Better Future leader challenges Baker inaction on pipelines

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The executive director of a Cambridge-based grassroots group that opposes the use of fossil fuels and favors the use of alternative energy recently penned a blog for the Huffington Post, criticizing Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker for not doing more to stop proposals that would increase the state’s reliance on natural gas.

In an April 7 blog post entitled, “Charlie Baker:Technocrat or Plutocrat?” Craig Atlemose, head of the Better Future Project, wrote that Baker “sold himself to the Massachusetts electorate as a technocrat” who would act on reason and facts, but whether or not he acts to stop various proposals for increasing our supply of natural gas will reveal whether he is, in fact, a plutocrat who operates in the interest of big business, rather than the people.

The Better Future Project opposes plans for $5 billion New England pipeline which would run through parts of western and southern Massachusetts, as well as parts of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

A subsidiary of Kinder Morgan has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct a pipeline that would carry 1.3 billion cubic feet of fracked natural gas per day from Pennsylvania to the Northeast.

Supporters say the pipeline is needed to meet demand and bring down costs. New England energy costs are among the highest in the nation. In recent years, New England states have dramatically increased their use of natural gas, which is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than oil or coal.  But the capacity to transmit gas to the region has not kept pace.

Pipeline opponents claim that, even if the project helps bring down energy costs, those benefits are outweighed by the increase in carbon emissions caused by continued dependence on fossil fuels and by the potential impact on sensitive land and ecosystems around the project.

In his blog post, Altemose lambasts Baker for appointing Angela O’Connor, a former energy lobbyist, as his Chair of the Department of Public Utilities and for appointing Ron Gerwatowski, a former vice president with National Grid, as the Assistant Secretary of Energy.

He writes,

These appointments are particularly concerning in light of some campaign contributions by top executives of fracked-gas pipeline company Kinder Morgan (whose fracked-gas pipeline both AIM and National Grid support). To add further insult, these donations all came in on election day—probably to minimize political fallout.

Altemose adds,

In the face of these realities, it would be bad enough for a self-professed technocrat to stand by silently as private companies use eminent domain to seize private land—and trample through public land—for pipelines that our people neither want nor need. But if the Baker administration continues with plans to force ratepayers to pay for the construction of these unnecessary, expensive, and dangerous pipelines, then we can consider the question of Baker’s nature firmly settled. These are not the actions of a technocrat who just wants the best for his people. These are the actions of a plutocrat who has favored his wealthy friends and monied interests over the public good.