Dear members of the Board of Selectmen:
Thank you for the work you have undertaken on behalf of our town. With the Kinder Morgan expansion looming, you are thrown onto the front lines between the people you represent and a powerful outside force experienced in trampling on communities' efforts to preserve and protect themselves. A challenging position indeed.
I would like to address this letter in particular to Chairman Michael Green. Mr. Green, I appreciate the directness and honesty you brought to the open town meeting with Kinder Morgan. You asked cogent questions (none of which received direct answers). You spoke from the heart when you expressed your personal frustration, and you were open and clear with both the town and the KM reps about your perspective and convictions. I value that in a representative of the people.
You proclaimed yourself, more than once, a "realist." I only hope you will carefully examine the meaning of that word in this context. Please do not confuse realism with the unquestioning acceptance of energy industry talking points.
Is it realism to accept that New Englanders need to heat their homes, and that, at present, we do so mostly with gas? Yes.
But it is not realism to accept that the current infrastructure is inadequate, or that this pipeline would improve service to our homes or lower our gas prices. Even the KM representative made it clear that the push for new infrastructure comes from an increase in supply, not demand. There was no "crisis" last winter -- there were cold snaps that allowed gas distributors to artificially inflate prices. The energy industry is in the midst of a concerted campaign to win approval and create infrastructure for widespread export of natural gas. Export would allow the industry to keep our gas prices high, while turning our homes and conservation lands into its own superhighway.
It is not realism to invest our resources in an energy source that is destroying our planet. The more we invest in building the infrastructure for natural gas, the more we perpetuate our reliance on it (giving the industry even more of a stranglehold on prices). The methane released in the extraction and transport of natural gas may have a greater climate change footprint than any other fossil fuel, including coal. If the governor would like to tax me for research and development of clean and sustainable energy, count me in. This would create permanent, local jobs and decrease our reliance on fossil fuels.
It IS realism to recognize that Kinder Morgan and the clients it serves are driven by profit. There is no economic incentive for an energy company to act out of social or environmental responsibility. The natural-gas industry has a track record of disastrous environmental practices, destroyed communities and deceptive PR campaigns.
To believe, in the face of all the evidence, that this pipeline would be anything other than a nightmare for northern Massachusetts, is magical thinking. We can't afford that.
Thank you for all you do,