Excerpt about the FUTURE Act in Rep Ehlich's Winter 2020 newsletter:
|I began my time in public life as an activist fighting against the filthy coal plant in Salem that was polluting our air and water. Since then I have turned my attention to the perils of climate change and transitioning us off of burning fossil fuels like oil and gas in our homes and businesses. Following the Merrimack Valley explosions that killed a young man, I have returned to the natural gas space with four new bills, headlined by H.2849, An Act for Utility Transition to Renewable Energy. It has become clear that we need to not only make existing pipelines much safer, fix leaks, and make gas companies and the Department of Public Utilities much more transparent, but that we also need to reassess our thinking that natural gas is a “bridge fuel”.
Natural gas facilitated the transition from oil and coal heating, but Massachusetts is now stuck on that bridge. Gas is also a particularly potent source of greenhouse gas emissions because natural gas releases methane, which is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
This legislation strengthens safety precautions across the natural gas heating system in Massachusetts and allows companies that sell natural gas to also sell renewable thermal energy via geothermal sources such as district heating, and air and ground source heat pumps. Gas customers are facing a $9 billion bill to replace gas pipelines that will be outdated as soon as 2050 with the added cost of accelerating climate change. The time has come to get off natural gas and my FUTURE bill provides the road map for that transition.
This legislation also improves coordination for gas leak repairs between gas companies and cities or towns, prevents paving over gas shutoff valves, and mandates that gas leaks within the root zone of a tree, within 10 feet of a building, or within 150 feet of a school zone be fixed within 6 months. It requires that gas utilities notify the local fire chief & police department within an hour of finding a dangerous leak and requires the gas utilities be audited annually for safety, performance, and leak reports.