• ECHO Action Editor

Council committee recommends Keene back climate compact

"The contrasting positions of a City Council that wants to be both a champion in combating climate change and a supporter of bringing fossil fuel to the community are on track to become a reality.

The council’s five-member planning, licenses and development committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to recommend the full council back a resolution supporting the Paris Agreement on climate change.

It also unanimously recommended the City Council allow Mayor Kendall W. Lane to sign an open letter saying to the world that he stands with other state, local, business and academic leaders in ensuring the United States continues to uphold the agreement’s goals.

The “We Are Still In” letter started circulating after President Donald J. Trump announced June 1 that he would withdraw the United States from the agreement.

The letter has more than 1,000 signatures. Locally, they include those of Melinda Treadwell, provost of Antioch University New England, and Anne E. Huot, president of Keene State College.

In addition, representatives from W.S. Badger Co. in Gilsum; Filtrine Manufacturing Co. in Keene; the Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene; and Normandeau Associates Inc. of Westmoreland have signed the document.

The Paris Agreement, reached in 2015, commits almost every country in the world to act to limit the global temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The expectation is to eventually tighten that limit to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In addition, the United States pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to be below 2005 levels by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, as part of the accord.

“You can either lead or follow. The federal government decided to get out of the way, so we’re gonna lead,” David C. Richards, committee chairman and Ward 3 Councilor, said.

About 35 people attended Wednesday’s meeting, and several spoke in favor of the resolution. The letter was discussed by the committee later in the meeting.

Ann Shedd, chairwoman of Keene’s Cities for Climate Protection Committee, said supporting the resolution and working toward the goals of the Paris Agreement relate to current and future projects in the city, its ability to recruit businesses and to a 21st-century workforce.

“Climate action and economic stability go hand in hand,” she said.

However, during the roughly hour-long discussion leading up to the votes, several audience members spoke about being confused by the City Council’s decision last week. The council’s 5-4 vote gave Liberty Utilities the final approval it needed to install a temporary natural gas facility in Keene.

Liberty Utilities officials have said their plan is to eventually have a permanent natural gas facility to replace the city’s decades-old propane-air system.

Keene resident Peter Majoy said that when there is so much data available about how fossil fuels, including natural gas, are ruining the environment, he found the Liberty Utilities vote hard to understand.

It’s especially difficult to comprehend as the city councilors continue to discuss the importance of supporting the Paris Agreement, he said.

“The decision by the City Council to endorse and encourage the fossil fuel goals of Liberty Utilities doesn’t reflect the goals of the Paris Agreement,” he said. “If the city votes to join the Paris Agreement, it would be hypocritical.”

He presented several statistics about pipeline accidents and the damage and injuries those have caused to further his point. He also said the natural gas coming to the city would be obtained through the process of fracking, a point that has been made by others fighting the project.

Liberty has declined to say whether the natural gas would be fracked natural gas, which is pulled from the earth using a process that involves shooting water mixed with sand and chemicals at high pressures into rock.

Concerns have been raised about the process on health, safety and environmental grounds.

Keene resident Peter Majoy said that when there is so much data available about how fossil fuels, including natural gas, are ruining the environment, he found the Liberty Utilities vote hard to understand.

It’s especially difficult to comprehend as the city councilors continue to discuss the importance of supporting the Paris Agreement, he said.

“I’d like to see the people who showed up here tonight get better organized. They seem to think they have all the answers, and they don’t,” he said.

Fitzwilliam resident Stephanie Scherr spoke after Hutchinson, saying people need to put politics aside and have thoughtful discussions about climate change. She then offered to speak to Hutchinson about his questions.

She encouraged committee members, other city officials and local residents to learn as much as they can about natural gas, including its affects on the environment and human health; Liberty Utilities’ plans for expanding availability of the fossil fuel in New Hampshire; and the company’s connection to Kinder Morgan.

Kinder Morgan, through subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC, had proposed building an interstate natural gas pipeline that would have gone through Southern New Hampshire.

Liberty’s parent company partnered with Tennessee Gas on the pipeline project.

Further, Scherr noted that moving toward natural gas is largely being considered a benefit for Keene businesses. But, she said, that same benefit could be realized by the city committing to meet its energy needs completely with renewable energy sources.

“Please keep an open mind and look at the options,” she said.

Toward the end of the meeting, two Keene residents questioned the closeness of the City Council vote on the Liberty Utilities project and why five of 15 councilors weren’t allowed to vote because they missed the site-visit portion of the meeting.

Those members were Janis O. Manwaring, Bettina A. Chadbourne, Randy L. Filiault, Richards and Mitchell H. Greenwald.

City Attorney Thomas P. Mullins cited a state statute saying councilors must attend a site visit about a road discontinuance to vote on the discontinuance. Liberty was asking the City Council to discontinue a portion of Production Avenue to allow for the temporary natural gas facility.

Bartlomiej K. Sapeta, a city councilor at-large, said he believes there’s some connection between the Liberty Utilities vote and the vote on the resolution.

He then challenged the councilors who voted in favor of the project to reconsider and encouraged the council to have the discussion again.

The audience responded to his suggestion with applause.

However, no one jumped on the offer at the meeting.

Sapeta was one of the four councilors who voted against the road discontinuance last week. The other three councilors were Terry M. Clark, Robert B. Sutherland and Stephen L. Hooper.

Robert J. O’Connor, Philip M. Jones, George S. Hansel, Thomas F. Powers and Gary P. Lamoureux voted in favor.

Carl B. Jacobs was absent from the meeting.

City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 6, at 7 p.m. at City Hall."



© 2020 ECHO Action: #FossilFree603  • •

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