<![CDATA[One Earth Now - Blog]]>Wed, 21 Mar 2018 13:31:10 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Tax Reform and Climate Action: Starting the Conversation]]>Mon, 22 May 2017 15:51:19 GMThttp://oneearthnow.org/blog/tax-reform-and-climate-action-starting-the-conversationOriginally published in Green Energy Times
PictureRep. Donovan introducing her tax reform proposal
On yet another record-breaking warm day in April, a group of Vermonters gathered on the lawn in front of Capstone Community Action in Barre, many holding signs that read “Tax Reform and Climate Action.” Representative Johannah Leddy Donovan of Burlington stepped up to the podium and began a statewide conversation on “Tax Reform and Climate Action.”

Rep. Donovan announced a proposal that would reduce the state income tax burden on all Vermonters, provide extra financial benefits for low-income earners and do something meaningful to address climate change.

Despite the tweets of our climate change denier-in-chief, Donald Trump, climate change is real…Putting a price on carbon pollution will speed our transition to the clean energy future,” she remarked. “This proposal will reduce taxes…and replace them with a gradually rising fee on the pollution that is causing climate change and threatening the Vermont way of life.”

Rep. Donovan’s proposal is one of four “short form” bills recently introduced into the legislature that call for a fee on fossil fuels. Representatives Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (Bradford), Diana Gonzales (Winooski) and Martin LaLonde (South Burlington) are sponsoring the other three bills regarding sales tax elimination, carbon dividends, and property tax relief, respectively. The four proposals were unveiled simultaneously on April 10, 2017 at four different press conferences across the state. Their primary purpose is to ignite serious discussion about the need for broad, more equitable tax reform that also addresses the pressing crisis of climate change.

Our bills are conversation starters,” said Rep. Donovan, a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and Chair of the Working Vermonters Legislative Caucus. “Because President Trump’s budget will wreak havoc on Vermont, we need to have a conversation about aligning our tax code with Vermonters’ needs and priorities.”

Rep. Donovan’s bill (H.528) proposes reducing the personal income tax rate for the lowest income tax bracket (from 3.55 percent to 1.75 percent) – a benefit all working Vermonters would realize. Her proposal would also double the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit – one of Vermont’s most powerful anti-poverty initiatives for working families, assisting over 40,000 low-income households each year. Vermont businesses earning less than $400,000 annually would also be exempt from the corporate income tax under Rep. Donovan’s proposal. Each of these money-saving, income tax relieving benefits would be offset with a fee charged to fossil fuel distributors, making the policy revenue-neutral.

The sales tax elimination bill (H.533) sponsored by Rep. Copeland-Hanzas proposes cutting the statewide sales and use tax (currently at 6%) by one percent each year over six years. Revenue replacement would come from a gradually rising fossil fuel fee.

Rep. LaLonde is proposing a reduction in statewide education property tax rates paired with revenue replacement from a carbon pollution fee (H.532).

These three bills are focused squarely on tax reform. The proposals aim to replace taxes on things Vermont wants to foster, like income, sales and property, with a fee on something the state wants to reduce – the carbon pollution contributing to climate change.

Rep. Gonzalez’ bill is a bit different. Her proposal is modeled after the recent call by prominent Republican leaders who are pushing for a carbon fee and dividend to reduce carbon emissions. Rep. Gonzales’ bill, H.531, would set a fee on carbon pollution starting at $10 per ton and rise each year until it equals the “Social Cost of Carbon” as calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The collected revenue would be returned to every Vermonter and Vermont business in equal dividend amounts on a quarterly basis, either in the form of checks or direct deposits.

Climate action is good for Vermont’s economy,” said Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, lead sponsor of a bill to eliminate the sales tax. “President Trump wants more coal, but we don’t have any coal jobs in Vermont. What we do have is over 17,000 Vermonters working in clean energy. And cleaner, high-tech heating and transportation can mean more money in Vermonters’ pockets.”

Clean energy is now the fastest growing sector of Vermont’s economy. Policies like carbon pricing could further accelerate job growth in this sector and more broadly stimulate the state’s economy by keeping more of the $2 billion Vermonters spend every year on imported fossil fuels in the state. That means more money in people’s pockets and more motivation to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. It also means putting Vermonters to work weatherizing homes, installing solar, transitioning them to heat pumps or pellet stoves for home heating needs and more.

Beyond the clean energy industry, a growing number of Vermont business leaders are voicing support for a carbon fee coupled with progressive tax reform.

My business — The Alchemist — nearly got wiped off the map by Irene six years ago,” said Jen Kimmich, owner of the Alchemist brewery. “Global warming and its dangerous consequences are real. We have a responsibility to do all we can to tackle it.”

Iconic ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s hosted the press conference announcing Rep. LaLonde’s property tax relief proposal. “The evidence for climate change cannot be any more clear. 2016 was the warmest year on record and it was the third consecutive year in which a record was set worldwide for average surface temperatures,” Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield remarked at the event. “We all have a duty and responsibility to not only make a stronger economy, to not only have a more sustainable world, but by doing it by having a tax system that is more fair and more just.”

In addition to encouraging long-term sustainability and economic growth, the new tax reform and climate action proposals are aimed at protecting and assisting low-income Vermonters.

