Keene Sentinel Editorial suggests gas use is benign, climate activists are conspiratorial.
On Wednesday, a full room of climate activists spoke at Keene City Hall during a Planning, Licensing & Development committee meeting, requesting that Keene City Council sign the climate resolution written by City Councilors Terry Clark and Randy Filiault.
The meeting was covered by Sentinel Staff Reporter Meghan Foley, whose story was published on Thursday. On Friday, an Editorial follow-up was printed.
The commentary began with,"Keene’s City Council has a long history of promoting green measures. But it’s come under fire from activists for a 5-4 vote last week to discontinue water and drainage easements owned by the city and a portion of Production Avenue that leads to property owned by Liberty Utilities." There's no mention of the conservation land that apparently is no longer of value.
For years people have complained that too few are involved in community issues and decision making. What was served up next is a slam to actively engaged citizens.
"Liberty, the state’s largest distributor of natural gas, needed the approval so it can build out a temporary facility on Production Avenue to address issues with the gas supply to Monadnock Marketplace. On the surface, it was a pretty routine request by a local business that costs the city nothing and would allow Liberty to better serve specific customers in Keene. Of course, nothing is ever routine in our politically charged culture, and this followed suit."
The Editor suggests that citizens who fought the NED pipeline for two years, saw it withdrawn in May of 2016 due to lack of gas contracts, and are now watching Liberty Utilities aggressively seek those contracts, are being alarmist.
Concerned citizens attending meetings have come from Chesterfield, Richmond, Winchester, Westmoreland, Fitzwilliam, Wilton and Nashua and from Vermont. Most of these towns were participants in the Municipal Pipeline Coalition. The entire region is deeply concerned about this project.
The people that live here, work here, have businesses and shop here are asking for the City of Keene to make thoughtful, informed, careful decisions and to consider alternatives to gas. Simply saying that it's already in use does not preclude making better decisions than 100 years ago, when the current system was installed.
"Could it be that Liberty’s executives are gleefully rubbing their hands in anticipation of a federal application to expand the region’s gas infrastructure in a few years? Maybe. Opponents of the project noted increased gas-usage activity in Massachusetts and other nearby areas, which could be pieces of the same conspiratorial puzzle."
In doing research before writing, our web page that included a diagram of the relationship between Liberty Utilities and Kinder Morgan, was apparently overlooked.
In 2015, Mike Licata, Director of Government and Communication Relations at Liberty Utilities, was pressed on the relationship between the two companies at a Winchester Select Board meeting. He was shown the diagram, developed by Sue Durling, and admitted its accuracy. The transcribed conversation and audio hint at insidious plan, rather than conspiracy theories.
The Editor chastises the use of fracked gas as "problematic at best", saying communities need to have more of a say in siting pipelines, but why not on local projects that impact the entire region, not just the city?
Saying that natural (fracked) gas in Keene, or the state on the whole, is "needed, but mostly benign", and that because gas is already is use, it's not a problem, seems misinformed.
What one calls a "speculative game of connect-the-dots" or gazing into a crystal ball, another calls research backed by a history with FERC, maps and market forecasting. Add to that the words of a Governor who has openly stated he welcomes a pipeline and invited the head of the EPA to New Hampshire to discuss "bothersome" water regulations, and you have intent.
The very essence of public relations is putting the shine on something, making it seem so appealing that you have to have it. You may have buyer's remorse later, but at the time, it seems really quite "reasonable".
Those with vision and economic insight are not replacing old fossil fuel infrastructure with more of the same. They're not using the same old technology selling the unsuspecting on the pipe dreams of a dying industry.
While cities and towns across America fight to protect their land, air, water and food from fracking, toxic emissions, frackwater being sprayed on crops, water they can't drink, cook or bathe with, but can ignite, Keene surges forward with a plan for fracked gas and doesn't take the time to consider the implications, nor the alternatives. Untold communities would give anything for the opportunity to have a say in what has turned their lives upside down.
In the raising of a hand for just moments, there is an impact that reaches beyond Keene's boundaries. We commend Keene for the many years of wise planning and decision-making that have made Keene a model to be emulated, and in turn, brought us to question the wisdom of this decision.
ECHO Action's Stephanie Scherr and Pat Martin commented on the article at the Keene Sentinel site.
