April 24, 2020

 
 
 
 

Food & Water Watch and BEAT team up to hold FERC accountable with lawsuit

(No Fracked Gas in Mass is a proud program of BEAT).


We have exciting news. Food & Water Watch, with Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT), have filed a potentially historic lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit Court today that could have enormous implications for the country’s ability to reduce carbon emissions in line with international climate goals. 


The lawsuit, Food & Water Watch and Berkshire Environmental Action Team v Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, charges that the national body that regulates new gas infrastructure projects is failing to consider the climate impacts of the pipelines and related infrastructure that it is tasked with reviewing.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees all interstate gas projects, has been flouting court orders for almost three years, following a D.C. Circuit decision requiring them to meaningfully consider the ‘downstream’ greenhouse gas emissions of pipeline projects—essentially the combustion activities associated with fossil gas facilitated by these pipelines. 

Instead of including these reasonable considerations, FERC has maintained that all downstream emissions and climate impacts are inherently unforeseeable, and have thus asserted that the climate impacts of gas infrastructure is effectively zero. 

The commission’s current policy is to restrict emissions reviews to solely the construction phase of a given project, an absurd and dangerous evasion of legal precedent that essentially rubber stamps new fossil fuel projects at a time when we must be transitioning away from oil and gas to maintain a habitable climate.

“Winning this case could be a watershed moment for climate action,” said Food & Water Watch attorney Adam Carlesco. “It would require the primary federal gas regulator for the globe’s largest gas producing nation to finally consider the climate impacts of the fossil fuel infrastructure projects it reviews and seriously weigh those impacts when considering the necessity of those projects. This would be a welcome departure from the Commission’s dangerous, politically charged, and unscientific status quo that places a thumb on the scales in favor of pipeline developers. It could also give vulnerable and impacted communities a potential legal avenue for challenging the approval of new sources of pollution.” 

The project at the center of the lawsuit is the “261 Upgrade Project,” which consists of two miles of new pipeline and a new 11,000 horsepower compressor unit near Springfield, Massachusetts. FERC granted the project its certificate in December 2019. Shortly thereafter Food & Water Watch and the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) filed for rehearing, which was denied in late February.

The commission did not approve the project unanimously. In his dissent, Commissioner Richard Glick pointed out that “claiming that a project has no significant environmental impacts while at the same time refusing to assess the significance of the project’s impact on the most important environmental issue of our time is not reasoned decision-making.”

In addition to FERC’s failure to address climate impacts, the ‘necessity’ argument for this project is based on outdated precedent agreements with two companies, one of which has since withdrawn support for the project, while the other— Columbia Gas—was subsequently banned from operating in the state of Massachusetts after a deadly explosion in Lawrence and Andover in 2018. The company pleaded guilty to felony charges and paid $53 million, the largest criminal fine in history under the Natural Gas Act. The company’s current operations in the state are in flux. 

A positive outcome in the case would not only force FERC to consider climate impacts, but it would also prevent additional harm to residents already suffering from the existing gas infrastructure. “With an estimated emissions load of an additional 477,000 tons per year, the project is in clear violation of Massachusetts state mandate to reduce emissions, the Global Warming Solutions Act,” said Jane Winn, executive director of Berkshire Environmental Action Team. “Aside from these climate concerns, the neighboring city, Springfield, wedged between the compressor station site in Agawam and the location for the newly proposed TGP meter station in Longmeadow, has been deemed by The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America as the ‘Most Challenging Place to Live with Asthma.’ Adding more emissions to a region already struggling with ozone pollution issues is an unsafe and unreasonable prospect.”


ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE FROM HOME:

Please Sign this Petition from SierraClub:
Tell Baker to stop Weymouth Compressor construction to protect the safety of workers
& communities

Gov Charlie Baker is trying to make Weymouth shoulder the burden of stopping a multi-national, billion $ company's construction of an unneeded gas transmission compressor. Baker is the one who can and should stop this superspreader site. This project doesn't just affect Weymouth: the workers are staying in Braintree and Rockland extended stay facilities, putting staff at those facilities at risk.

There is video and image proof of safety protocols not being followed (see @elfOnSite on Twitter).

Cut your home's carbon footprint with MassSave's new Online & Virtual Home Energy Assessments

To achieve home energy savings, consider scheduling a home energy assessment. During a time when contractors cannot enter your homes, Mass Save sponsors, as well as many Municipal Light Plants through Energy New England and Mass Municipal Wholesale Electric Company, are offering no-cost virtual home energy assessments.

Through a phone or video call, a home energy specialist will walk you through an assessment of your home and provide you with opportunities to reduce your monthly energy usage and costs.

For eligible homes, energy savings packages will be delivered to your doorstep following the audit – LED light bulbs, faucet aerators, smart power strips, and programmable or wifi thermostats. Homes that qualify for insulation will receive a limited time offer for insulation at no-cost. All work will be scheduled at a future time when it is safe to proceed. For those who want to consider a personal commitment to energy efficiency and clean energy, go to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s newly created website Clean Energy Lives.

Even if you've had a Mass Save energy assessment before,
you can sign up again if it's been over two years.




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