Kulik: Pipeline resistance strong in House

Kulik: Pipeline resistance strong in House

Business groups are leading push for more natural gas

THE LEADER OF THE ANTI-PIPELINE FORCES in the House said on Wednesday that the coalition remains strong and could probably defeat any legislative bid to have electric ratepayers finance a new natural gas pipeline.

“There’s still a lot of resistance,” said Rep. Stephen Kulik of Worthington, the vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. “I think we could defeat that.”

Pro-pipeline forces were dealt a major blow in August 2016, when the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that existing state law barred the Baker administration from authorizing electric utilities to tap their customers for the money to finance natural gas pipelines. Efforts to change the law stalled amid overwhelming opposition in the Senate and strong opposition in the House. As a result, many of the pipeline proposals went dormant.

The pipeline debate has resurfaced this year as Massachusetts business groups have been commissioning studies, lobbying state leaders, and making the case that more natural gas would ease periodic supply shortages in high-demand winter months and avoid the need to burn more heavily polluting fuels such as oil and coal.

The business groups haven’t made a move in the Legislature yet – and probably won’t until next year – but Kulik said opposition among lawmakers to having electric ratepayers pay for natural gas pipelines remains strong. He said the state shouldn’t be building more pipelines at a time when it needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, he said, the state should be focused on increasing energy efficiency and expanding solar, offshore wind, and hydro-electricity imports.

Kulik said the push for more natural gas pipelines will only put more pressure on communities in Pennsylvania that are struggling with the environmental impact of drilling for fracked gas there. At a briefing in the House lounge on Wednesday, several Pennsylvania residents spoke about how their families have been affected.

Jane Worthington, who lives in Washington County, said her 14-year-old granddaughter has been particularly hard hit by exposure to benzene, one of the byproducts of the drilling process.

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Bruce Mohl

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About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Lois Bauer-Bjornson said she and her four children moved from Pittsburgh to Washington County to enjoy country life, but the quiet and peace she had been seeking was lost amid the rush for fracked gas that has surrounded her house with wells, a pipeline, and a compressor station.

Both women said the companies drilling for gas have suppressed opposition by buying land rights with contracts that bar the landholders from speaking out about the health dangers of the industry.