The Boston Globe is one of America's largest newspapers, widely read in Boston and throughout New England, and is regarded as having a left-of-center bias. Its prime service area has been hostile to fossil fuel infrastructure, officially through adverse government policies, in the media and among numerous state and federal policymakers led by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
So we were surprised and pleased to see last week's piece by the Globe's editorial board, decrying the importation of liquified natural gas from Russia into the Everett LNG Import Terminal near Boston's Logan Airport, and the ill-conceived policies and biases that led to it. You can read the editorial available at the link below, but since it is rather lengthy we excerpt some key passages below.
Bottom line, the Globe's editors conclude that the state's policy of blocking pipeline projects that would otherwise supply regionally-sourced natural gas produced and transported under rigorous environmental protections, has resulted in the substitution of far costlier natural gas from a terminal in the Russian Arctic that is, by their account, an unmitigated environmental disaster.
Kudos to the Globe's editors for recognizing that new pipelines delivering regionally-produced natural gas are a plus for New England's consumers, our economy and the environment; and that blocking their construction is short-sighted and counterproductive.
Our Russian 'pipeline', and its ugly toll
By The Editorial Board, Boston Globe - February 13, 2018
To build the new $27 billion gas export plant on the Arctic Ocean that now keeps the lights on in Massachusetts, Russian firms bored wells into fragile permafrost; blasted a new international airport into a pristine landscape of reindeer, polar bears, and walrus; dredged the spawning grounds of the endangered Siberian sturgeon in the Gulf of Ob to accommodate large ships; and commissioned a fleet of 1,000-foot icebreaking tankers likely to kill seals and disrupt whale habitat as they shuttle cargoes of super-cooled gas bound for Asia, Europe, and Everett.
On the plus side, though, they didn't offend Pittsfield or Winthrop, Danvers or Groton, with even an inch of pipeline.
But apart from its geopolitical impact, Massachusetts' reliance on imported gas from one of the world's most threatened places is also a severe indictment of the state's inward-looking environmental and climate policies. Public officials, including Attorney General Maura Healey and leading state senators, have leaned heavily on righteous-sounding stands against local fossil fuel projects, with scant consideration of the global impacts of their actions and a tacit expectation that some other country will build the infrastructure that we're too good for.
As a result, to a greater extent than anywhere else in the United States, the Commonwealth now expects people in places like Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Yemen to shoulder the environmental burdens of providing natural gas that state policy makers have showily rejected here. The old environmentalist slogan think globally and act locally has been turned inside out in Massachusetts.
And there's a trendy, but scientifically unfounded, national fixation on pipelines that state policy makers have chosen to accommodate. Climate advocates, understandably frustrated by slow progress at the federal level, have put short-term tactical victories against fossil fuel infrastructure ahead of strategic progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and so has Beacon Hill. They've obsessed over stopping domestic pipelines, no matter where those pipes go, what they carry, what fuels they displace, and how the ripple effects of those decisions may raise overall global greenhouse gas emissions.
The environmental movement needs a reset, and so does Massachusetts policy. The real-world result of pipeline absolutism in Massachusetts this winter has been to steer energy customers to dirtier fuels like coal and oil, increasing greenhouse gas emissions. And the state is now in the indefensible position of blocking infrastructure here, while its public policies create demand for overseas fossil fuel infrastructure like the Yamal LNG plant a project likely to inflict far greater near and long-term harm to the planet.