Category: Keystone XL Pipeline

Marty Nathan: The $5.5 billion pipeline dinosaur that should never come to life


Hampshire Daily Gazette: Submitted photo “Climate Summer Bicycle Riders,” are taking to the roads in western Massachusetts in opposition to Kinder Morgan’s proposed natural gas pipeline

By MARTY NATHAN in the Hampshire Daily Gazette

Every day for months I have been seeing Berkshire Gas ads explaining its policy of preventing new gas hookups, citing “pipeline capacity constraints” limiting gas availability. My understanding of gas supply is fuzzy, though I suspected from the first that any time pipelines are being mentioned by energy companies in western Massachusetts, Kinder Morgan is probably behind the curtain.

Then a couple of weeks ago I heard mention by a Northampton official that barriers to new gas hookups are hindering development of key projects in the town.

The moratorium strategy is being adopted not just by Berkshire Gas in Franklin County and in Amherst, Hadley and Hatfield, but as well by Columbia Gas in Easthampton and Northampton. The Hampshire County towns for both companies are all fed by the Northampton Lateral of another Tennessee Gas pipeline in southern Massachusetts.

Thus the new Pleasant Street affordable housing project in Northampton, much needed by our community to serve low income people, is being stalled, as is the opening and expansion of small businesses in this lurching recovery from the Great Recession.

To what purpose?

These two LDCs have applied to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to bless contracts (whose details and pricing are secret) to acquire natural gas from the Northeast Direct which, if built, will pass from Wright, New York, to Dracut. Columbia Gas has said that it needs 114,000 dekatherms/day to replace existing contracts that it plans to get out of and to cover projected growth.

It says that without the new NED gas delivery, its customers will suffer from shortages.

The problem is that the only consumer demand that Columbia is looking at is that occurring on “design” or peak demand days — in the middle of the winter, when the furnace in every house is chugging and electrical output, much based now on the burning of natural gas, is high.

Though never explicitly stated in their filings or press releases, yearly peak days can be counted on the fingers of one hand. On all other days, supply well-surpasses demand.

On design days there are alternatives — either shipped in or locally stored liquefied natural gas or gas bought on the open market, which can and should be a part of any distributer’s plan. In Amherst, specific temporary stopgap measures have been proposed for the design days, till long-term answers have been implemented.

A similar analysis could be done for all the other affected towns.

Yet Columbia, Berkshire and Cape Gas companies have ignored those options and thrown their lot in with Kinder Morgan, stating that the building of the pipeline is necessary for energy security for the Commonwealth. This is convenient for Kinder Morgan, which must make a case for such need: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to whom it has applied for permission to build the pipeline requires that there be local (i.e. Massachusetts) service provision in order to OK the project.

The truth is, though, that the main market for the NED fracked gas is overseas. From Dracut it will be sent to Nova Scotia and then across the Atlantic. There simply is not enough demand in the U.S. to absorb the enormous amount of frackable gas in the Marcellus Shale and prices (and therefore profits) have plummeted.

Critics in the know say the LDCs projections of local demand are phony, that Columbia Gas is choosing to break other contracts to substitute the NED and overstating the growth in regional demand. They hold that companies are vastly understating the amount of gas that could be saved by truly aggressive energy efficiency methods and conversion to renewables.

Just plugging the leaks in Boston’s old gas pipes alone could save 41,000 dekatherms a day. No one has yet studied Springfield or Holyoke, both cities served by Columbia Gas.

The distributors then back up their narrative of unmet local need with the moratorium, creating a crisis that threatens community development and punishes towns, many of whom have taken a stand against the environmentally destructive NED. The moratorium is being implemented unilaterally and without oversight. It verges on extortion of the communities Columbia and Berkshire Gas are by law dedicated to serve.

It is very important that we do not submit, but that we soberly assess the benefits and harms of new carbon infrastructure like the NED in a time when there must be a profound energy shift to conservation and renewables.

