When’s the Next Gas Explosion? – Beacon Hill Recap

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/10/27/whens-the-next-gas-explosion-beacon-hill-recap/

To beat the odds, you have to play the game. And this week, much like this election cycle, there were a lot of people trying to beat the odds.

The fantasy of becoming a billionaire captivated thousands who were buying up Mega Millions tickets at a rate of 13,000 a minute. The fact that one needed to overcome odds of 1 in 258,890,850 didn’t seem to matter much, and one person from South Carolina did.

Meanwhile, the odds of getting struck by lightning are slightly better at one in 700,000 in a given year, and unfortunately, the historic First Baptist Church in Wakefield appears to have hit that lottery, going up in a seven-alarm blaze.

So we’re saying there’s a chance, even for the challengers in the races for U.S. Senate and governor who appear to be having a tough time gaining the traction they’ll need to beat the house.

With the polls now open for early voting, Democrats Jay Gonzalez and Quentin Palfrey got another $84,000 this week in public financing, and Gonzalez’s campaign put some of its money into his first television ad of the cycle ahead of next week’s final debate.

But this week was less about Gonzalez and Governor Charlie Baker and Elizabeth Warren and Geoff Diehl and more about the candidates in some of less watched races getting a little time in the sun, which the Republicans will need if they want to improve their chances against the incumbents.

The GOP’s Anthony Amore finally got his one shot to debate incumbent Secretary of State William Galvin, and neither Amore nor Galvin held back. To Amore, Galvin is a stale Democrat with no vision for the office or plan to adapt to modern cyber threats. Galvin sees Amore as just another Republican hellbent on suppressing voter turnout.

“You’re a liar,” Amore charged.

“And you’re a faker,” Galvin shot back.

And that’s how their one and only debate on WGBH-TV ended, literally.

Treasurer Deb Goldberg and Republican state Representative Keiko Orrall of Lakeville also moved their race to television, just in a different way.

Goldberg got it started with a 30-second spot that will run through Election Day on broadcast and cable, her first ad of the cycle and one that focused on her investments in financial literacy and college savings programs. Orrall countered by scrapping together her limited resources and putting up a 15-second ad that will also run through November 6, casting herself as a fighter (wearing boxing gloves) ready to “knock out corruption.”

Like Goldberg, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is also campaigning to stave off an upset bid from Bourne (or as Elizabeth Warren calls it, Bern) attorney and former cop Jay McMahon.

But unlike Galvin, who came to his debate loaded with opposition research and ready to fight, Healey didn’t go after her opponent, as some Democrats might have, over his affection for President Donald Trump or his permissive views on guns.

Instead, it was McMahon who did the punching and Healey who was forced to defend. She defended her record fighting opioid addiction and her decision to apply the state’s assault weapons ban to AR-15 rifles, and she defended her penchant for suing the White House.

What didn’t come up in the hour-long debate, however, was the attorney general’s thoughts on her role as health care consolidation police, or McMahon’s feelings on how Healey has performed in that arena. But Healey did make some headlines on that front early in the week at a Greater Boston Interfaith Organization forum where she addressed the pending Beth Israel Deaconness-Lahey Health mega-merger.

Healey said she would be looking for “real money” to shore up community health options in low-income communities and neighborhoods of color. “I’ve told my team that any deal has to address the potential for price increases. Period,” Healey said.

One person hoping he’s bad at handicapping is Joe Kirylo, the president of United Steel Workers Local 12003, one of the two unions who have been locked out of work by National Grid.

“I hate to say this but the way it’s going now and the cold weather coming in December or whenever it’s not a matter of if they’re going to have a house explode, to me, it’s a matter of when they’re going to have a house explode,” Kirylo told State House News Service.

His comments came as the lockout entered its eighteenth week and the unions are raising concerns about gas leaks that are going unfixed by National Grid because of a shortage of contract workers, and what could happen as the frost sets in.

Documents filed with the state Department of Public Utilities by National Grid and obtained by State House News Service this week showed that the number of leaks repaired over the past three months during the lockout was down 53 percent from the same period last year.

The number of new customers, including businesses and homeowners, able get hooked up to gas mains was also down 50 percent, and National Grid actually spent 2 percent more to accomplish far less work.

These facts, and other developments, seem to have lit a fire under lawmakers on Beacon Hill, where House Speaker Robert DeLeo promised the unions a hearing before Thanksgiving on a bill that has languished since July that cuts off public funding to National Grid and forces the utility to restore health benefits to workers until the lockout is ended.

The move seems designed to amplify pressure on National Grid to strike a deal with the unions while workers feel the company and United Kingdom overseers might be trying to wait out their unemployment benefits.

Public officials certainly have reason to prevent a labor dispute from leading to more gas explosions, as they’re seeing firsthand in the Merrimack Valley the problems that can cause.

With temperatures falling in the 30s at night now, Columbia Gas announced Friday that it was going to miss its November 19 deadline for full gas restoration, meaning that some residents and businesses will be without heat and hot water until possibly December 16 at this point.

The crews working in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover are ahead of schedule replacing the nearly 45 miles of gas main pipeline that needed swapping out, but inspecting and hooking up service to homes is going slower.

“We’re racing against the winter,” said Joe Albanese, the retired military man whom Governor Charlie Baker tapped to lead the recovery efforts.

And finally, speaking of winter, Governor Baker signed a $541 million budget bill this week that almost closed the books on fiscal year 2018 (which ended June 30, 2018) by, in part, appropriating $33 million to pay for snow and ice removal done last winter.

The bill also directed a major transfer of surplus funds into reserves, pushing the state’s “rainy day” account north of $2 billion for the first time in a decade, since the last Great Recession.


STORY OF THE WEEK: Natural gas causing heartburn for Merrimack Valley residents, leaders in Boston.