If Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker gets his way, energy consumers in the Commonwealth (note: everyone) will be forced to pay a tariff, through their utility bills, to help pay for a big old natural gas pipeline. Fortunately, the fight against this money grab is growing, from regional fronts to the upcoming “People Over Pipelines” march, which will take place from this Thursday (July 14) through Monday (July 18). In anticipation of more than 250 residents rallying from the proposed pipeline routes to Beacon Hill, we asked Better Future Project Media Fellow Courtney Foster to fill in some details.
DB: Let’s get this straight—they’re trying to tax us for a natural gas pipeline that we don’t even want in the first place?
BFP: It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Any way you look at it—environmentally, socially, economically—it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
DB: Who’s they, by the way? And who will benefit from our hard-earned tax dollars being spent in such a manner?
BFP: Spectra Energy, a company based in Texas, wishes to build this pipeline to increase their profits and their exports of natural gas both to other states and internationally. At this point, Governor Baker also backs their project. The tax revenue would thus pay for the construction of the pipeline and never make it back into the pockets of average Massachusetts residents.
DB: Do you feel like conspiracy theorists telling people this? Since it’s utterly ridiculous yet still not on the front page of every newspaper every day?
BFP: A couple of months ago, it definitely would have seemed that way. Baker was certainly trying to push this legislation through with as little fuss as possible, and at first, he was succeeding. It’s thanks to the efforts of activists and organizers in Massachusetts that many more people seem to talking about the pipeline now.
DB: Not to sound too selfish about these developments, but is there any way to know how much this would impact the typical individual taxpayer on-average?
BFP: The project would require Baker to raise $3 billion in ratepayer fees. Massachusetts residents would experience a 3 percent increase on their electric bills to fund the pipeline.
DB: But my uncle with the NRA hat says we need these pipelines and that they create jobs. He’s an idiot, but does he have a point?
BFP: Massachusetts does not need the pipeline. A recent report released by the office of Attorney General Maura Healey shows that Massachusetts does not need any new natural gas pipelines to meet its electricity reliability demands. In terms of jobs, it would be a much wiser decision to begin new projects in renewable energy to create more openings. Solar and wind now cost less than 1 percent of what they did during the Carter era, whereas the fossil fuel industry is on its last legs and will not continue to be lucrative. Furthermore, investing in new gas pipelines would be a setback, because it would render our state unable to comply with the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (mandating a statewide reduction in emissions of heat-trapping gases by 25 percent by 2020 relative to 1990). An order by the State Supreme Court in May binds us to this legislation.
DB: Have your protests accomplished anything so far? Any examples?
BFP: Perhaps most significantly, Kinder Morgan suspended their Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project at the end of April, largely in result of 350 Mass’ and Better Future Project’s work. Additionally, in the recent weeks, the State Senate voted unanimously (39-0) for a ban on the pipeline tax. This is a huge victory so far in our current fight to terminate the Access Northeast pipeline project. All of this goes to show that people power can put a stop to pipeline infrastructure which threatens our health and our communities, and I believe we can do it again.
DB: Is this “People Over Pipelines” march your biggest action yet? Tell us about what it’s taken to organize people all across the Commonwealth in a unified effort.
BFP: People Over Pipelines is certainly the biggest march we have ever planned. Organizing the march has taken countless hours of work by 350 Mass staff, fellows, and volunteers in our different nodes across the state, as well as collaborative efforts with other climate justice groups such as FRRACS (Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station). We have tremendous gratitude for those who have helped us along the way, from residents who have circulated petitions to businesses and places of worship which have opened their doors to us so we can eat and sleep along the march. It hasn’t been easy, but we have confidence that the results will be well worth the effort.