No matter what Columbia and Berkshire Gas say, the $5.5 billion to build this destructive dinosaur would be better spent in effecting that shift.

Marty Nathan, M.D., is a physician at Baystate Brightwood Health Center and a member of Climate Action NOW. She lives in Northampton.








Keystone Pipeline Actions Heating Up!

 Keystone Pipeline Actions Heating Up!

The CAN Steering Committee is very concerned about the shift in Senate power and the possibility that a Keystone XL construction bill could pass the Senate in January. As James Hansen has put it, a functioning KXL would be “game over for the climate”.  At our Nov 24 monthly meeting, we’ll have a breakout session to discuss and plan our response. Here’s background and details on potential actions:


With Republican leaders putting it at the top of their 2015 agenda, the Keystone XL pipeline is back in the spotlight. There are a few reasons to be hopeful. Pres. Obama recently made strong statements contradicting the claimed pipeline economic benefits, and Naomi Klein has called “now absurd” the argument that “Keystone’s impact will be negligible so why not build it.” Without Keystone, a big chunk of Alberta’s tar sands could stay in the ground since resistance is strong to the other routes and the tanking oil price has investors already cancelling tar sands projects. But we also know how much money’s at stake.  For example it’s been reported that the Koch Bros. stand to gain about $100 billion from these reserves, which are estimated to be as large as Saudi Arabia’s. The fight is just heating up.


The recent congressional votes were purely symbolic. There are two legal and procedural steps that must be completed before a legitimate Keystone decision will occur. First, the Nebraska Supreme Court rules whether or not the Nebraska Public Service Commission has jurisdiction over the current route. And the State Department has yet to complete its National Interest Assessment. But, with all the financial and political interests lining up, the pressures will be intense to approve the pipeline; and it will be up to us to stop it. Regardless of Pres. Obama’s recent statements, Keystone will become an appealing “bargaining chip” in 2015 as the Republican Congress works to eviscerate Obamacare and executive actions on immigration and coal plant regulation. He’ll need the strongest show of public support to cover his back, and we need to be prepared to repeatedly push him to veto Republican-passed Keystone XL approvals. As time passes this will become increasingly difficult as pro-Keystone amendments will be attached to must-pass bills like the budget.

Potential Actions

 Roughly speaking, there are two types of actions we need to consider: (1) civil disobedience aligned with the Credo Action Pledge of Resistance; and (2) actions that CAN generates, either by ourselves or in alliance with other organizations, that we can launch over the next few weeks while we prepare for civil disobedience.

 Credo Action Pledge of Resistance: Credo Action and Rainforest Action Network are coordinating nation-wide civil disobedience related to Keystone. As of today, almost 97,000 people across the country have signed the Credo “Keystone pledge of resistance” Nonviolent resistance is much more powerful and effective when people are trained and formed into affinity groups; and locally, through Molly Hale’s and John Berkowitz’s leadership, we have several dozen Pioneer Valley residents who’ve been trained. Through participative process, it was decided that the action should be blocking the entrance to the main branch of TD North in Springfield. TD North is the main funder for Keystone, and this location would get us the most media coverage. Over the next few weeks, CAN members will help to pull this network together and see how many more we can recruit and train.

Other Actions: The lines in the sand are being drawn quickly, and effective, savvy actions should be mobilized as soon as possible. There are many possibilities. Should we focus on educating the public? More dramatic actions like vigils or marches? And what should our targets be: Financial institutions supporting the pipeline? The State Department? President Obama? And should we coordinate closely with Boston-area groups through busing and carpools or focus more on local actions? If so, where? Springfield? Amherst? Northampton? The colleges? All of the above?

 As you can see, we have a lot to discuss and decide! So, please join us at the November 24th Climate Action NOW/350MASS meeting to find out more!

