Ninety-two Massachusetts residents rallied on the Climate Action Call last Thursday to ask gas companies to produce decarbonization plans that match the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. The Commonwealth’s gas utility companies, which include Eversource, National Grid, and Berkshire Gas, have until March 1, 2022 to submit plans demonstrating how they will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Mothers Out Front Future of Clean Heat Petition demands these companies shift away from gas and towards heating technologies that are clean, safe, all-electric, powered with renewable energy.
Climate Action Calls organized by Mothers Out Front give participants 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, attendees signed the Future of Clean Heat Petition and used email, Facebook, and Twitter to encourage others to do the same. By the end of the hour, the group collected over 200 signatures and wrote over 150 tweets using #CleanHeatNow, which were seen by over 66,000 people.
Mothers Out Front members Felicia Mednick and Anne Wright provided context for the day’s action. They described how our aging natural gas system is fueling climate change, causing negative health impacts, and threatening the safety of environmental justice communities. “Natural” gas, the fossil fuel that powers heating systems in about half of Massachusetts homes, is 95 percent methane. When methane is burned, it emits carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change. When methane is leaked directly into the air, it is an even more potent greenhouse gas. In fact, it is 86 times as potent as carbon dioxide over its first twenty years in the atmosphere.
Gas leaks are a widespread problem. Methane is leaked at many points along its journey from fracking fields to our homes. Massachusetts has some of the oldest gas infrastructure in the country – some gas pipes date back to the Civil War. The organization HEET reported over 14,000 un-repaired gas leaks in Massachusetts in 2020. In addition to fueling climate change, these leaks pollute the air, kill shade trees, and threaten public safety.
Globally, exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel emissions is responsible for more than 8 million deaths worldwide in 2018 — a little less than 1 out of 5. Large fossil fuel infrastructure projects, such as compressor stations, are most often cited in low-income communities and communities of color. Residents of these sacrifice zones bear a disproportionate burden of the health and safety risks.
Gas utility companies have roles to play in achieving the Commonwealth’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. In 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities directed each of these companies to submit plans for helping to meet this target. Mothers Out Front members have reviewed the four initial proposals submitted by these companies and found that none offer a plan to fully transition away from gas-based fuels.
Massachusetts Mothers Out Front envisions an alternate future where people heat and cool their homes using air-source electric heat pumps and geothermal microgrids. This strategy uses renewable energy, avoids the health dangers of gas, and ends reliance on fossil fuels and other gas-based fuels in a systematic, equitable way.
Empowered by these details, Climate Action Call attendees crafted messages, including tweets, to encourage others to sign the petition.
Mothers Out Front offers an action kit for others who want to spread the word about the petition. This petition and social media campaign are the first in a series of actions Mothers Out Front will take to demand that Massachusetts’ gas local distribution companies offer real climate solutions to reach net-zero by 2050. Future steps include writing postcards to the three largest companies in the state and holding in-person events to deliver them.
After signing the petition and contacting their networks, attendees gave positive feedback about the call in the chat. One person described the session as “a wonderful concrete way to take action (and no homework, which helps!).” Another said that it was “so good to have many voices together reaching out!” Many expressed appreciation for a quote by David Pomerantz that Mothers Out Front organizer Laura Davis shared: “Imagine getting to be alive during the vanishingly thin slice of history when we understand the full gravity of the climate crisis and still have time to do something about it.”
Register for the Next Climate Action Call
The next Climate Action Call will take place Thursday, October 14, 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.
Register for a Twitter Training
Mothers Out Front also offers training for beginner social media users on how to use Twitter to support climate advocacy. The next training will take place Thursday, October 7, 6:00-7:00 PM. Register here.
Michelle Scott is a volunteer with Mothers Out Front in Medford. She is a transportation planner, an amateur birder and gardener, and mother to an energetic one-year-old explorer.