Many Fronts in Sierra Club Connecticut's Fight Against Gas Expansion
The science is unequivocal. In order to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis, we need to be undertaking an all-out effort to decarbonize our economy. Yet, the entities in Connecticut continue to encourage the use of fossil fuels, particularly fossil gas, by permitting new gas power plants and subsidizing gas infrastructure and equipment. Sierra Club Connecticut is actively opposing gas expansion on many fronts. Here’s an update about our advocacy.
Fossil Fuel Power Plants
Sierra Club Connecticut is opposing two fossil fuel power plants that have been proposed in Killingly and Middletown. Connecticut is a net exporter of electricity and only consumes 73% of the electricity generated here, so we do not need these power plants. The plants will emit over 3 million tons of additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere per year. The organization No More Dirty Power in Killingly, an ally in the fight against the Killingly power plant, protests bi-weekly at Killingly Commons (pictured), and marched in the Willimantic 4th of July Parade.
Photo credit: Amy Sterling
Fossil Fuel Equipment Rebates
Connecticut’s energy efficiency program, Energize CT, continues to encourage the use of fossil fuels by using ratepayer funds to subsidize fossil fuel-based water and space heating equipment. The utilities have proposed a 3-year plan for 2022 to 2024 to be approved by the Energy Efficiency Board that takes no action to end or even phase out fossil fuel subsidies. What?!
We are facing a planet wide climate crisis–people are literally dying from the impacts of fossil fuel emissions. We cannot continue with rebates for new carbon-emitting systems that will remain in service for many years, even decades. Sierra Club Connecticut is advocating for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a firm commitment to building electrification and weatherization–with an emphasis on the most energy burdened residents–as the strategy of our state. While there are some good developments in the plan including a focus on equity and an emphasis on heat pumps, the plan does nothing to stop incentivizing fossil fuels; instead it will continue subsidizing fossil fuels unabated. We will need your help to advocate for an end to fossil fuel subsidies in the energy efficiency program at public hearings on August 11 and August 18.
Gas Pipeline & Customer Expansion
In 2013, Connecticut embarked on a 10 year plan to incentivize gas companies to build new pipelines and convert customers to gas appliances and furnaces. The plan is contrary to our state’s climate and clean energy goals and it is costly. The state Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) is currently investigating the plan. Sierra Club Connecticut and other environmental groups oppose any extension of the program including new or reallocated funding. Over 187 Sierra Club members wrote to PURA requesting an end to the plan. We must continue to advocate for an end to the plan at PURA so that more funding is not funneled into the program and it ends as quickly as possible.
Compressor Station Expansions
The giant fossil fuel corporation Berkshire Hathaway Energy and TC Inc. (BHETC) is proposing to grow its gas operations in Connecticut and New York. They propose to expand four existing gas compressor stations including in Brookfield and Milford to serve New York customers with more fracked gas. The proposal still needs approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Authority (FERC) and the CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). FERC’s own analysis says that the project would contribute to climate change, and compressor stations are known to release gas into the surrounding community exposing residents to volatile organic compounds including toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, damage to the liver and central nervous system, and more.
Fossil Fuel Financing and Underwriting
Insurers operating in Connecticut are some of the biggest investors in fossil fuels with over $220 billion invested in fossil fuel companies. Underwriting figures are unknown. Sierra Club Connecticut is working with Connecticut Citizen Action Group and other allies to urge insurance companies to adopt investment and underwriting policies that align with keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. A protest took place at the Travelers Championship in June (pictured).
Photo: Protest at the Traveler Championship
Photo credit: Helen Humphreys
Air Quality Monitoring
Fossil fuels combusted in our communities negatively impacts local air quality. Those living closest to infrastructure like power plants, compressor stations, and highways are more exposed to harmful air pollutants. Last month, a Sierra Club member near a fossil fuel power plant and compressor station in Oxford reached out with concerns about foul odors. She wondered if the odors were related to the gas infrastructure and if they were harmful. We didn’t know, but we offered to help find out. Together we appealed to the local and state health departments and DEEP. Also, with guidance from Environment & Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), our member now has an air monitor to collect PM2.5 data to help understand more. We hope to soon be monitoring in Bridgeport, an environmental justice community overburdened with air pollution, as well. If you want to know more, want to monitor air in your area, or want to help purchase air monitors for concerned residents in Oxford and Bridgeport, please reach out to Martha Klein.
Samantha Dynowski is the Sierra Club Connecticut State Director.