor stations would only require five or six permanent employees, bringing their total in the state to about 52. Simply spending the equivalent dollars on increasing energy efficiency would create approximately 24,000 permanent, full-time, local jobs in Massachusetts. Fixing the leaks in the existing pipeline is estimated to cover about one-third of the region's projected energy shortfall. Uncapping the amount of energy that can be sold back to the grid by customers with their own renewable-energy systems and increasing efficiency would cover the rest.
* The proposed pipeline brings many times more gas than would be needed to fill the sporadic shortfall, even if it were constant. According to Kinder Morgan's own memo, the extra capacity is slated to go toward newly proposed lateral distribution lines (which goes against the state's own greenhouse gas emission goals), and for export to the Canadian Maritimes; driving up prices while not benefiting our state, and particularly, Pepperell.
* The ratepayers will fund the pipeline through a tariff. The project is a private venture benefiting Kinder Morgan's stockholders on the backs of the public, while they bear the health, safety and environmental risks.
According to a letter to Gov. Patrick from the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, because of the closed process Kinder Morgan has employed, ... "it will soon reach a stage where the state's and public's opportunity for meaningful involvement will be severely limited to a few likely objectionable alternative pipeline routes ... The proposed pipeline and the process underway are antithetical to (the) standards of excellence we have achieved in Massachusetts ... There have been no public hearings to assess the harm to natural resources and no public process to identify appropriate alternative routes or evaluate if a pipeline of that magnitude is needed."
As a Pepperell citizen, I find this information downright frightening and have embarked on a letter-writing campaign to the town Board of Selectmen, Mass DPU, FERC, the governor and our legislators, urging them to guide the course of energy planning in an environmentally sensitive way. I hope others do the same.
Everything that we've built and value as property owners and conservators of our environment, and our town's very character, are in jeopardy because of a multi-billion-dollar corporation's business plan. In this case, especially, David needs to win.