The energy burden placed on low-income Vermonters from a carbon-based economy has a significant impact on their financial stability,” explained Dan Hoxworth of Capstone Community Action. “To reduce the risk to, and the impact on, low-income Vermonters, we need to accelerate the transformation of our economy towards renewable [energy] and away from carbon-based fuels.” He emphasized that carbon pollution fee proposals like the one sponsored by Rep. Donovan align with the goal of working towards a healthier, more equitable and affordable state.

These proposals also speak to the obligation to leave a sustainable legacy for current children and future generations. Scientists have warned that doing nothing to reduce carbon pollution will result in widespread climatic calamity, likely within the lifetime of today’s youth. This message of the risk climate change poses to younger generations was brought directly to the State House by nearly 1,500 Vermont students who rallied for climate action on April 12th, just two days after the roll out of the four carbon pricing proposals. These students voiced strong support for the new bills, adding a sense of urgency to the legislative effort to address carbon pollution.

The four bills are now in House committees. With the current legislative session set to wrap up soon, it is not expected that the bills will move forward at this time. Instead, the lead sponsors are hoping to generate robust conversation around the need for broad tax reform coupled with climate action, leading to more detailed legislation and deeper consideration in next year’s session.

Other states in the region are also looking into a carbon tax. Massachusetts is leading the charge with two bills that have garnered 79 total co-sponsors. New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island each have pending carbon tax bills as well. New Hampshire also has a bill calling for a carbon tax study.

Taken together, these initiatives underscore the importance of states stepping up to lead in the face of federal government hostility towards climate action.

“Donald Trump’s policies will only accelerate climate change and endanger the jobs and health of thousands of Vermonters. That’s why it’s so important that we fight back against the economic and environmental damage his policies will cause,” write Reps. Copeland-Hanzas, LaLonde, Gonzales, and Donovan in a joint op-ed piece. “Tax reform and climate action may be Vermont’s most effective response.”

<![CDATA[EmPOWERing Communities: Renewable Energy Co-ops Drive Local Investment and Ownership]]>Sun, 06 Mar 2016 18:18:50 GMThttp://oneearthnow.org/blog/empowering-communities-renewable-energy-co-ops-drive-local-investment-and-ownershipOriginally posted at The Leap, theleap.thischangeseverything.org
Photo courtesy of Co-op Power
Citizens are increasingly standing up and fighting back against dirty energy projects across the country, from the Gateway Pacific coal terminal in western Washington to the Northeast Energy Direct gas pipeline in New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. But some are taking it a step further by engaging in clean energy development at the local, grassroots level. The idea is to have communities and individual consumers take ownership and control over their power provision.

“We’re finding a way to bring the assets of an energy economy into our own hands,” says Erik Hoffner, co-founder and now marketing and membership director of Co-op Power. Hoffner and others started this renewable energy cooperative in 2004 as a way to empower the local community to build a sustainable future. Since then it has grown into a 500-plus member-owned business supporting clean energy projects across New England.

Operating as a decentralized network of local energy co-ops, Co-op Power exists for and invests in the communities it serves. Contrary to the corporate business model of big utilities, the cooperative establishes a more democratic structure ensuring that money, jobs, and the green energy produced stay in the community.

The local co-ops, or organizing counsels, are at the heart of Co-op Power. There are currently six regionally aligned community co-ops rooted in southern Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Each local co-op decides which projects it wants to pursue and, through its share of control in the larger Co-op Power network, accesses the funding and other resources it needs.

Having local entities connected through a networked structure makes it easier to share resources and ideas in order to have a more powerful impact. Community energy co-ops decide what projects they want to pursue, recruit members, and receive technical, financial, legal, and project management support from the main office. “There’s tremendous learning between cooperatives about what’s working, what’s not working, where the opportunities are to move communities off of fossil fuels,” said Lynn Benander, president and CEO of Co-op Power. It also requires a decentralized governing structure. “We’ve spent a lot of time creating that local governing structure so each of the local co-ops can be as effective as they need be if they had incorporated separately,” she said.

While community energy co-ops do exist elsewhere, the decentralized structure of Co-op Power is unique. As Hoffner explained, the founders “hacked the traditional co-op model” and turned it into a grassroots investment vehicle. Local economy expert Michael Shuman, author of Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money From Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity, describes Co-op Power as “one of the most innovative co-ops in the country and a leader in the local investment movement.”

“Their structure, their democracy, the way in which they’re bringing benefits to members, all of that is pretty cutting edge,” he said.

Co-op Power charges a relatively high membership rate, and uses close to 40 percent of that money—the limit imposed by investment law—to reinvest in local energy firms. “Co-op Power puts the petal to the metal as far as they can go legally in order to invest in other energy businesses,” said Shuman. “I think that’s exemplary behavior of how a co-op can contribute to the investment in their community.”

Co-op Power has already raised over $300,000 in member equity and over $800,000 each in member loans and local investment. The buy-in cost is either $975 or $500, depending on income, and members receive discounts on energy products and services. They also become part owners of a dozen different businesses developed by Co-op Power.

So far the cooperative has helped to start five solar installation firms, two green electrician businesses, one thermal window fabrication firm, and a dynamic energy efficiency business. They have also supported several community solar projects like a 30.6 kW solar PV array atop the Brattleboro Food Co-op, and they work with vendors to offer other energy efficiency and solar products and services.

