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What’s the problem with natural gas?

Clean Heat, Clean Air | Educational Building Block #3

Welcome to the Massachusetts Clean Heat, Clean Air campaign educational building block series! This series was created by Mothers Out Front members to share key concepts and terms from our campaign for healthy homes & communities. These building blocks are intended to be short, easy learning opportunities for busy advocates. Want to be the first to receive these resources?

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What’s the problem with natural gas?

In a January 2020 poll by Climate Nexus, almost 75% of MA residents had a favorable view of natural gas. Almost 60% of MA residents believe natural gas is a clean fuel and a third believe that natural gas is renewable energy. We have work to do.

Natural Gas Harms Our Health

Mothers Out Front created a three-minute video, “Natural Gas Harms Our Health”, that gives an overview of the dangers of gas in our communities and homes.

The gas industry is spending billions of dollars telling us that gas is clean, green and a bridge to the future, the answer to all of our energy needs…it’s time to blow the whistle and stop the deception about the fracked gas.”

Natural Gas in Massachusetts

Fix Big Leaks Protest

Image Source:Jessica Rinaldi, Boston Globe 

Natural gas is the most used energy source in Massachusetts, supplying 40% of our electricity.[1] [2]Gas is also burned directly onsite in our homes and buildings for heating and cooking. The onsite combustion of gas in buildings is responsible for over a quarter of our state’s greenhouse gas emissions.[3]

 

Sector Pie Chart

Image Source: Conservation Law Foundation, Getting Off Gas

Gas leaks contribute to climate change, cause explosions, pollute communities, and kill trees. Our state has some of the oldest gas infrastructure in the country – Massachusetts’ gas pipes can date back to the Civil War. Unsurprisingly, these gas pipes leak. A lot. In 2018, MA utilities reported sixteen thousand gas leaks [4] and a recent study estimated that our gas pipes leak 15 billion cubic feet of gas per year.[5] That’s the equivalent of heating 200,000 homes. Replacing these leaky pipes by 2035 would cost ratepayers $9-$16 billion dollars.[6] Rather than complete this system replacement to keep us on gas, Mothers Out Front is advocating for the repair of the largest leaks and the safe, equitable replacement of the system with clean sources of heat such as geothermal. Much more to come with our campaign materials!

 Key Term:

Stranded Asset: A stranded asset is an item that once had value but no longer does, or,  is worth less than expected. Our entire gas system could become a stranded asset as our state transitions away from natural gas and to clean energy sources. Without deliberate planning, the cost of maintaining the gas system may fall on a dwindling number of ratepayers.

Grade 3 SEI’s: A Significant Environmental Impact leak is a gas leak with a footprint larger than 2,000 square feet. These leaks represent approximately 7% of the leaks in Massachusetts – but release half of our leaked gas.[7]

Mothers Out Front and our allies won a key victory in 2019 with a new regulation requiring utilities to identify and repair these super-emitting leaks within two years.[8]

Deep Dive: 

 


About the Clean Heat, Clean Air Campaign

Meet the Campaign Team: Ania Camargo

Ania Camargo became active in Mothers Out Front when she first learned about gas leaks in the Boston Globe in 2014. Shocked by the issue, she worked with the Mothers Out Front Downtown Team and gas leaks experts to hold the first gas leaks hearing in Boston. This work led to Mothers Out Front Massachusetts’ involvement in gas leaks and to the founding of the Gas Leaks Allies. Today, the Gas Leaks Allies is a coalition of more than 30 organizations and researchers focused on reducing methane emissions from the gas distribution system and developing strategies to transition to carbon-free energy. Ania has been part of the MA Leadership Team, the Path to Power Team, and the Legislative Team. Currently, she is the Coordinator of the Downtown Team and the Coordinator of the Gas Leaks Allies.

What’s next?

In the next few weeks we’re going to talk about creative solutions for heating neighborhoods, why building codes are important, and more. Please also send us your thoughts on topics you would like to learn about. And if you missed our first two building blocks you can find them here and here.

We want to hear from you!

You’re the experts on natural gas! What did we miss? What else would you like us to cover? Find us at info.ma.clean.heat.clean.air@mothersoutfront.org.

We love hearing your thoughts, answering questions, and learning about your work. This week, among other emails, we heard from an architect who supported the net-zero retrofit of the Boston Building Resources Reuse Center and from a member researching the impact on women of living in low-income, nature-deprived areas.

Please also follow Mothers Out Front MA on Facebook and Twitter.

Sources: 

[1] https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=MA

[2] https://www.iso-ne.com/about/key-stats/resource-mix/

[3] https://www.clf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/CLF_GasWhitepaper_GettingOffGas.pdf

[4] https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/07/31/gasleak/2q50mdDXwjS9ALx1gtCJXK/story.html

[5]  https://www.pnas.org/content/112/7/1941

[6] https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5936d98f6a4963bcd1ed94d3/t/5fe115064d06a81beb1729f0/1608586503029/Fixing+MA+Leaky+Pipes_AEC_21Dec2020-2.pdf

[7] https://heet.org//wp-content/uploads/2019/04/HEET-Report-of-the-2018-SEI-Field-Trial.pdf

[8]  https://www.wbur.org/earthwhile/2019/04/01/natural-gas-methane-leaks-massachusetts-rule

The gas industry is spending billions of dollars telling us that gas is clean, green and a bridge to the future, the answer to all of our energy needs…it’s time to blow the whistle and stop the deception about the fracked gas.”