Day #65 (late)

Continuing the parallels between Virginia’s Governor McAuliffe and Governor Baker, I included a letter to the editor from a VA resident. What really gets me is that Baker gets to pretend he’s not persuaded in any way by Spectra/Enbridge, and that somehow he’s a better kind of Governor. Baker’s words and actions, almost to the letter, match fossil fuel-soaked McAuliffe’s words and actions.

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There was also a fantastic piece from Mass Energy Consumer’s Alliance on June 15th. For those who will say that ISO-NE says we need the gas to maintain reliability… get a load of this:

“The Independent System Operator of New England, or ISO New England, is a nonprofit corporation charged with managing the grid to maintain reliability and to ensure competitively priced wholesale electricity. ISO deals with energy markets. Climate mandates, environmental impacts, and public health implications are not part of that decision-making process nor are they within the scope of ISO’s management role. With regard to climate, there is an effort currently underway called Integrating Markets and Public Policy (IMAPP), designed to better align policy objectives with grid maintenance. However, IMAPP has not yet fully taken shape.

This myopic focus on reliability and near term wholesale prices ignores the climate reality that state policies like GWSA are intended to address. And it also explains the shortsighted point of view expressed with increasing regularity by ISO-NE President and CEO, Gordon van Welie. According to him, the region’s energy future looks a lot like an outdated past: centered around fossil fuel generation instead of greater reliance on efficiency and renewables.

For more than a decade when pressed, van Welie’s go-to solution has been to increase regional gas capacity. This is an especially problematic stance given ISO’s other charge: to be fuel and technology neutral. The entity is not tasked with picking winners and losers, so to speak. And yet, earlier this week at a utility industry conference, van Welie suggested that the way to get the pipelines built is to “socialize the cost.

This not-so-thinly-veiled call for energy planners and state policy makers to begin reconsidering the region-wide “pipeline tax” proposed a few years ago as a financing mechanism for projects like the Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct and Spectra’s (now Enbridge) Access Northeast projects. The regional tariff was a precursor to the state-by-state approach that in Massachusetts was summarily shot down by the Supreme Judicial Court which ruled it illegal last summer.

Decisions about energy policy cannot be made in a vacuum and must take into account the true cost of carbon-intensive resources and their requisite infrastructure. We are at a critical juncture. Energy prices across the country are reaching record lows thanks to investments in energy efficiency, decreasing costs of renewable supply, low oil prices, and also gas consumption. In New England, this has resulted in flat growth in electricity use.

Committing to gas under the auspices of maintaining reliability in the near term will result in sunk costs and stranded assets in the long term. Surely the dollars spent to build out such infrastructure and the time devoted to promoting more gas as a solution could be better spent adequately planning for more, cheaper efficiency, clean renewables and necessary infrastructure, and building a smarter grid.

The closure last month of Massachusetts’ lone remaining coal plant is an opportunity to think innovatively and plan for a future powered by clean resources rather than one tethered to the past.”

You know who else pushed a “pipeline tax”? Governor Charlie Baker. He pushed it so hard. He pushed pipelines and charging us $3 billion for it. His pipeline tax funding scheme got slapped down as illegal last summer, thank goodness.

Why does it have to take being sued in court for Governor Baker’s administration to follow the law?

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