Against fracked gas pipeline expansion plans

On Oct. 24, 2014, Pieridae Energy, a Canadian corporation founded in 2011, applied to the Office of Fossil Energy of the US Department of Energy, for a permit to export nearly 300 billion cubic feet of gas per year to both free trade and non-free trade partner nations. Contrary to the message of our governor and senators, the fracked gas pipeline expansions planned by Kinder Morgan and Spectra Energy are not being built primarily to provide power for Connecticut.

The majority of the gas being moved through these large diameter, high pressure pipelines will go to Maine, and then to Canada for conversion to liquified natural gas (LNG), from whence it will be shipped overseas to obtain four times the price available in the U.S. In other words, the beautiful landscape of Connecticut, including public lands and private back yards, will be ripped up and drilled under to provide profit for extreme energy corporations. Why should we object to that?

First, the expanded pipelines won’t bring down our electricity costs; the construction costs will get passed on to the consumers. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the price of natural gas for electricity is predicted to rise steadily. Increased reliance on natural gas has already increased our energy costs in Connecticut. The price spikes in natural gas last winter were not caused by an actual scarcity of gas, but rather by the policies set by Independent Systems Operator-New England (ISO-NE), the administrator of our electrical grid. ISO-NE forced electric generation companies to buy gas on the spot market, rather than allowing them to purchase with advance firm contracts, which is cheaper. Under pressure from environmental groups and others, ISO-NE adapted the policies for purchase of gas for electric generation, and for predicting future energy need.

Second, natural gas is not clean, or superior to oil or coal. Natural gas is a euphemism for fracked methane. Over half the gas in pipelines in Connecticut now is from fracking in states to our west and south, and that percentage will increase significantly with the expansions. High volume hydraulic fracturing, recently banned in New York State, is an environmentally damaging process of shooting chemicals, sand, and water thousands of feet below ground to break up rock or sand to release trapped gas and oil.

The fracked gas that could leak into our air, soil, and drinking water contains carcinogenic chemicals that remain from the fracking process, and it is a fact that pipelines leak. Burning methane is actually worse for the climate than burning oil or coal. According to Robert Howarth in a 2014 Energy Science and Engineering article, methane produces significantly more greenhouse gases than coal or oil; this terrible climate change profile is due in part to the fact that methane is 86 times more powerful at global heating than carbon dioxide, and to the innate unsoundness of unconventional shale gas extraction. Leakage occurs at a rate of nearly 5%, which represents an enormous amount of methane escaping into the atmosphere.

If methane is not cheaper or more efficient than coal or oil, why are some elected officials pushing the fracked gas pipeline expansion plans so vigorously? Environmental groups across the northeastern U.S. have joined with the Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club in pointing out that these expansions are not designed for our benefit, and will cause environmental harm. The benefit will redound to extreme energy corporations and their shareholders, and to their lobbyists, who hold the attention of some politicians.

We need to ask the representatives of Connecticut to stop promoting the exploitation of our state for the benefit of the powerful and wealthy energy corporations. Renewable energy makes more and better jobs. We can prove it. Join us at one of our Fracked Gas Pipeline Educational Forums to learn about the opposition to fracked gas infrastructure, and the alternatives. Visit connecticut.sierraclub.org.

Martha Klein

Connecticut Sierra Club  communication chair

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