Keep Up the Pressure to End Fracked Gas Expansion in Connecticut

Martha Klein

The expansion of fracked gas in Connecticut continues, despite the united efforts of Sierra Club Connecticut and our allies. 

 

In February, the Connecticut State Court determined that the Siting Council was correct to approve the unneeded Killingly Energy Center (KEC), a massive new fracked gas power plant. Sierra Club was an intervenor against this project, along with allies Connecticut Fund for the Environment and the Wyndham Land Trust. The local group, Not Another Power Plant, brought the lawsuit against the decision of the Siting Council but did not prevail; this is an enormous loss for the environmental movement, for residents living in eastern Connecticut, and for the state. 

 

Meanwhile, other fracked gas projects could also be built: UCONN’s plans for a new fracked gas powered science complex are on temporary hold due to student protests, which we hope will be made permanent. ESPN has proposed 10MW of fracked gas generation in Bristol, despite having solar power generators on their campus to which they could add; the Dominion/TransCanada pipeline is undergoing an expansion to increase fracked gas capacity in New York State and that project requires a fracked gas powered cooling station to be constructed in Milford.

 

Additionally, state policies continue that allow utility companies to  convert homes and businesses to dirty, fracked gas for heating and cooking at ratepayer expense whereas cleaner technologies such as renewable thermal technologies are not subsidized for everyone and are therefore minimized. 

 

The Connecticut legislature has an opportunity to end our state’s fracked gas expansion. However, the only bill to address gas, SB 5350, An Act Concerning Natural Gas Infrastructure, has some concerning provisions that could move us in the wrong direction. What we need is an end to gas expansion including an end to new power plants, new pipelines, customer conversions to gas, and subsidies for gas equipment and appliances.  

 

Over the course of 2019, environmental and environmental justice groups came together to protest the expansion of fossil fuel at a time of climate catastrophe. As a result of the pressure created by the united work of our terrific allies -- pressure that included dozens of letters to the editor published opposing KEC, hundreds of calls made to the office of the governor and DEEP commissioner, thousands of names on various petitions opposing new fracked gas projects, and multiple direct protests at DEEP, the Governor’s mansion and the State Capitol -- Governor Lamont released Executive Order 3, which orders DEEP to explore methods of creating a 100% carbon free electric grid by 2040. In addition, DEEP Commissioner Dykes, who is a leading architect of the fracked gas expansion both in her prior role at DEEP and while head of PURA, stated that the KEC plant should run “as little as possible” and that fracked gas is “not a bridge fuel, it’s a fossil fuel”. 

 

Now, for those words to turn to action, we have to work even harder. Why? Fossil fuel companies, and utilities like Eversource and UI, are concerned we might win. We can be sure they will double down on their lobbying efforts and wield their influence. They will do all they can to protect their highly profitable yet destructive business model. 

 

It can be hard to keep up the enormous strength and commitment required for this long term struggle. Yet, we have no time to take a break. We must redouble our efforts, just like Eversource lobbyists do! 

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Photos: February 5th rally against fracked gas and the Killingly Plant

Photo credit: Sandy Tosi

During the course of the legislative session, we need as many of our members and supporters as possible to join us for Lobby Days every Wednesday in April, and to talk to your state legislators about the importance of addressing climate catastrophe immediately. We are preparing for the April 23 rally in Hartford, Stop the Money Pipeline, to protest insurance company and bank investment in fossil fuel projects and hope you will join us there. Numerous direct actions will be held demanding an end to fossil fuel expansion, and we will send email alerts and post on Facebook and our website, asking for your participation. We have the people power to win this fight, and those who oppose us know that. Fossil fuel interests and the utilities are  fighting us harder than ever.. We just have to fight a little harder too.

Martha Klein is Lead Volunteer of Sierra Club Connecticut’s Beyond Gas campaign and a Sierra Club member.