Co-op Power’s latest development is a biodiesel plant, Northeast Biodiesel in Greenfield, MA, that uses recycled vegetable oil to produce clean fuel for use in home heating or diesel-powered vehicles. After ten years of planning and fundraising, the plant is finally set to begin operations this spring. With the launch of this plant and the installation of new community shared solar arrays totaling 5 megawatts, Co-op Power’s clean energy efforts will have kept 60,000 metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere—equivalent to taking 12,500 cars off the road—by the end of this year. Between 2004 and 2014, their efforts already saved 7,600 metric tons of carbon (equivalent to retiring 1,600 cars).

Additionally, Co-op Power runs a green jobs training program and does extensive outreach and education, focusing in particular on traditionally disadvantaged communities.

“We actively organize in limited income communities of color because these are the most impacted by dirty energy sources, and we believe all people deserve access to cleaner air and renewable energy,” said Hoffner. Co-op Power envisions building a “multi-class, multi-racial movement,” and they do this by hiring and working with people of diverse backgrounds.

“Our Metro Boston office is staffed and directed primarily by people of color. Our three weatherization businesses train workers of highly diverse backgrounds in energy efficiency trades and employ them in a fast-growing green jobs sector. Our member-owners are a diverse group, and our current board chair is African American and an immigrant,” Hoffner explained. About 40 percent of Co-op Power employees are people of color, while 40 percent of Co-op Power members come from limited resource families.

Co-op Power’s unique structure, community impact and commitment to diversity put the principles of energy democracy into practice, and efforts are already underway to bring this model to the rest of the country.

“There are groups looking to replicate parts of what we do,” said Benander. It’s all part of a movement, she said, that is striving for social justice within the context of the clean energy revolution. “This movement is addressing the injustices of the past where people of color and low income communities have been left out of the equation.”

<![CDATA[Massachusetts Attorney General study: New gas pipelines not necessary to meet regional electricity needs through 2030]]>Thu, 03 Dec 2015 14:34:29 GMThttp://oneearthnow.org/blog/massachusetts-attorney-general-study-new-gas-pipelines-not-necessary-to-meet-regional-electricity-needs-through-2030Picture
A recent study commissioned by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has determined that new natural gas pipelines are not necessary in order for New England to maintain electric reliability over the next 15 years, and that there are cheaper and greener ways for the region to meet its electricity needs.

According to the study, which assessed various options to maintain electric reliability through 2030 with consideration to ratepayer costs and savings as well as carbon emissions, the most cost effective approach is additional investment in energy efficiency and demand response programs.

“This study demonstrates that we do not need increased gas capacity to meet electric reliability needs, and that electric ratepayers shouldn’t foot the bill for additional pipelines,” Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement. “This study demonstrates that a much more cost-effective solution is to embrace energy efficiency and demand response programs that protect ratepayers and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Last July the AGO sent written commentary to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities announcing its plan to undertake a comprehensive electric reliability study for the region, citing the incompleteness of previous studies investigating, and conclusively supporting, the need for additional pipeline capacity. According to the AGO, “the very facts surrounding the need for additional gas capacity are highly disputed.”

The AGO’s comments also blast an initiative by the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to allow Electric Distribution Companies (EDCs) – investor-owned electric utilities – to contract with pipeline companies and pass the costs along to ratepayers. “DOER’s proposal to authorize EDCs to enter into the long-term capacity agreements to facilitate pipeline expansion – with the costs and risks of such long-term obligations borne exclusively by electricity ratepayers – suffers from numerous factual and legal infirmities.”

The AGO study, conducted by the Analysis Group, Inc., examined different approaches to maintaining system reliability particularly during peak winter demand, analyzing their cost/benefits and emissions impact.

The study intended to provide a transparent analysis of the benefits and drawbacks of potential reliability solutions addressing the region’s growing dependence on natural gas. New England already derives 44 percent of its electricity from gas – a figure grid operators project to increase as more efficient gas plants replace retiring generation facilities like coal and nuclear plants.

Absent this increase in natural gas dependency, the study found the electric system would maintain reliability over time with no deficiencies through 2030. Both declining peak winter demand due to energy efficiency and increasing availability of non-gas generating resources like oil backup contribute to this result.

However, under a “stressed system” assuming an increased reliance on natural gas, the analysis indicates a reliability deficiency of up to 2,400 megawatts – equivalent to 0.42 billion cubic feet per day of additional gas pipeline capacity – for 26 hours total through 2030. The study then looked at five potential solution sets to maintain system reliability, analyzing the ratepayer cost/savings and the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions impact of each option.

The solution of increased investment in energy efficiency and demand response yielded the greatest ratepayer benefit – estimated $146 million in net savings – while lowering CO2 emissions by an estimated 1.86 million tons per year.

The other two options involving additional energy efficiency, each in combination with low carbon imports such as hydropower, provide the greatest reduction in CO2 emissions (estimated 4.86 million tons annual decrease). These low carbon resources would be transmitted through either new or existing power lines. The new power lines option has the highest upfront cost of the five solution sets studied. By contrast, the solution set involving adding dual-fuel capability to existing power plants or contracting for more liquefied natural gas (LNG) represents the lowest upfront investment for ratepayers.

