New Gas Plans Shirk Climate Goals
This week, Massachusetts gas utilities faced a deadline to submit final plans of how they will meet the state’s legally binding emissions reductions targets. Instead of presenting plans to quickly transition away from burning fuel, gas utilities’ new proposals promote false, greenwashed solutions that fail to meet the targets.
At March’s Climate Action Call, Mothers Out Front members teamed up with Gas Leaks Allies to learn the truth about plans gas utilities propose, and to call on legislators not to fall for these fake solutions.
Monthly Climate Action Calls provide participants with information about critical climate issues, opportunities to take collective action, and the chance to connect with fellow advocates, all in less than an hour. This month, Mothers Out Front member Claire Humphrey from the Jamaica Plain Chapter teamed up with Sarah Griffith, of Cambridge, with Gas Leaks Allies.
They informed over ninety attendees about the problems with burning methane and the new strategies gas utilities are using to shirk emissions targets, health and climate mandates.
Claire Humphrey reminded attendees, “The “natural” gas we burn in our homes is 95% methane. When methane is burned, it emits CO2 – carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is damaging our climate. When methane leaks it can also cause fires and explosions. And when methane leaks from the gas stoves that we use for cooking, it pollutes the air inside our homes, and when it burns, the fumes lead to higher rates of asthma.” [Read more: “What’s the problem with natural gas?”]
Mothers Out Front and climate allies seek a systemic transition off of gas, oil, and other carbon-emitting fuels, as outlined in the Future of Clean Heat platform. They are urging all-electric and energy efficient systems powered by renewable electricity such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy. They want this transition to be affordable for everyone, and we don’t want to leave utility workers behind.
Gas Utilities’ Greenwashed Terms Try to Make Bad Ideas Sound Good
Sarah Griffith identified the new false solutions of gas companies and explained how they shirk climate and health goals: “The gas utilities have been doing some heavy greenwashing, using words like “renewable” and “sustainable” to make their bad ideas sound good.”
She shared how gas utilities have rebranded new mixes and partial sources of gas as “renewable natural gas” or “RNG,” “sustainable natural gas,” “synthetic natural gas,” “fossil free gas,” “low-carbon hydrogen,” “blue hydrogen,” or “clean hydrogen.”
“Renewable Natural Gas or RNG is a misleading name for methane gas captured from the decomposition of manure, sewage, landfill garbage or food waste,” she explained. “There is a positive benefit to our climate in capturing this methane gas instead of letting it enter the atmosphere. But the technology is only suitable for relatively small-scale uses where the gas is captured and used on-site, like at our Deer Island Waste Facility in Boston Harbor. And methane, a greenhouse gas, is still harmful to our climate, no matter what the source.”
Hydrogen: A Dangerous, False Solution
Gas utilities are also proposing mixing hydrogen into the gas pipelines. Hydrogen is more explosive than methane. Burning hydrogen creates more nitrogen oxides and other pollutants that cause asthma.
Hydrogen, even at only a 20% blend, is incompatible with our pipes and home appliances – we would need a whole new piping infrastructure to supply a hydrogen blend gas. And we would still need methane to be the majority of the gas in those pipes.
The Gas Utilities’ Proposal is Expensive and Unfair
Sarah added that gas customers will be paying more and more to keep this broken system running. “All of the gas utilities’ ideas put together will not come close to achieving the Net Zero gas network as the utilities claim.”
“The most offensive claim in the utility plans is that customers are free to choose all-electric systems. But that choice is only available to customers who can afford to make changes to their homes. Those left behind will be stuck paying for an increasingly expensive gas system. We demand that the utilities provide a fair and equitable transition to a clean energy future.”
“For years, utilities have been lobbying policymakers to subsidize the development of these gasses. National Grid published a report in 2010, stating that policymakers will need to “level the playing field by offering comparable incentives for renewable gas that are offered for renewable electricity.” They want taxpayers to pay too. The only real solution is a swift and just move away from natural gas to clean, safe, all-electric alternatives.”
Action Taken: Asking Legislators to Intervene
During the action, attendees emailed their legislators to invite them to an important hearing on April 4. State Senator Cynthia Creem, who chairs the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, has organized the hearing to help legislators get up to speed on what the utilities have planned.
Mothers Out Front urged members to act, saying “We have brought our messages to the gas utility companies over and over. They have shown that they are not willing to listen to the concerns of their customers and their ratepayers. Our state legislature has the power to STOP these gas utility plans, and we need to make sure that they take action this year. This process is moving quickly, and it is time to ask them to intervene – now.”
Join us in taking action for our climate!
Reach out to your legislators, utilities, and networks
If you have not done so already, use the Action Kit from this Climate action call to ask your Massachusetts state legislators to attend the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change hearing on the “Future of Gas” on April 4th from 10:00-12:30. The kit also offers resources to learn more about the false promises of “renewable natural gas.” You can also use the kit’s sample emails to get your friends and family involved.
Register for the next Climate Action Call
The next Climate Action Call will take place April 21 at 12:00-12:45 pm. At each Climate Action Call, Mothers Out Front organizers will offer a different impactful climate action for participants to take during the event. Attendees do not need prior experience or knowledge to participate. Register here.
Join our Welcome Call April 2, 2022 at 9-10 AM.
If you have asked yourself “what more could I be doing to stop climate change?” this is the event for you. Join us to discover how you can put your unique talents and skills to work fighting to stop climate change. Register here.
Kari Percival is a volunteer with Mothers Out Front in Malden. She is a a former public school science teacher, who loves hiking waterfalls in the Fells, and is mom to two boys ages 9 and 12.