VT Gas Expansion Thwarts Climate Needs

Sandy Levine | @CLFLevine

gas-expansion

photo courtesy of lydia_shiningbrightly@flickr.com

If your doctor puts you on a diet to prevent major health problems, it is a bad idea to fill your pantry with potato chips. Simply hoping you don’t eat the chips staring you in the face is a bad way to try losing weight.

Likewise, if you want to reduce fossil fuels and combat climate change, it is a bad idea to blindly expand pipelines that deliver these fuels to your doorstep and beyond. These are pipes that will be in place for the next 50 to 100 years. In that timeframe we need to move away from dirty fossil fuels, including fracked gas.

In Vermont, the proponents of a proposed gas pipeline expansion are sadly ignoring the long term impacts.

Instead of proposing a project that actually meets our climate change diet needs, the proposed gas expansion in Vermont is doing the equivalent of filling our energy pantry with potato chips. Chips that we will stare at every day and try not to eat in order to stay on our diet.

This is a bad idea.

The gas cheerleaders, including the Shumlin Administration, are hoping folks will only eat the chips as a small snack. But sadly they are not proposing any limits on the use of the gas, or sizing the project to meet our very limited dietary needs. They are not even considering the use of the full pipeline capacity in their analysis.

Testimony from Conservation Law Foundation provided by Dr. Elizabeth Stanton, explains the considerable uncertainty underlying the claims of Vermont Gas and states:

“As long as there is significant uncertainty in the emissions from natural gas, Vermont risks adopting long-lived natural gas infrastructure that is not compatible with meeting Vermont’s 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals. Approving Vermont Gas’ request represents a gamble, on the part of the PSB, that Vermont’s current and future sources of gas will be at the low end of the current range of possible emission rates in the literature and not at the higher end, and that the uses of the gas will only replace oil or propane. Both assumptions are unlikely and as a result the project proposed will most likely increase greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the project.” (Stanton Testimony at 9-10).

The testimony from the Public Service Department, which is responsible for the State’s energy plan, and helping us meet our climate goals, provides various manipulations of others’ testimony but still simply assumes all the gas in the pipeline will replace oil use. (Poor testimony at pg 8). That is an analysis that is far too limited.

The testimony from the Agency of Natural Resources recognizes that if any gas supply sources have emissions as high as some of those documented, then the claimed emissions benefits of the project “could be reduced or even result in a scenario of increased GHG emissions relative to oil.” (Merrell Testimony at pg. 3). Instead of recommending ways to reduce that impact, however, the Agency calls for annual reporting. While more information is always good, the Agency’s suggestion will be about as effective as closing the stable door after the horse has already run away.

It is past time for Vermont to begin taking its climate change goals seriously. Expanding our addiction to fossil fuels by expanding gas pipelines in Vermont is irresponsible.

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