End Fossil Fuel Dependence

Sierra Club CT opposes the increased use of fracked gas in Connecticut and New England, and was among the first environmental groups to oppose the state subsidized  gas expansion plan. Getting off of fossil fuels now is both necessary and achievable. In Connecticut, people are ready for a renewable energy economy but some politicians and regulators endorse increases in the use and transport of fossil gas. In view of the expense, danger, climate ruination and negative public health impacts of fracked gas, it is critical to convert to a renewable energy economy founded on efficiency, local energy creation, distributed generation and justice.

What is Fracked Gas?  “Natural” gas is 97% methane combined with trace other gases and components that remain from the drilling process. At least two thirds of all methane piped to our region from the fracking fields to our west is fracked, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Methane is a short term pollutant and greenhouse gas which is wreaking havoc on our climate. Methane is the second most common greenhouse gas (GHG) in our atmosphere and by far the most damaging. Over 10 years, methane is 100 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, the most common GHG. The extraction, transport and use of methane result in a high number of leaks, both fugitive and intentional. Due to the cumulatively large amount of emissions over the lifecycle of methane, this fossil fuel is worse for the climate even than burning coal or oil.

 

Current Fracked Gas Projects Opposed by Sierra Club CT (Updated March 2022)

  • Ratepayer subsidized gas conversion - Connecticut is operating under an outdated energy strategy. The Comprehensive Energy Strategy released in 2013 calls for the conversion of 280,000 new customers to methane and 900 miles of brand new gas pipeline built to connect the new customers. This plan was not reversed by the 2018 CES. This plan is subsidized by ratepayers but the public has received no benefits. Electricity prices in Connecticut have continued to rise, and no environmental advantages have been realized. In fact, contrary to early hopes, we now know that use of methane contributes vast amounts of underestimated greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, harming the climate at least as much as use of oil or coal. Eversource and UI, who are the electricity distributors in the state, also own virtually the entire gas supply. These two companies are the exclusive beneficiaries of the public funds that are used to subsidize the conversions. The result of the intrastate plan to create thousands of new customers for gas is to fabricate a need for more methane where there currently is no need whatsoever. Sierra Club is advocating for an end to the ratepayer funded gas expansion plan to lay new gas pipelines and convert customers to fracked gas in PURA docket 21-08-24. On March 23, PURA issued a draft decision recommending an end to the gas expansion program.

  • UCONN new fracked gas power, Storrs, CT - In 2021, UCONN student activists and Sierra Club CT petitioned DEEP for a hearing on its air pollution permit approval for this horrible project. It is particularly appalling to expand fracked gas infrastructure near where young people study and live, since the negative health impacts from fracked gas are demonstrably worse in kids, particularly respiratory ailments that are caused by particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and trace carcinogens that exist in fracked gas. 

  • Dominion/TransCanada interstate pipeline expansion, Brookfield and Milford, CT - This project received FERC approval in early 2022. The planned expansion of gas transport on the Dominion/TransCanada owned interstate pipeline will be achieved by increasing compressor stations in Brookfield and Milford, in order to transport more fracked gas across Connecticut to Long Island and NYC.

  • Ratepayer subsidized gas leaks - As the result of a law passed by the Connecticut legislature in 2014, PA 14-152, ratepayers pay the gas companies for the gas that they leak. These payments disincentivize LDCs Eversource and UI from fixing all but the most dangerous leaks (Class 1). There is no requirement to fix Class 3 leaks, which are not at risk of explosion. It is imperative to show DEEP and PURA that gas pipelines are up to five times as leaky as the industry reports. For that reason, Sierra Club CT commissioned two methane leak studies and published this work in 2020. See “resources” below.

  • New dirty power plants - We helped stop not one, but two dirty power plant proposals - one in Killingly and one in Middletown - that would have emitted over 3 million more tons of carbon into the atmosphere


History
The technological advances in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal directional drilling (HDD) in the early 2000s led to a cheaper way to extract methane from the earth, and as a result, the cost of fracked methane declined. Due to the declining cost of fracked methane, Connecticut’s leadership decided to depend heavily on the expansion of gas for future energy supply for the state, which provided enough gas for the state to become a net energy exporter since at least ten years ago. Energy companies have profited enormously while being shielded by the state from competition by newer, less subsidized technologies such as solar and wind.

Fracked methane is known commercially and euphemistically as “natural gas’. The state of Connecticut was the first to adopt a Green Bank and a Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which appeared to be forward thinking, but unfortunately, the state’s energy plan was originally and is still now predicated on the massive expansion of fracked gas infrastructure and the increase in the number of methane customers. The language for this fracked gas expansion likely originated with Eversource lobbyists. Eversource and UI/Iberdrola are the only electric distribution companies (EDC) and local gas distribution companies (LDC) in the state. That means they have a monopoly on gas and electricity distribution. Their monopolistic control may explain why the state of Connecticut has supinely allowed massive increase in methane transport and use, which has caused huge increases in energy prices for consumers leading to a doubling of residential power shut-offs by Eversource. In addition, methane leaks are grossly underestimated by regulators and industry, as shown by Sierra Club CT commissioned methane leaks studies (see resources below) and methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases causing climate disruption. Fracked gas has damaging public health impacts for those living close to gas infrastructure, particularly on the respiratory systems of children. Methane is also a dangerous explosive that caused loss of life and millions of dollars in damage in Massachusetts in 2018.

 

New fracked gas infrastructure added in Connecticut since 2015:

  • CPV Towantic Energy Center in Oxford, an 805 megawatt (MW) Gas Power Plant;

  • PSEG Bridgeport Harbor Station, 485 MW Gas Power Plant;

  • AIM gas pipeline expansion and the Atlantic Bridge pipeline expansion on the Enbridge owned gas pipeline system across four states, massively increasing methane transport into and across Connecticut, and creating infrastructure to ship gas to Maine via the Maritime & Northeast pipeline, then to Canada for overseas shipment at ten times the profit for industry;  

  • CT Expansion - gas pipeline expansion on the Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas line from Massachusetts into Connecticut;

  • at ratepayer expense, the state added approximately 100,000 new connections to Eversource and UI as gas customers, requiring hundreds of miles of brand new intrastate pipeline that is built without any environmental oversight or public notification of any kind in Connecticut;

  • and finally, hundreds or thousands of megawatts of new or replacement fracked gas power at universities and businesses all across the state, such as ESPN in Bristol.  

Resources on current projects

Resources to learn about the impacts of fossil fuels in buildings and the benefits of heat-pumps:

Enhancement by Compression - information about expansion of compressor stations

Constitution Pipeline map

 

Original Research - Sierra Club CT commissioned two studies of methane leaks in Connecticut, in 2016 and 2019, and this original research was published in the peer reviewed journal Heliyon in October 2020.

General Resources regarding Methane - Burning the Gas ‘Bridge Fuel’ Myth &  Methane Fact Sheet (Sierra Club)


Informational Webinars: Power to the People: Why CT Needs More Distributed Energy - Part One and Part Two

UCLA study - Effects of Residential Gas Appliances on Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality and Public Health in California

Kids in Homes with CH4 have more asthma


To learn more or to get involved, contact martha.klein@sierraclub.org