Dear Secretary of State Kerry

Dear Secretary of State Kerry,

It is absolutely essential that you reject the recently submitted EIS for the Keystone XL Pipeline. The construction process itself poses threats to the environment, but even worse is the potential for leaks and spillage of the extremely toxic tar sands oil. Worst of all, however, is that the tar sands oil needs to stay in the ground. If it is extracted and burned, the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere will significantly increase the amount of climate instability that the USA (along with the rest of the world) is experiencing. The extreme droughts (and resulting wildfires) in the West; the flooding along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and the uncharacteristically severe winter storms that have hit the Midwest, South, and Northeast can all be traced to an unprecedented warming of the oceans over which our weather forms. The question that you have in your hands is not whether or not the Earth will survive–it will–but whether or not the Earth will continue to be as hospitable a place for humans as it has been for the past thousands of years. The climate over that time has experienced some natural variation, but current levels of greenhouse gases are pushing it well beyond its historical range of variability. In other words, conditions now are like they have never been before. It is reckless and irresponsible to approve construction of a project that facilitates the release of more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when all the scientific evidence shows that it is imperiling the continued hospitality of the planet for human (and other) life as we know it. Throughout your adult life, you have often been in a position to save human lives–as a soldier in Vietnam, as a veteran opposing the war in Vietnam, as an elected official in Massachusetts and in the United States Senate, and now as US Secretary of State negotiating an end to conflicts in the Mideast and elsewhere. The decision over the XL Pipeline is another situation in which human lives have been placed in your hands; you are in a position to make a significant difference in the lives of billions of people now and in the future. Please act responsibly and reject the Keystone XL Pipeline. It might be the most important thing you have done in your long and distinguished career in public service.


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One grandmother’s carbon-based life choice

Our first granddaughter, Misha Ford, was born Dec. 1. I can’t tell you the joy that filled my heart. Anyone who has become a grandparent can relate to the excitement and expectation that grabbed my husband and me.

But there was a problem. My daughter Leah is living in Cambodia with her husband, a Navy physician.

22226194_sWe did the expected. We bought round-trip tickets to visit them in March. The flight, though certainly not cheap, was affordable for a doctor and a professor. I dreamed of holding 3-month-old Misha in my arms, playing with her fingers and toes, feeling her breathe against my chest as she slept, taking the burden off Leah of walking her when she cried.

And in Cambodia, a place we’ve never visited, with beautiful beaches and rain forests and ancient ruins. Our family has flown many places, most recently to Ethiopia where my husband and I had Fulbright grants to teach. We went to China for a week to a conference and I flew to Bolivia and Gaza on fact-finding tours.

Yet now, in 2014, neither he nor I could ignore the conflicting unease associated with flying halfway around the world for two weeks. Over the last several years we have learned more and more about climate change and now we cannot claim ignorance at what we would be contributing to global warming just by that one trip.

Here is the math: Two to four times the 2.8 million grams of carbon that the two of us would be burning is equivalent to 8.4 metric tons of carbon.

It gnawed at us. Was this two-week trip to see my 3-month-old granddaughter really a gift for her? Or was it one more small bit sealing her doom? I woke up one morning realizing that I had to face the real impact of our plans.

I hesitantly told my husband my thinking and, amazingly, he agreed. Then I told Leah. Actually, and less amazingly because she ponders the climate dilemma all the time, she agreed. We are not going. We are cashing in our tickets.

Since then many friends have asked us when we are going and we have explained our decision: that we will wait until Misha is 9 months old and take trains to visit her in Washington when her parents return. More than once those progressive friends have answered, “You’re kidding, aren’t you?”

It seems that jet flight for vacations is one of the sacred cows that many of us have a hard time examining. We see it as a right, compensation for working hard, to leave our homes and problems far behind to visit the exotic and the wild. What irony that that flight itself is a major threat to many of those same exotic and wild beaches, tropical forests and mountaintops degraded and destroyed by global warming.

I do not believe that voluntary lifestyle changes by the privileged alone will stop climate change and prevent the horrors that will be visited on Misha but even more heavily on the poor of our world.

