Letter: Don't take the natural gas detour

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Don't take the natural gas detour

Editor of the Reformer:

Although there is much discussion about the proposed Northeast Energy Direct "market path" gas line proposed by Kinder Morgan through Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the environmental and property issues will not end there.

It is important for people in towns not directly on the proposed route, such as Keene, N.H., and Brattleboro, to understand the issues surrounding this proposal. Already developers are dreaming of gas power plants in places like Vernon and supply lines to places like Keene. This infrastructure build-out translates to more issues of eminent domain, more greenhouse gas and VOC emissions, more safety hazards, and more risks to water supplies. Real, permanent energy solutions will only be found in efficiency upgrades, renewable technology, and conservation.

Some will argue that the proposed line will be worth it. But let's face it — natural gas is already on its way out. Marcellus shale estimates are less ambitious than they once were. If we slow the growth of renewables now with a gas infusion, we will be back at square one in a decade. Then we will need to finally build that renewable future, and the climate will be worse off for our delay. At a recent town meeting in Vernon, a board member strongly in favor of a gas plant freely admitted that they saw it "as a Band-Aid." Yikes ... that's too much risk for a Band-Aid.

The build-out will not provide many jobs either. The temporary jobs on a gas installation require training; most companies bring workers from distant states. New permanent jobs are rare too — it was estimated that the Vernon plant would only employ 23. Could local companies expand hiring due to low energy prices? Not likely, as much of the proposed NED line gas will be exported to other countries for high prices. On the open market it is more probable that New England will not see the "lower energy bills" that the company promises.

This gas build-out as a "bridge" is a misguided metaphor. It is more a detour from a road to more permanent energy solutions. I have faith in America's ability to make this leap. It is true that renewables cannot carry us yet, but new technology comes with investment and incentives, not so different from the subsidies that fossil fuel companies have enjoyed for decades. Let the present gas structure (with leak repairs) hold us afloat while we invest in conservation and renewables; both of those fields have truly lowered energy costs and provided numerous permanent jobs. But it will require more voices than those along the proposed NED route. It will be in everybody's backyard. Please get involved; write your governor and your representatives to state your opposition to gas infrastructure proposals and your support of more permanent sustainable energy solutions.

Andrew Vernon, Northfield, Mass., Nov. 17


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