Videos and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
REHOBOTH, Mass. — The compressor station proposed for the town is still on hold but opponents of the natural-gas pipeline project are staying on the offensive.
In 2017, the project was postponed by National Grid, Eversource, and Enbridge Inc. of Calgary, after the 2016 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision that blocked ratepayers from being charged for pipeline infrastructure projects.
Supporters of the opposition group Citizens Against the Rehoboth Compressor Station (CARCS) are staying alert in case the project is revived. In light of recent natural-gas incidents in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, CARCS urged residents of Rehoboth and neighboring communities to be aware of the risks of natural gas and the fossil-fuel industry’s influence in the region.
Tracy Manzella, a Rehoboth resident and president of CARCS, cautioned against making a distinction between supporting natural-gas connections to homes and businesses and opposing the national pipeline companies that are pushing projects such as compressor stations.
“We can’t be pro-gas and anti-compressor station,” Manzella said at an event last month at Blanding Public Library.
Manzella organized the presentation about the health and safety risks of the thousands of gas leaks in Massachusetts and around the country. Boston University professor Nathan Phillips and former gas company leak investigator Bob Ackley described their neighborhood surveys of gas leaks in and around Boston and Washington, D.C., that received national press coverage. Each community has thousands of small leaks along sidewalks and streets that are unsafe and contribute significantly to greenhouse-gas emissions.
“There’s a lot more leaks out there than what the industry is showing,” Ackley said.
Ackley noted that there are thousand of miles of old leak-prone gas pipes made of cast iron, steel, and plastic that need replacing.
Phillips said the problem can be fixed fairly easily because just 7 percent of the leaks account for 50 percent of natural-gas pipeline emissions.
“If we find and fix the biggest leaks we can stem that problem while we transition to cleaner, safer, more reliable energy sources,” Phillips said.
The Massachusetts Legislature has been one of the most progressive in the country in addressing climate change. Phillips asked the audience to support S1940, which requires gas utilities to replace, instead of patch, leaking gas lines, and offers incentives to promote renewable energy.
Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, is the founding chair of the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change and author of the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act.
“Gas is no longer a bridge fuel, in my opinion,” Pacheco said. “It was a bridge fuel 20 years ago.”
Pacheco also noted that there is only about 11 years to address climate in a meaningful way. His bill (S2005) seeks to make enforceable net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions in the state by 2050.
“We’ve just got to move forward and embrace all of the technologies that are already there. We don't need to invent new technologies,” Pacheco said. “The only thing we need right now, and everybody here knows this to be true, is political will.”
Sen. Paul Feeney, D-Attleboro, championed his bill (S1965) that limits the export of natural gas by requiring all natural gas that enters Massachusetts to be used in the state. He sponsored other legislation (S1966) that divests state pension funds from fossil-fuel investments and requires oversight of natural-gas leaks.
“Let’s put our money where are mouth is and not invest anymore in fossil fuels,” Feeney said.