There must be a massive political struggle, worldwide but starting in the industrialized countries, to eliminate the burning of carbon — stop building fossil fuel-burning plants; invest in lower-energy public transportation, conservation, efficiency and renewables; and levy a carbon tax that begins to reflect the real cost of our use of the energy resources that have been sitting in our earth for hundreds of millions of years.

If we had to pay the real price of jet travel, few of us would or could climb aboard. Our major task must be to engage in that struggle.

However, those who advocate for this now must “walk the walk.” We must try to live the life we are working for, make decisions that reflect our ethics, no matter how difficult those decisions are. Otherwise, our movement lacks moral force and will be seen by many as hypocritical.

I hesitated for weeks to write this piece, feeling that many could read it as moralizing. But my heart tells me it is past time that each of us look at our children and grandchildren and ask ourselves if there are not things that we can and must do out of love for them to end our poisoning of the atmosphere. It is in their name that we must learn and act according to that knowledge.

Marty Nathan, M.D., lives in Northampton.

A Reach Out from Harvard!

No KXL Vigil Cambridge, MA Feb 3

We are the many, “they” (fossil fuels) are the few!

Over 100 People At Amherst No Keystone XL Vigil

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Photos by Rene Theberge, copyright 2014.

Western Mass Protestors Demand Stop to Keystone XL Pipeline

(Amherst, MA) On Monday, February 3, 2014, people around the country joined protests in 230 cities demanding that Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama block permission for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry polluting tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, across the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the heavy energy cost of tar sands oil production, the supra-polluting nature of the oil itself and its vast quantities, the Keystone XL as a conduit for its distribution has been identified as a major means of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and, as climatologist James Hanson has said, would represent “Game Over for the Climate.”
On the Town Commons in Amherst, MA, over one hundred people gathered in an emergency protest of the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement, which, organizers declared, falsely claimed that the pipeline would have no significant environmental impact. The study neither recommended nor rejected the pipeline.
Secretary of State John Kerry will now study the statement and make his recommendations to President Obama, who ultimately will decide permitting the pipeline. Demonstrators demanded that both Kerry, former Senator from Massachusetts, and President Obama, recognize the true damage that the pipeline would inflict on the climate through its delivery of dirty oil to world markets. They cited super-storms, rising seas, drought, flood and starvation as the ultimate result of the project.
The protest was organized by Greening Grace of Grace Church, Amherst, and Western Massachusetts Climate Action NOW/350MA.  This was one of eight actions sponsored or co sponsored by 350MA around the state–in Boston, Cambridge, Salem, Hingham, Concord, Worcester and Pittsfield.

Do the Math – The Movie

Not In My Back Yard


Can you image a leak like the one in Arkansas along the Connecticut River in Vermont?  Well, if Exxon/Mobile has it’s way, we could very well have such an event.  This is the same company that owns the leaking pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas.

How about a no-fly zone over a spill or threatening to arrest reporters… check out:

14 Things You Need to Know About the Horrifying Arkansas Oil Spill

Democratic Candidates Debate


Election Day is only a couple of weeks away and we need to let the candidates for the Senate, Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch, both know that the Keystone XL Pipeline is not supported by the majority of voters.  This is an opportunity to voice our opinions against drone strikes, student debt, campaign spending and show positive support for democracy as it should be.  Outside groups are pouring money into this race and showing up to this debate is one way to counter act that travesty of democracy.

This is the special election to fill John Kerry’s seat and this debate to be held in Springfield at the Paramount Theater on April 18 at 7pm will be well attended.

Bring your signs, there will be plenty of press coverage and Climate Action Now MA will be there alone with our friends from many other activist groups in the valley as well as, and


Exxon/Mobil’s Portland to Montreal Pipeline and Arkansas

Exxon pipeline oil spill in Arkansas Image: Greenpeace

Old pipes fail and the Portland to Montreal pipeline crosses some of the most beautiful landscape nature has to offer.  Just image a spill like the one in Arkansas happening where the pipe crosses the Connecticut River… an important read from Scientific American:

Does Tar Sand Oil Increase the Risk of Pipeline Spills?

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