baker, charlie baker, gas pipeline, clean energy, gas pipeline opponents
Advocates unfurled a banner outside Gov. Charlie Baker's office Wednesday calling on Baker to "break up with gas pipelines." Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS

Clean energy advocates on Wednesday delivered a Valentine's Day message to Gov. Charlie Baker, handing one of his aides a bouquet of roses and a stack of red construction-paper hearts with the handwritten message, "Break up with gas pipelines."

Addressing the group gathered outside Baker's office, Cathy Kristofferson of Ashby said the governor has not ruled out natural gas as part of the state's energy mix, and called on him to do so.

"We need the state agencies to hold these gas companies for what we need for emissions reductions and all that, so we would like to have them actually now take gas off the table, break up with gas pipelines and bring on the solar, and the wind and the storage," she said.

Natural gas plays a key role in the the state's energy mix, and a business coalition is urging the state to increase access to natural gas to help ward off potential reliability issues and to serve as a bridge to the gradual transition to renewable energy sources. In 2016, Massachusetts generated 66 percent of its electricity from natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

 

The demonstration came two days after a Senate committee endorsed an omnibus clean energy bill that would ban new natural gas infrastructure, set new targets for emission reductions and use the market to curb fossil fuel use.

Among other measures, the 71-page bill includes language setting it as the state's goal to obtain 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035 and 100 percent of all energy — including for transportation, heating and agricultural uses — from renewable sources by 2050.

Mass Power Forward, a coalition that held Wednesday's lobby day, said the Senate bill includes several of its priorities, including "accelerating the Renewable Portfolio Standard, solar for all, pushing back on gas pipelines and combating climate change."

The coalition also backs a bill filed by Reps. Michelle DuBois and RoseLee Vincent (H 2913) that aims "to promote environmental justice, eliminate disparities with respect to exposure to environmental toxins" and ensure access to environmental benefits, according to the bill text.

Alice Arena of the group Fore River Residents Against Compressor Station said the bill would "put teeth" in current policies around environmental justice. Arena's group opposes a proposed natural gas compressor station in North Weymouth for reasons including potential exposure to toxic pollutants.

"Bad health, that's what we need to tell you," Arena, a Weymouth resident, said. "We need to tell you stories about the sickness in the [Fore River] basin that have been caused not just by historical pollution like the shipyard or the Edgar coal-fired plant that we still have residual problems from, but the idea that you can put another polluting industry in the basin."