#RiseUpNH! Rally For Pipeline Resistance: It's better to be #FossilFree603
From out of the darkness, a bright red sign shouted, “NO GAS” and the verdant glow of another pleaded, “KEENE GO GREEN!” along the railing around the Central Square statue in downtown Keene NH. Other signs said “Solar”, “Wind”, “FossilFree603.org”, and one lighted sign had moving lights showing a wind turbine in action.
ECHO Action is the first and only New Hampshire organization using lighted signs to alert the public to the health, safety, economic and climate threats of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure.
ECHO Action has had pop-up #LightUpTheNight events across Southern and Central New Hampshire since last fall, raising awareness about the fracked gas pipelines Liberty Utilities has proposed across the Granite State, and the renewable options to fossil fuel expansion. Last night, they were back in Keene, where Liberty Utilities now wants to drill under the Ashuelot River for another gas pipeline.
Last winter activists stood on snow and ice and at Central Square, opposing a gas plant in Keene, the first Liberty Utilities action to alert residents to plans for more gas. They stood in front of the Manchester Arena in 20º temperatures last winter, letting residents know about emissions concerns from a planned metering station.
They put "Renewable Now" signs in the snow on the sidewalk outside the Epping Library next to the Town Hall during a meeting where ECHO Action gave a presentation about the Granite Bridge Pipeline. State Representative Sean Morrison declared them to be political signs and insisted they be taken down.
They hung lighted signs on starlit overpass fencing along Route 101 in the seacoast region this summer, as cars whizzed by honking horns.
In August, a metering station that was planned for Stratham, was suddenly moved to Exeter. Liberty Utilities moves fast, so it's difficult for communities to get their bearings as the utility pushes for easement agreements.
When Liberty's representatives Mike Licata and Huck Montgomery share project details at open houses and select board meetings, ECHO Action counters their claims of safety and competency.
"On three separate occasions between March 2016 and August 2017, Liberty Utilities New Hampshire Gas Division agreed to fines outlined in notices of violations issued by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission on March 3 and 4, 2016, and a third on July 28, 2017, for amounts of $9,000, $5,000 and $40,500 respectively.
According to the heftiest penalty imposed in the July 28, 2017, the nine-part violation included Liberty failing to inspect pipeline infrastructure the required number of times in 2015; skipping 2016 inspections altogether in its southern division, failing to include “maps, books, or other documentation of the facilities to be leak surveyed.” Liberty also failed to inspect Class II leaks, leaks recognized as non-hazardous at time of detection, requiring scheduled repair within six months or end of the calendar year, in a timely fashion, among several violations related to operation."
One Candia woman relayed her story about a pipeline explosion in her Massachusetts town when she was a child outside a Liberty Utilities open house. She went to school with children whose parents died in the explosion. That experience changed her forever and left her in fear of pipelines. When she and her husband bought their home in NH, they made sure there were no gas pipelines in the area. There weren’t, but now, Liberty Utilities wants to put a pipeline directing abutting their property and she’s very scared.
The LNG tank proposed for Epping would be larger than the towering Boston "Rainbow Tank". While some city officials drool over potential tax revenue, ECHO Action educates about unfulfilled promises of riches and the real cost of pipelines that ratepayers pay for at no risk to the utility or their stakeholders. In fact, calculations indicate that it could take 73 years to get a return on the Epping LNG tank. One has to wonder how all of this ratepayer cost is meant to save them money.
The interactive map that can be viewed on the ECHO Action website, designed by Sue Durling, shows just how close the pipeline would come schools, churches, community gathering places, businesses and homes, raising health and safety concerns. Liberty Utilities rate of lost gas in 2017 was 2.2%, a leakage rate that, when accompanied by inspection violations and failure to report leaks, gives pause to why legislators have been quick to approve the project.
At a time when climate change is considered the greatest threat to the planet, activists across the globe are standing with fisted hands, and risking arrest, to stop fossil fuel expansion. That's what the #RiseUp international day of action is about, but for ECHO Action, it's a calling that has kept them busy during the summer campaign season.
Stephanie Scherr and Sue Durling spent most of their summer interviewing candidates running for office and attending gubernatorial forums. Their videos show candidates eager to move towards renewables, some proposing 50% renewable by 2030 or 100% renewable by 2035, removing the solar cap and supporting offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine.
Videos also show candidates dodging questions and practically running from the camera, unwilling to discuss the Granite Bridge Pipeline that has been endorsed by every one of NH's Democratic and Republican State Senators.
The two women have been persistent. They began a Raymond “Conversations with the Candidates” event and followed the gubernatorial candidates to three forums asking questions about climate change, fossil fuels and renewable energy.
The group has been promoting the Granite State's first #NoFossilFuelFunding commitment, asking candidates to refuse funding from utilities and the fossil fuel industry.
Just one week before the September 11th primary, they released a chart comparing the energy policy of Democratic gubernatorial candidates Steve Marchand and Molly Kelly, after keeping climate and energy at the forefront of the campaign during the months leading up to next week's vote.
ECHO Action’s Director, Stephanie Scherr, says the public is hungry for candidates ready to embrace solar, offshore wind and energy efficiency measures.
"They know the work we're doing and ask us where the candidates stand on climate change, green jobs and subsidies for renewables. Those that took on the Kinder Morgan NED pipeline (in a joint effort with Liberty Utilities) that was defeated, and those that now face the Granite Bridge Pipeline, are the first to ask if candidates oppose pipelines. For them, the fear is very real."
Scherr says she and Durling wanted to hear out candidates, challenge their positions and give them something to think about. "For the most part, they’re either ready for renewables right now or they still believe fracked gas is a bridge fuel. The truth is that solar is the new bridge fuel.”
Susan Durling really enjoyed going to events, talking with other attendees and the positive feedback they’ve been receiving for the direct questions they ask.
"Just asking the questions is raising awareness about climate change and our energy choices. People listen very intently for the answers and often seem surprised that someone they were considering voting for wasn’t as eager to support renewables as they thought they were."
While ECHO Action has been attending political events, the entire team has been giving pipeline education presentations, attending Public Utilities Commission meetings and select board meetings in Granite Bridge towns, writing letters and PUC comments and posting signs.
Friday night’s event was just one more reminder for Keene that elected officials be walking the talk, supporting renewable energy, not fossil fuel expansion. They want to see climate leadership #RiseUp in New Hampshire, equaling and surpassing that of Vermont and Massachusetts. Their hashtag, mantra and mission for a #FossilFree603 says it all.
🌎 Action's members are all unpaid volunteers who frequently travel across the state for climate and pipeline education events. You can fight climate change and support their work by making a contribution today!
ECHO Action will be at these upcoming events!
Saturday, September 8th
Climate, Jobs, Justice Rally, 11 am-3 pm
Railroad Square, Keene
Thursday, September 20th
Pipeline Education Presentation, 6-8 pm
Fremont Public Library
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