The option of additional incremental natural gas pipeline capacity, while lowering wholesale electricity costs, involves upfront and long-term costs to ratepayers and results in increased annual CO2 emissions. While resolving the reliability issue, none of these solutions would meet New England’s climate goals through 2030.

The study also analyzed two “infrastructure scenarios,” including one representing new gas pipeline sized above the stressed system reliability deficiency. This oversized pipeline option yielded significant net ratepayer savings (estimated $133 million) but lower savings than the energy efficiency/demand response solution.

The bottom line is that, even under a stressed system, electric reliability can be maintained through means other than building new pipeline capacity, with the alternatives providing greater ratepayer savings in some cases as well as reducing CO2 emissions.

“This study gives us more evidence that expanding natural gas pipelines is an unnecessary, massively expensive risk,” said Claire B.W. Miller, Lead Organizer at Toxics Action Center in a press release. “By focusing on energy efficiency investments and local sources of energy like solar and wind rather than new gas pipeline subsidies, we can protect both consumers and the environment,” added Clean Water Action’s Joel Wool.

<![CDATA[Cap on solar energy stymies Berkshire clean energy projects]]>Wed, 12 Aug 2015 03:59:42 GMThttp://oneearthnow.org/blog/cap-on-solar-energy-stymies-berkshire-clean-energy-projectsOriginally posted at theberkshireedge.com
Solar industry supporters, local officials and environmental advocates are calling on Massachusetts’ legislators to act immediately to raise the caps on the state’s solar net metering program.

“There’s a cap on the total amount of solar power eligible for net metering, and in March the cap was hit for towns served by National Grid, including many towns in the Berkshires. As a result, planned solar installations in dozens of communities across the state are not able to move forward,” Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts, said Monday (July 20) during a press conference in downtown Pittsfield. The event was the first stop on a 10-city, statewide “Soak Up the Sun” press tour organized by Environment Massachusetts.

“It’s the middle of the summer and we should be doing everything we can to soak up the rays of the sun,” said Hellerstein. “Instead, arbitrary caps on solar power are keeping us in the dark. Our state leaders should help communities here in the Berkshires and across Massachusetts take advantage of all of the environmental and economic benefits that solar brings.”

Net metering refers to an incentive that credits solar producers for the excess electricity they provide to the grid. For solar systems sized over 25 kilowatts, net metering caps limit the amount of solar photo voltaic energy (PV) eligible for this credit. The state-mandated caps equate to a percentage of the utility companies’ historical peak demand, currently set at about 6 percent. Total solar capacity allowed under the caps is currently 800 megawatts (MW).

Legislation has been filed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (H.2852) and the Senate (S.1770) to raise the caps to allow for up to 1600 MW of solar, a production target set by former Gov. Deval Patrick. The bills also set a new target to produce 20 percent of the state’s electricity from solar by 2025.

The new Baker Administration, however, has opposed immediate action to raise net metering caps. This has left impending solar projects across the state at a standstill. A proposed community solar project in Williamstown that is estimated to save the town $2 million over 20 years is at risk of being stalled due to the net metering caps.

According to one town official in Adams, a recently completed solar project has delivered tax revenue, needed jobs and clean energy to the community. But failing to raise the net metering caps puts further realization of these benefits from solar development on hold.

“We would like to continue developing more solar projects in town of all scales to foster economic growth while promoting sustainability,” Adams Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco said in a written statement. “Not adjusting the net metering cap effectively ties our hands and denies us a crucial avenue for economic and job growth, tax base growth to provide critical municipal services like schools and public safety, and essentially stops dead our best avenue for a truly sustainable community and region.”

The clean energy industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Massachusetts state economy, employing more than 88,000 people at the end of 2014 with an expected addition of 11,700 jobs this year, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. As Bruce Winn of Berkshire Environmental Action Team pointed out, the number of statewide jobs in clean energy is comparable to that of the insurance industry.

“Clean energy jobs account for 2.5 percent of the Massachusetts state product, and these numbers are growing fast,” he said. “Current net metering caps are an obstacle to this progress.”

Besides the more than 12,000 jobs supported directly by the solar industry statewide, solar indirectly supports jobs outside the industry such as architects, engineers, software developers and telecommunication specialists.

“There’s a multiplier effect. Here in Berkshire County, the multiplier, the ancillary jobs are very important,” said Christopher Kilfoyle, president of Berkshire Photovoltaic Services.

Solar also has helped Massachusetts grow its share of electricity generated by renewable energy sources. “Solar energy has played a large role in our state having dramatically increased the percentage of its electricity that comes from renewable energy. The renewable energy share went from 6 percent in 2011 to 9.3 percent in 2013,” said Winn.

“There’s no reason we should be putting caps on clean energy,” added Hellerstein. “We have to move as quickly as possible towards the future where we get 100 percent of our energy from clean and renewable sources. Solar is going to be a big part of that.”

<![CDATA[The real deal with pipeline compressor stations]]>Mon, 22 Jun 2015 22:22:08 GMThttp://oneearthnow.org/blog/the-real-deal-with-pipeline-compressor-stationsWhy these facilities are so worrisome, and why local Windsor residents are pushing back PictureAerial map depicting the location for the Windsor, MA compressor station
While Kinder Morgan recently announced plans to cancel a 15-mile lateral line segment connected to its proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline, one aspect of the project that is not going away, and that particularly concerns residents in the small hilltown of Windsor, is the plan to build a network of giant compressor stations along the pipeline path.

