Pipeline debate gets testy on Twitter

Murray, Worcester business leader, gets pushback on natural gas

Tim Murray, a Worcester business leader and the former lieutenant governor, got into a testy natural gas policy debate on Twitter over the last few days with a number of pipeline opponents.

It started on Tuesday when Murray, president of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, retweeted a story from the Daily Hampshire Gazette raising concerns about New England’s shortage of gas in late December and early January, which forced the region to generate electricity by burning 2 million barrels of oil.

“Underscores why we need natural gas as bridge fuel while we aggressively pursue renewable energy future. Jobs and our environment are on the line here in Massachusetts, especially in Gateway Cities,” Murray tweeted.

The comment prompted a lot of pushback from individuals and groups who oppose the construction of new natural gas pipeline infrastructure. Some called natural gas a “bridge to nowhere.” Others were opponents of a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth and wanted to know where Murray stood on that. And some accused Murray of shilling for a pipeline company – Spectra Energy, a subsidiary of Enbridge Inc. — that is a member of his Chamber of Commerce.

In a telephone interview, Murray stressed that he is supportive of transitioning to clean energy, and pointed to many of the policies and laws enacted when he was lieutenant governor under former governor Deval Patrick. But as the state makes that transition, which he indicated could take decades, Murray said officials should listen to companies complaining about the high price of electricity and the high cost of doing business here. He said an “absolutist approach” of no new pipelines will cost the state jobs.

The Worcester chamber recently joined the Coalition for Sustainable Energy, a new group of business organizations pushing for more pipeline infrastructure.  “To me it’s not unreasonable to expand an existing pipeline,” Murray said.

Emily Norton, director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club, jumped into the tweet storm, suggesting Murray should listen to the young people criticizing his policy stance. “They have learned they have to take care of their own futures. #ParklandStudents”

“There is no justification for supporting more fracked gas pipelines,” Norton said in an email. “Climate change is caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. We are seeing quite vividly the effects of climate change here locally, and it’s only going to get worse. It is the height of irresponsibility for Tim Murray or any leader to suggest we should be doubling down on fracked gas – which is a fossil fuel — at this time in history.”


Click here for a Twitter exchange between Murray and Timmy Sullivan.

Click here for an exchange between Murray and Robert Kearns, a UMass student and member of the Sierra Club executive committee.

Click here for another exchange with Kearns.

Click here for an exchange between Murray and Blue Mass Group, a political blog.