If Keene is #ReadyFor100, will they resist Liberty Utilities gas expansion?
Keene announced in January that it is #ReadyFor100 percent renewable energy. As that transition takes place, will the city resist gas expansion?
Keene's Planning, Licensing and Development committee met with Liberty Utilities Wednesday night to discuss their pipeline plans.
During testimony, Liberty's attorney, Michael Sheehan admitted that information presented to the NH Public Utilities Commission differed from that which was being presented to the PLD committee.
Since Liberty has documented fines for not inspecting pipelines and not reporting or repairing leaks, these discrepancies and heavily redacted documents, raise further concerns about Liberty's gas expansion plans throughout New Hampshire, including Granite Bridge pipeline from Manchester to the seacoast, the Lebanon/Hanover pipeline & CNG depot and Bethlehem landfill methane (being called "renewable gas/RNG).
Keene City Councilor Terry Clark was quick to share the results of the meeting on social media. The social media banter between pipeline opponents and Liberty Utilities continued throughout the day.
By Friday, the Keene Sentinel reported that Liberty Utilities withdrew the plan the PLD committee denied a permit for.
Some committee members seemed to accept Liberty's claim of need for the "redundant" pipeline. Others made gentle suggestions of offsetting the gas somehow with solar lights. There were no passionate pleas to hold Keene to its recent status of "Ready for 100", a campaign for cities to transition to 100% renewable energy.
How will cities move to 100% renewable if they do not aggressively fend off the subtle and not-so-subtle moves of utility companies to hook them on natural gas? Will they continue to rely on nonprofits to not only provide research and dispute utility and gas company claims, but to testify again and again on the climate impacts, or will cities need to hire their own researchers or independent research firms to assist them in discerning the green from the greenwashed?
Keene is a city with a climate action and climate adaptation plan. How it evolves and is implemented may set the tone for how other communities in the Monadnock Region make the renewable energy transition. For now, environmentalists, activists and the Monadnock Region's youth, wait to see how and when "Ready For 100" translates into climate action and a clean energy transition.
UPDATE 2/15/19 Keene City Councilor Terry Clark published a formal statement about the February 13th Planning, Licensing and Development (PLD) Committee meeting at Keene City Hall. He described Liberty Utilities as displaying "reprehensible behavior" saying,
"They knowingly misled the committee on two major points, which their attorney corrected after I presented a copy of the PUC order the company was supposed to send to the city in January – but didn’t.
In Keene, Liberty has a record of false statements and has been fined multiple times for not following established industry safety guidelines. Their biggest lie was when they told the media and city officials that the dangerous discharges of gas in 2015 had something to do with an aging pipeline system. The real reason, uncovered in a PUC report last year, was that they didn’t have enough employees on hand to monitor the system."
He called upon the Mayor and City Manager to respond Liberty’s misleading testimony at the PLD Committee meeting and insist upon more transparency with Liberty regarding their plans for the City of Keene.
The PLD meeting video shows little effort to resist a pipeline under the Ashuelot River on part of the PLD committee.