According to the Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas “Draft Environmental Report” filed in March 2015, three new compressor stations are planned in Massachusetts, including one in Berkshire County. While the report did not disclose specific locations, it did indicate the anticipated size of these facilities. The one slated for the Berkshire town of Windsor is designed to include two Titan 250 turbines and one Titan 130 turbine for a total of 80,000 horsepower. Another 80,000 horsepower station is planned for the town of Northfield in Franklin County. In Rensselear County, NY, the compressor is sized for 90,000 horsepower. These would be among the largest compressor stations in the entire country.

Now, Kinder Morgan has revealed precise locations for these compressor stations. According to a June 1 filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Windsor site is to comprise an estimated 10 acres and include three compressor units, compressor buildings, and ancillary facilities. The pipeline company plans to acquire 142 acres and has executed an option to purchase agreement. Aerial maps included in the filing indicate the compressor station is to be located along Peru Road near the south end of town. According to the map, a half dozen residential properties are within a half mile of the proposed compressor station.

“These compressor stations are very large industrial projects,” Ashfield resident Jim Cutler explained in a telephone interview. Cutler is a member of the Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network (MassPLAN) and has presented specifically on the topic of compressor stations at various pipeline forums. The facilities, he said, typically occupy 80 to 100 acres, and the turbines themselves (about 20 ft. in width and 40-50 ft. in length) are constantly burning gas. “These turbines are basically burning the gas that’s in the pipeline in order to compress the gas and keep it moving.”

According to the Energy Information Administration, compressor stations are designed to re-pressurize the gas flowing through the pipeline system, as pressure tends to decrease due to friction as gas travels through the pipes. These stations typically consist of scrubbers/filters, compressor units, cooling facilities and emergency shutdown systems, and are generally unmanned and controlled offsite through an automated Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system.

As for the unusually large size of the NED pipeline compressor stations like the one planned for Windsor, Cutler said it indicates that much of this gas is destined for export. Local distribution companies have so far contracted for only 0.5 billion cubic feet/day of gas, yet the pipeline has a capacity to carry 2.2 billion cubic feet/day, and compression stations are already being sized for 80,000 and 90,000 horsepower.

“We’re looking at what they have contracted, and what they’re saying they need for compression right away, and there’s a bit of a disconnect,” Cutler explained. “They don’t need that much compression capacity now, and yet they’re saying they do. It underscores a shadow sale of gas, which we believe is the gas going up to Canada to export.”

Numerous Compressor Concerns

Beyond the export issue, there are a number of environmental, health and safety concerns related to the compressor stations, ranging from impacts during construction, to noise and light pollution, to toxins and greenhouse gas emissions.

“You’ve got a very large construction project on a large piece of land. Right there you’ve got environmental impact,” said Cutler.

“Then there’s the noise,” he added. “The turbines themselves are quite loud.” Per federal regulations, the noise level limit between these facilities and the nearest inhabited space is set at 55 decibels. “That regulation is exceeded routinely,” said Cutler.

Another component of compressor stations is the safety valves, which open on occasion to relieve pressure in the pipeline. When these valves open, the noise is akin to standing directly behind a 747 jet at full throttle, as Cutler explained. Since the valve openings are considered a “non-normal operation,” they are not subject to any noise regulation.

“If you talk to people who live near these compressor stations they will tell you that [the safety valves] go off routinely, not once a month per se, but several times a year for sure, on average,” he said.

A more constant noise concern is the extreme low frequency sound wave in the pipeline that comes from the gas being compressed. People who live near compressor stations and along the pipeline complain of these low frequency pulsations emanating from the underground pipe.

PictureJim Cutler presents during a Jan. 31, 2015 pipeline forum
Light pollution is another concern. As Cutler explained, the bright sodium lights that are typically installed at compressor stations would in effect ruin dark sky conditions, and in the case of the Windsor compressor station, these dark sky conditions are a critical feature for the nearby Arunah Hill Natural Science Center in Cummington.

Light also attracts insects, and in some cases pulls them away from river areas where trout and other fish feed. “Having a compressor station with so much bright light is going to affect the food chain in the area where many of these coveted cold water rivers exist,” said Cutler.

Then there are the toxins and emissions associated with transporting and compressing fracked gas. The gas itself contains residuals of hundreds of chemicals used in the fracking process. When the gas gets burned and compressed, trace amounts of these chemicals get emitted. “These turbine engines are burning the gas and the chemicals that are in it,” said Cutler.

When the safety valves open they release a large volume of raw gas into the air, thus emitting methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2.

Emissions also contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic substances like benzene and hydrogen sulfide. According to a study of air concentration of VOCs near oil and gas production, published in the journal Environmental Health, high concentrations of formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen, were found near fourteen compressor stations in three states.

Cutler mentioned a study that looked at health conditions of residents living near the Barto compressor station in Pennsylvania. Researchers found these people were living with various diseases and conditions attributed to VOCs coming directly from the compressor station.

