Connecticut's energy plan is at a tipping point. A question lies before each and every one of us. Will we continue to expand our use of dirty and polluting fossil fuels, or will we go forward with 21st century technology of increased energy efficiencies, and solar and wind power? It's an important question, because the future of our climate and economy depend on it.
Right now, Connecticut's energy plan calls for the conversion of hundreds of thousands of customers to natural gas, and the building of 900 miles of brand new intrastate pipeline to connect these converted gas consumers. Natural gas is 97 percent methane, a non-renewable fossil fuel which is obtained primarily through the environmentally destructive process of fracking.
Eversource and UI, who are the electricity distributers 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 what so ever. There are plans to build three new methane fired power plants, the first in Oxford which is under construction. The current regional and interstate gas pipelines have also been undergoing expansion. Generating more electricity from gas means more profit for the gas and electricity distributors. These power plants would get methane from one of the expanded interstate gas pipelines, which is being extended to Maine for the purpose of export to Canada and overseas.
There are two things wrong with the methane expansion plan: the impact on the economy and the impact on the climate. Since fracking caused a drop in the price of both oil and methane, there is no economic benefit in spending thousands of dollars to convert from one to the other. The ratepayer subsidies for gas have caused increased electricity prices for Connecticut customers, and the subsidies for gas inhibit a fair market for solar and wind.
The fugitive emissions of methane occur at fracking wells, along pipeline routes, at compressor stations and at power plants. Methane emissions have been underestimated by industry and regulators, as our Hartford Gas Leaks Study demonstrated. Due to the terrible climate change potential of methane, 80 to 100 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, these emissions make methane worse at climate disruption than even burning coal or oil.
The Connecticut Chapter is focused on fighting both the intrastate and interstate fracked methane expansion plans. On the interstate pipeline front, we created an online petition for our federal politicians asking them to take a stand with FERC and request a hold on construction of the two interstate gas pipeline expansions in the state. The Sierra Club blocked the construction of one proposed gas power plant, the 550 MW Killingly energy center, with the support of our allies Connecticut Fund For The Environment. We've attended countless hearings to protest the approval of methane infrastructure by state and federal agencies, and submitted pages of testimony.
On the intrastate level, we advocate for a better state energy plan in the Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES), which will be released by DEEP. We recently dropped hand signed petitions with hundreds of names for Commissioner Klee, calling for a reduced role of methane in the new CES. We advocate for legislation that will stop the gas expansion and commit the state to procuring more renewable energy. The anti-gas pipeline tax bill, HB 6546, has a handful of champions in the legislature that are seeking to amend it to another bill.
The state cannot go backward on its greenhouse gas emission goals, and that means doubling down on renewable energy now and stopping the construction of new methane infrastructure immediately. By fully electrifying the transportation and heating/cooling sectors, and converting the electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy powered, we will increase jobs and prosperity, minimize the harmful effects of climate disruption, reduce excess disease and death that are associated with fossil fuel plants, and insure a future for all the beings living in Connecticut.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
There are many natural gas projects under construction in Connecticut and the northeastern United States. The Connecticut Sierra Club opposes them all. (Last Updated: May 24, 2017)
Enbridge/Spectra's Atlantic Bridge:
This interstate gas pipeline expansion plan just received its Notice to Proceed from FERC. It is the second expansion on the Algonquin pipeline, and extends to Maine, where the gas will be exported to Canada and from there overseas. Export of domestically fracked natural gas will have negative economic and environmental consequences in the U.S. Building billion dollar export pipelines raises electricity rates, and further burdens ratepayers when they become abandoned assets, which is likely given Connecticut's statutory commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Kinder Morgan's CT Expansion:
This interstate pipeline has only two purchasers for the increased natural gas, or methane, that it will transport. Eversource and UI/Iberdrola, who own the entire electricity and gas distribution in the state, will buy the gas from Kinder Morgan. Those two companies have been actively converting customers to methane since 2014, with the support of ratepayer subsidies. They have failed to meet their target for new consumers by more than half, so it is not clear that they need the increased methane.
Three proposed gas powered plants:
Bridgeport, Danbury, and Oxford which is now under construction. All of these plants will take methane from the expanded Atlantic Bridge pipeline. These are electricity generating plants, yet electricity demand in Connecticut has been flat for over a decade due to increased energy efficiencies and new renewable power.
State is operating under outdated energy strategy:
The Comprehensive Energy Strategy released in 2013 and under which the state is still operating, 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 has been ratepayer subsidized 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.
Connecticut's stated energy goals consistently do not match up with our stated climate goals:
The energy goals of Connecticut continue to be at odds with our climate goals. The Global Warming Solutions Act mandates that we reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The building of gas power plants, pipelines and various infrastructure guarantees that Connecticut won't meet its GHG reduction target goals. The rapid pace of building new methane infrastructure is baffling considering the complete lack of need. Other than export, building new power plants, or converting consumers to gas with publicly subsidized advertising, there is no real demand for methane.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There is a lot you can do, and boy do we need your help!
First, please go to this link and take part in our campaign to get the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to impose an injunction preventing further construction on the Kinder Morgan & Unbridle pipelines in Connecticut! (Don't forget to personalize the letter a little bit!)
Besides that go here to subscribe to our mailing list to stay up to date on this very important issue!