NORTHAMPTON, MA. On Thursday, October 4, the Northampton City Council will consider “A Resolution Opposing the Expansion of Gas Infrastructure and Calling for Increased Development of Renewable and Clean Energy Resources” to demand alternatives to a plan for new gas pipelines for the region proposed by Columbia Gas. While “strongly support(ing) Columbia Gas’s replacement of old and failing pipes and its continued repair of all existing gas leaks” the Resolution “opposes the building of additional infrastructure that will expand the capacity of gas delivery to the area under the pretense of filling Northampton’s energy needs.”
The resolution is being presented by Council Vice President Bill Dwight and Councilor Alisa Klein and is supported by the Northampton Energy and Sustainability Committee. It specifically contests the “Columbia Gas Reliability Project” for its impact on climate change by promoting increased emissions of greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide and methane (the main component of gas). It questions the need for the new pipeline which would provide a direct link to Holyoke through Agawam by laying six miles of new pipe, creating a 2-mile “loop” and expanding the Agawam compressor station. The new infrastructure would facilitate a growth in gas use by 25% in the region over the next ten years and would cost ratepayers more than $20 million.
Thursday’s Resolution labels the Project inconsistent with the Council’s January Resolution in Support of 100% Renewable Energy, which pledged to “avoid taking actions that could increase the use of fossil fuels or delay the transition to 100 percent renewable energy”.
Further, it faults Columbia Gas for failing to “embrace complete transparency and make public all engineering and financial information substantiating the claim that the Northampton Lateral is at capacity,” as requested in a previous Resolution Calling for Transparency and Public Representation Regarding Natural Gas Infrastructure. In 2014 the company levied a moratorium on new and expanded gas hookups, claiming the Northampton Lateral pipe serving Easthampton, Northampton and Holyoke had insufficient capacity on peak days to meet the demand of all three cities. Now it says that the added demand will be met by the new Agawam-Holyoke feed. Yet, the Resolution points out that living with the moratorium has prompted “aggressive pursuit” of clean energy alternatives “including energy retro-fits, solar energy generation, air-sourced heat pumps, and methane capture, the use of which has reduced our dependency on natural gas.”
In the Resolution, councilors encourage Columbia to join in the City’s efforts “to increase energy efficiency, conservation, and conversion to efficient and sustainable heating and cooling of all residences and buildings”, efforts which the local group Success Without Additional Pipelines has pursued with the City and two other nonprofit partners in the Button Up Northampton 2.0 Program.
The recent tragic explosions and fires in Lawrence, Andover and Northampton from Columbia Gas pipelines lent increased urgency to the resolution as the dangers associated with gas heating and cooking were graphically illustrated. Eighty homes were destroyed, one young man was killed and many more injured. Reference to the event and the risks it portrayed were added in amendments to the resolution.
In a Tuesday forum expressing opposition to the Reliability Plan, Council President Ryan O’Donnell called for the resolution to be passed unanimously. He was joined in his demand for transition off the burning of fossil fuels by unopposed Democratic nominees for State Senate and House of Representatives Jo Comerford and Lindsay Sabadosa.
SWAP encourages the public to attend the upcoming council meeting to support passage of the resolution.