“People living near these things are at great risk for contracting various diseases – asthma, nosebleeds, arthritis, immune disorders, neurological disorders – as a result of what’s coming out of the compressor stacks,” Cutler explained.

Another concern Cutler pointed out is what happens when the pipes get cleaned to remove corrosive material, a process called pigging. These pigging operations, which are typically located on compressor station sites, routinely cause spills of chemical-laced material that then has the potential to contaminate nearby aquifers and wells.

“As you look at each aspect of the compressor station, it represents a pretty severe impact on the local environment,” said Cutler.

He also pointed out that in public presentations and open houses, Kinder Morgan was misleading in describing what these compressor stations would look like, showing pictures of a much smaller 2,000 horsepower compressor in Southwick, MA. “This has to go down as the most egregious falsification of all of those presentations given by this company,” said Cutler. “It was an out and out lie.”

Windsor Residents Form Opposition Group

In response to their town being targeted for hosting a massive compressor station, concerned Windsor residents have formed an opposition group, Compressor and Pipeline Opposition in Windsor (CaPOW). The group has been meeting weekly since April and is currently working on outreach and action through door-to-door canvassing and letter writing.

“I have a huge concern that [Kinder Morgan] is proposing a compressor for our town. I was very worried about the pipeline, but the compressor is over the top,” Windsor resident Jan Bradley said during a recent CaPOW meeting. “It’s hugely polluting, they are very prone to accidents.”

“It’s going to destroy the rural character of this town,” added Cyndie White.

Fellow Windsor resident Robert Wood agreed that the town would be forever impacted. “My outrage is that these people are coming into our community, changing it forever, so they can make money,” he said. “It’s really that simple. The community really is not going to benefit from this.”

“Another thing that got us all [to form this group] is an awareness that many people might not support this compressor station and pipeline, but they think it’s a done deal,” explained Holly Higinbotham. “So we thought maybe we need to start changing that impression and help people understand that there are things they can do and there are ways to fight this.”

Windsor already passed a nonbinding resolution opposing the pipeline, but is looking into a legal strategy of banning the pipeline through a Board of Health ruling, as the town of Deerfield did last fall.

“In towns where the pipeline is crossing, one strategy is to get those towns to declare the pipeline a health risk and to pass a law banning the pipeline in the town, which will then require the Kinder Morgan company to sue the town,” explained Wood. “Windsor is working on that issue.”

<![CDATA[Aspen Poised to Move to 100 Percent Renewable Electricity ]]>Mon, 22 Jun 2015 21:54:48 GMThttp://oneearthnow.org/blog/aspen-poised-to-move-to-100-percent-renewable-electricityOriginally posted online at earthisland.org/journal
PicturePhoto credit: Red Mountain Productions
When it comes to going green, the real action appears to be happening in cities. Georgetown, Texas, recently announced plans to source 100 percent of its electricity from renewable wind and solar power within two years.

Elsewhere, a handful of communities across the country are already running entirely on power generated by renewable energy sources. Greensburg, Kansas, was nearly wiped off the map by a powerful tornado in 2007. But this small community bounced back and embraced sustainability in a big way, setting a goal to reach 100 percent renewable electricity as part of a comprehensive sustainability plan. With the completion of the Greensburg Wind Farm in 2010, all of the town’s electricity now comes from wind power. In Scituate, Massachusetts, a 1.5-MW wind turbine and a 3-MW solar PV system provide enough energy to power all municipal facilities entirely on renewables. The small island community of Kodiak, Alaska, also gets nearly all of its power (99.7 percent) from renewable energy sources, mostly hydropower with some wind power in the mix. And last fall Burlington, Vermont, reached the 100-percent renewable mark with the purchase of a local hydroelectric facility.

Now the swanky mountain community of Aspen, Colorado, is set to join the exclusively renewable electricity ranks. As of 2014, about 75 percent of the city’s power came from renewable energy, nearly half from hydropower. Power purchased from wind farms in Nebraska made up the rest of the renewable mix. New contracts for additional wind power capacity, as well as a small amount of landfill gas, are under negotiation and, if approved, Aspen will achieve its goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by the end of this year.

That goal is part of a broader initiative to address the threat of climate change through community-wide greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Aspen’s Canary Initiative aims to reduce emissions 30 percent below 2004 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 2004 levels by 2050. The greening of the municipal utility Aspen Electric’s portfolio to an entirely renewable standard emerged as a goal of that initiative.

Aspen had a bit of a head start — in fact, its history of harnessing local hydroelectric power dates back to the late 19th century, when it was a silver mining town. Nearly a century later, in the 1980s, Aspen’s civic leaders made the decision to commit to a local, renewable energy supply with the construction of two new hydroelectric plants, one at Ruedi Reservoir and the other at Maroon Creek. In 2014, the city began purchasing hydropower from the Ridgway Dam plant located just outside Telluride, Colorado. Aspen also buys into a federal hydropower allocation through the Western Area Power Administration. Another proposed hydroelectric project in Aspen generated controversy within the environmental community due to concerns about impacts on local creeks.

The rest of Aspen’s electricity comes via power purchase agreements with the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN), the city’s wholesale electricity provider. Through this cooperative, Aspen buys power from wind farms in the Nebraskan cities of Kimball, Ainsworth, Bloomfield, Petersburg, and Crofton Bluffs, as well as one in Wessington Springs, South Dakota.

