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Open letter to Ann Berwick, Department of Public Utilities chairwoman


Dear Chairwoman Berwick,

The momentum of the grassroots opposition to the Tennessee Gas pipeline project is building as homeowner coalitions come together and educate themselves about the weaknesses in the case for “need,” Kinder Morgan’s intent to export, and the lack of firm capacity commitments by the electricity generators, all issues that make this massive overbuild of natural-gas distribution infrastructure so egregious.

In your recent speech to the 2014 NEEP Summit held in Newport, R.I., you addressed two key themes that go directly to the heart of the matter: 1) The potential for renewable energy sources to bridge the gap in the commonwealth’s energy demand between now and 2020, and 2) the critical need to de-carbonize our electricity supply and reduce our state’s reliance on fossil fuels. While you were clear to point out that efficient, scalable electricity generation via renewables such as solar, hydro and wind will be expensive, it will be nowhere near as expensive as the failure to address climate change.

As a citizen of the commonwealth, I was heartened to see how your truly eloquent presentation exhibited the leadership that we all expect and deserve from our chair of the Department of Public Utilities. However, the actions of the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) to date, including its espousal of the tariff plan to capitalize the pipeline construction, the utter lack of public process, and their implied commitment to carbon-based electricity for decades to come, appear to be completely antithetical to the position you articulated in your speech to the 2014 NEEP summit.

As Massachusetts’ representative to this agency that is steering public energy policy, I implore you to consider your legacy and your responsibility to advocate for the principles of which you spoke. While NESCOE is not a decision-making body, they are advising our elected officials and thus bear a significant role in the process. To take no action is to take action. The citizens of Massachusetts demand and deserve a full evaluation of the Low Demand Scenario (which has been ignored by NESCOE), the consideration of LNG imports to serve as the natural-gas bridge option while renewable source capacity matures, and above all, a commitment to repair the pipeline leaks that account for as much as 56 million cubic feet/day of gas to Massachusetts, or more than 10 percent of the peak-shaving capacity shortfall estimated by NESCOE’s own consultant, Black and Veatch.

The data shows that Massachusetts can meet our electricity needs in a way that avoids the needless destruction of natural resources and the use of eminent domain to capitalize a private company’s plan to export Marcellus shale natural gas to Canada, Europe and the rest of the world. Please intervene on behalf of the citizens of the commonwealth to prevent this travesty from happening, and help to restore our trust in a governmental process that is supposed to work “for the people.”

Dr. Vincent E. Premus