Fracked Gas News 

Martha Klein

The big news in April was the release of the Sierra Club Connecticut commissioned report, the 2019 Mobile Methane Report, a study and analysis of the frequency of leaks along gas pipelines that line streets in towns and cities.

 

Sierra Club Connecticut first commissioned a study of gas leaks in Hartford in 2016, and we decided to do a follow up survey and analysis to determine if there had been changes in the number of leaks. What our surveys of Danbury, Hartford and New London found was that gas or methane leaks remain prevalent and persistent in the state.

 

Two thirds of the “natural” gas used in our nation is fracked as of 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The percentage is probably higher today.

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Photo: 2019 Hartford Survey Results

Photo credit: Connecticut Mobile Methane Leaks Survey and Analysis Results

Our primary organizational goal at this time is to mitigate climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change, and fossil fuel use is the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and Connecticut, whether it be gasoline combusted in a vehicle or fuel burned to produce energy. Globally, agriculture is a major cause of greenhouse gases (GHG), but in the U.S., agriculture produces a fraction of the pollution that come from the transportation and energy sectors. Transportation and energy create about 80% of the GHG that are released in Connecticut. The obvious first step to mitigate the disastrous impact of climate disruption that we are seeing and experiencing is to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Common sense, right?

 

But that’s not what our state is doing. In fact, Connecticut is continuing with an ill advised, industry drafted plan to expand the use of fracked gas, or methane, by increasing the number of customers using fracked gas. EnergizeCT, to quote from their website “…is an initiative dedicated …to make it easy to save energy and build a clean energy future for everyone in the state. It is an initiative of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, the Connecticut Green Bank, the State, and your local electric and gas utilities. The initiative has funding support from a charge on customer energy bills.”

 

Sierra Club Connecticut is working toward that same goal of a “clean energy future for everyone”. However EnergizeCT, which provides discounts for energy efficiency solutions for residential and business consumers, unfortunately also offers savings to convert to fracked gas. And ratepayers are paying to subsidize those conversions.

 

This quote from the “Natural Gas Conversion” page of the EnergizeCT website shows that the state and energy companies continue to promote conversions to fracked gas as beneficial, using outdated information about fuel prices, and failing entirely to mention the devastating climate impact of methane: “In 2013, the State of Connecticut, recognizing the importance of this opportunity to residents and businesses, adopted a number of strategies to help consumers make the switch to Natural Gas in its Comprehensive Energy Strategy. The Strategy proposes to expand the availability of natural gas to as many as 300,000 additional Connecticut homes and businesses over the next decade.”

 

This plan is still underway, despite the growing awareness of the climate impact of methane. The recently passed Conservation and Load Management Plan for the state made subsidies available to a tiny number of residents to convert to renewable thermal technologies (RTT), which produce 60% less emissions than fossil fuel produced heat. But the subsidies to convert to fracked gas remain in place for everyone. The subsidies should be “fuel blind” so that consumers can choose which fuel they want and are not misled to believe that an explosive fossil fuel such as methane is superior to RTT.

 

The state should stop favoring conversions to fracked gas over conversions to cleaner RTT. In addition, our legislature could take action to reduce leaking methane by passing the bill SB 232, which lowers the permitted threshold for leaking from 3% to 1% and prevents the gas and electric monopolies, Eversource and UI/Iberdrola, from charging ratepayers for the cost of leaked gas. The legislature could also take action to repeal the gas pipeline tax, a law that will force ratepayers to pay for future interstate gas pipelines.

 

Take a moment today to ask your legislators to support SB 232 and to Repeal the Pipeline Tax.  

 

Recently, the Connecticut Siting Council opened a docket to consider issuing a certificate of need for a proposed 600 MegaWatt gas fired power plant in Killingly. Two new gas power plants were built in Connecticut in the last five years, bringing approximately 1500 MW of new power to the state. How much fracked gas power is enough? How much is too much?

 

Last month, we attended the Connecticut Siting Council public hearing in Killingly regarding the proposed new gas power plant. Sierra Club is an intervenor in this docket and submitted testimony expressing concern that the power from this plant can only be considered “needed” if offshore wind contracts are ignored. The electric grid operator ISO-NE did just that when it failed to account for offshore wind power that will come online in the next several years in New England in federal waters off Martha’s Vineyard. A determination of “need” should be based on accurate figures about energy development and demand. The Siting Council is accepting comments on this proposal until May 4 and then will make a determination of need in August.

 

Moving Beyond Gas really means ending our fossil fuel dependency, and that’s what we intend to do. Email me if you want to get involved in stopping subsidized gas conversions, calling out the gas companies on their climate destroying leaks or informing the state that expanded methane use and fracked gas powered energy are bad investments for our budget, health and future. Ending Our Fossil Fuel Dependency has to happen, and quickly.

 

For more information or to get involved in Beyond Gas, contact committee leader, Martha Klein.

Martha Klein is a member of the Sierra Club Connecticut Executive Committee.