Will Dolan, Renewable Energy Manager, City of Aspen, is working with MEAN on new contracts for wind power and a small amount of landfill gas. He hopes to have the contracts approved by August, when the wholesale provider convenes its quarterly board meeting. “Our goal is to have them effective immediately upon that approval, which we anticipate around the 20th of August,” Dolan said in an interview.

That approval would enable Aspen to meet its 100-percent renewable electricity target, with an anticipated mix of 46 percent hydropower, 53 percent wind power, and 1 percent landfill gas. As Dolan pointed out, Aspen would achieve this goal while maintaining some of the lowest residential electricity rates in the state. “As it’s currently negotiated, the contracts will not raise current electric rates,” he said.

Cities will likely have to overcome hurdles in the transition to clean, renewable electricity. For Aspen, it’s taken several decades of planning and investments that are finally paying off. It’s also taken a lot of negotiation with the city’s wholesale electricity provider.

“A big challenge for us has been to have this goal be such an outlier, where our interests and our objectives don’t align with the majority of other communities that are part of this wholesale energy cooperative,” Dolan explained. The tricky part, he said, has been trying to convince the organization that Aspen can achieve its renewable electricity goal without upsetting MEAN’s business model or interfering with electricity reliability for the other communities. Dolan noted that the Nebraska cooperative has stakes in coal-fired power plants, and this power has been central to its business model. Aspen’s efforts are contrary to that model, and should the city succeed in achieving its renewable electricity goal, other communities might try to follow its example.

“It’s like trying to turn around this cruise ship,” he said. “I think it’s a concern of this Nebraska cooperative that everyone will run from one side of the boat to the other and capsize the whole thing.”

But Aspen has remained committed to its sustainability goals, even if that means breaking from the “business as usual” mold.

“We’re on the bleeding tip of the spear,” said Dolan. “We’re encountering all these kinks along the way, and there’s really not much precedent for us to point to and figure out how to do this, because it hasn’t really been done before in the way that we’re doing it.”

“What we’re trying to do when we achieve this goal,” he added, “is just underline the fact that it’s possible.”

<![CDATA[Pipeline Opponents Protest Outside Berkshire Gas ]]>Wed, 10 Jun 2015 15:19:01 GMThttp://oneearthnow.org/blog/pipeline-opponents-protest-outside-berkshire-gasPicture
“Quit wasting gas.”

“Fix the leaks!”

“Eco terrorist armed with pointed facts.”

These were some of the messages conveyed on signs held by protestors gathered in front of Berkshire Gas headquarters on Route 8 in Pittsfield on Saturday, May 9. About 25 demonstrators lined the street outside Berkshire Gas in an effort to call out the utility’s failure to fix gas leaks and set ambitious energy savings goals and to protest the utility’s role in actively contracting for more gas through the Kinder Morgan proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline.

“Standoffs like this are an opportunity for us to have a voice,” said Dalton resident Cheryl Rose, who initiated the gathering. “The big company with all the money has a lot of power, and this is what we have to resort to to be heard.”

Rose and other demonstrators were not only protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline, but also raising awareness of Berkshire Gas’ poor record on energy savings and repairing leaks in their system.

“We wanted to really call attention to the fact that Berkshire Gas is pushing for the pipeline,” said Rose. “Meanwhile, they have a very poor record for the Mass Save efficiency program and they have a lot of leaks.”

Mass Save is an energy efficiency initiative sponsored by Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities including Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, Berkshire Gas, Cape Light Compact, Eversource, National Grid, Liberty Utilities and Unitil. According to data from the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, in 2013 Berkshire Gas’ goal for annual energy savings as a percentage of energy sales was 0.7 percent. While Berkshire exceeded this goal, it was one of the lowest goals of any utility participating in the program. And 2014 Mass Save data indicates that Berkshire Gas had the second lowest energy savings as a percentage of forecasted sales among participating utilities.

According to Jane Winn of Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Berkshire Gas’ goals for energy savings are “pathetic” compared to other utilities. “Of all the gas companies, they’re the second to the lowest,” she said. “The electric companies are saving 2.4 percent. With insulating our home, we’re saving 80 percent. I don’t think the gas companies are trying.”

As for gas leaks, Berkshire Gas has received criticism for its inaccurate reporting of leak-prone main lines. According to a reply brief from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, Berkshire Gas admitted it had erroneously classified 33 miles of main line. While the company said it corrected for the error in 2010, the Attorney General’s Office questioned the accuracy of the company’s data for previous years. Furthermore, the analysis finds Berkshire Gas’ figures on leaks to be unreliable because the company has reported zero “Lost and Unaccounted For” gas since 2008. “For these reasons,” the reply brief states, “the Department should find that Berkshire has not produced reliable analysis to carry its burden of proof to demonstrate a ‘plan to reasonably accelerate eligible infrastructure replacement’.”

Furthermore, as reported in the Greenfield Recorder, Berkshire Gas spokesman Christopher Farrell made some controversial remarks during a recent Franklin County Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, accusing pipeline opponents of “a little eco terrorism.”

