The Future of Gas June 1, 2022
On May 3rd and 5th, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) held public hearings on the Future of Gas. Seventy-six people spoke against continuing to pipe methane—or any other explosive gas—into people’s homes. GBPSR members Andee Krasner, Susan Donaldson, and Steve Jones testified against the utility plans to maintain the status quo, despite evidence that methane causes outsized harm to the climate as well as to human health.
Their testimony was reinforced by a 100-page submission from the Attorney General’s office, covered the next day in the Globe, asking the DPU to reject the utility plans. Next steps are uncertain in this process. The DPU could approve the utility plans or the legislature could intervene.
Advocates in the state, including GBPSR, have been focused on methane (fossil gas) reductions for years. We know from the 2021 IPCC Physical Report that, because of its strong short-term effects, methane reductions are our largest lever to slow climate change. Even though methane only makes up 1.8 parts per million by volume of the atmosphere, it accounts for roughly 25% of global warming. To reach our 2050 climate goals, we have to transition off methane.
In 2019 five towns were working toward a ban on new gas hookups, and one of them, Brookline, was successful in passing it through town meeting and sending the petition to the attorney general’s office.
While attorney general Maura Healey found that the Brookline gas ban was in conflict with existing state law, she also recognized that we can’t keep burning methane, and that we need a clear path for the 20,000 employees and investors in Massachusetts gas companies. She asked the DPU, the gas regulatory agency, to plan for the gas company’s transition to clean energy. The DPU opened a Future of Gas docket—20-80—then turned around and asked the gas companies themselves to plan their own transition.