"Newspaper editors are human. No one can know it all. We always appreciate the great coverage the Keene Sentinel provides the community. ECHO Action will keep educating and supporting Keene in asking them to continue down the commendable path to renewable energy and climate action that they have been on for some time.
Fracked gas is not a bridge (fuel), and if it was, I wouldn't get on it considering our nation's crumbling infrastructure.
We're here to share information, advocate and protect communities, and that's what we will continue to do."
"What is the rush to make a decision? This is a major turning point for Keene's future. Why can't we have a discussion of alternatives? What if there is a better option? The biggest risk to a clean energy future is taking a "business as usual" approach to day to day challenges. Liberty is driving Keene's future and the timeline. While that may be good for them, is it really what Keene wants?"
Pat Martin followed up with a letter to the editor.
SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Keeping climate perspective: City can help a business serve its customers and remain environmentally friendly
"We generally agree with the goals of environmental activists who seek to put our country on a path toward more renewable energy sources and conservation. There are times, however, when such advocates, in their zeal, seem to lose sight of what’s realistic and what’s simply tilting at wind turbines.
Keene’s City Council has a long history of promoting green measures. But it’s come under fire from activists for a 5-4 vote last week to discontinue water and drainage easements owned by the city and a portion of Production Avenue that leads to property owned by Liberty Utilities.
Liberty, the state’s largest distributor of natural gas, needed the approval so it can build out a temporary facility on Production Avenue to address issues with the gas supply to Monadnock Marketplace. On the surface, it was a pretty routine request by a local business that costs the city nothing and would allow Liberty to better serve specific customers in Keene. Of course, nothing is ever routine in our politically charged culture, and this followed suit.
While the Northeast Energy Direct gas pipeline, proposed several years ago by energy giant Kinder Morgan, may have gone away, the prospect of it, or something similar, returning to the region is palpable among its opponents. They argue Liberty, a subsidiary of a firm involved in that pipeline project, is expanding its distribution system so as to increase demand for natural gas in the region and thus pave the way for another pipeline application down the road.
Add to that the hue and cry of those who oppose the use of fossil fuels in general, who now accuse the council of betraying its pro-environmental history by allowing “more” natural gas in Keene. They paint a picture that — like a frog boiled alive in a pot of water that’s increasing in temperature a single degree every hour — we will eventually fall victim to these incremental increases in natural gas usage if we don’t realize the danger in time.
Both groups, which include considerable overlap, have legitimate goals and make some reasonable points. Less fossil-fuel use is better for the environment, and while natural gas is cleaner than oil or coal to produce, fracked gas — obtained by applying pressurized water and chemicals to fissures in bedrock — is problematic, at best. Communities need to have more say in the siting of major energy projects, such as pipelines, and even such a small entity as the city of Keene can make a difference by doing “the right thing” whenever it can, environmentally.
But the City Council can’t treat a proposal before it as if it will lead to some speculative future global damage. It can only rule based on the data before it. State and federal laws don’t allow local authorities to rule based on what might someday happen in the next state or county.
Could it be that Liberty’s executives are gleefully rubbing their hands in anticipation of a federal application to expand the region’s gas infrastructure in a few years? Maybe. Opponents of the project noted increased gas-usage activity in Massachusetts and other nearby areas, which could be pieces of the same conspiratorial puzzle.
Or, they could be other needed, but mostly benign, projects in a region that already relies on natural gas for more than half of its power generation, and for heating, cooking and more in many homes and businesses.
If there is some grand plan among Liberty, Kinder Morgan or other energy firms, Keene’s city councilors were not in a position to stop it based on a speculative game of connect-the-dots. To call on the councilors to gaze into a crystal ball and determine the future course of energy use for all of New England based on a minor street discontinuance in Keene is unfair.
Liberty’s request was straightforward and reasonable, and the council had the obligation to respond to it as such.
This week, many of the same activists attended a council committee meeting to urge the adoption of a resolution backing the Paris climate accord, from which the Trump administration has withdrawn. The panel voted 5-0 to back that stance, and we’d expect the full council to follow suit. The city can support both the environment and local businesses. All that’s needed is to maintain perspective."
KEENE SENTINEL EDITORIAL