“It’s absurd. I mean, do we look like terrorists?” said demonstrator and 350MA Berkshire Node member Judy Eddy. “It’s just a joke that they would say that. We’re just regular people. We want a clean environment for our kids. We don’t want a pipeline, a compressor station. And I thought his statements were really venomous and unnecessary.”

The Berkshire Eagle even called out Farrell, saying in a recent editorial: “People who are concerned about pipeline leaks, the destruction of natural habitat in building the pipelines, the fracking process used to extract natural gas, or the elevation of global warming by the burning of fossil fuels are not terrorists, nor are they agenda-driven true believers who "don't care" about the business community.”

According to the Greenfield Recorder, Farrell did apologize for his remarks.

Pipeline opponents, meanwhile, continue to make the case that the pipeline is unnecessary and unjustified.

“The statistics show that if gas companies fix their leaks, and if we continue on the trend of energy efficiency we’re on now, we don’t need this pipeline,” said Eddy. “The percentage of this gas that’s going to Massachusetts customers is so little of the capacity of this pipeline. Everyone who is really looking at it carefully knows that gas is going somewhere, and it’s going to export.”

If the pipeline is built, opponents point out, it would undermine the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act and hinder any attempts to meet greenhouse gas reductions targets.

“The Global Warming Solutions Act in Massachusetts dictates that we meet certain goals that we are not meeting,” Eddy explained. “Brining in more fossil fuel infrastructure is not going to help us meet those goals, it’s going to really ruin them.”

“We have to get serious about climate change,” added Rose. “Even if it’s inconvenient, we have to deal with it for the sake of our kids, for the sake of the people who come after us.”

“The clean energy sector is a huge part of the Massachusetts economy, with over 88,000 jobs, about 6,000 firms, growing double digits each year,” said Winn. “I think it’s more important to keep growing the clean energy economy than risk losing that by adding more gas.”

<![CDATA[Divestment action escalates as Harvard launches "Heat Week" ]]>Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:34:37 GMThttp://oneearthnow.org/blog/divestment-action-escalates-as-harvard-launches-heat-weekPictureProtestors illuminate their message at the entrance to Harvard Yard
As the planet continues to warm, activists pushing for fossil fuel divestment are turning up the heat. College students have been organizing sit-ins and occupying their universities’ administrative buildings demanding justice and a reconsideration from university officials to answer the call to divest. A recent sit-in at Yale led to university police arresting 19 students.

Hundreds more are risking arrest this week at Harvard University as alumni, students and others in the community participate in a week-long act of civil disobedience. Harvard Heat Week kicked off on Sunday, April 12 with a rally at First Parish church in Cambridge. Following that event, protestors marched across the street to join students who had begun a blockade of the entrances to Massachusetts Hall, an administrative building that houses the office of university president Drew Faust.

For over two years student organizers on campus have been calling on President Faust to divest the university’s $36 billion endowment from holdings in fossil fuel companies. But Faust has been steadfast in her refusal to do so, saying she does not believe divestment from the fossil fuel industry is “warranted or wise.

Not only have Faust and her administration rejected the call to divest, but they have also refused to meet with student organizers on the record and refused to engage in dialogue or debate on the issue.

“What we face today is not just a problem of persuasion. It is a question instead of how to shake Harvard University out of its centuries-old institutional slumber,” Harvard student Talia Rothstein explained during the Heat Week opening rally.

Harvard alum and former Colorado senator Tim Wirth called the contrast between Harvard’s investment policy and its contribution to climate research “remarkably hypocritical.”

“In the face of the climate crisis Harvard is profiting from the same companies that are actively undermining the scientific knowledge being generated from within the Harvard community,” added his daughter Kelsey Wirth, co-founder of the group Mothers Out Front.

Other speakers at the kickoff event, emceed by Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus and Harvard alum and 350.org founder Bill McKibben, included global activists from South Africa and the Pacific Islands.

Ferrial Adam, former apartheid activist from South Africa, pointed out that it took Harvard a decade before it decided to commit to selective divestment from companies engaged in business in South Africa during the apartheid era.

“The issue now is, with climate change we don’t have ten years to wait. Climate change is happening now,” she said.

“The fossil fuel industry and the Pacific Islands cannot coexist,” added Koreti Tiumalu, community organizer from the Pacific Islands. “And it’s not the Pacific Islands that needs to back down.”

Following this call to action, over 100 people gathered in Harvard Yard to officially kickoff a week of peaceful protests in front of administrative buildings.

Since the fossil fuel divestment movement officially launched in 2012, around 200 institutions globally have committed to divest, including religious institutions, municipalities, and foundations, in addition to universities like Stanford and, most recently, Syracuse.

Locally, student organizers with Divest Williams are gathering widespread support within the Williams College community. According to Divest Williams’ Sarah Vukelich, over 900 students have voted in favor of divestment on a referendum, and 253 faculty and staff have signed on their support in a letter. Additionally, she said over 600 alumni have signed a petition supporting divestment.

Meanwhile, back in March the Great Barrington Select Board unanimously passed a resolution supporting fossil fuel divestment at the state level. Town residents will be voting on the resolution at the Town Meeting in May.

<![CDATA[Pipeline Pilgrimage called attention to climate crisis]]>Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:09:58 GMThttp://oneearthnow.org/blog/pipeline-pilgrimage-called-attention-to-climate-crisisOriginally posted at theberkshireedge.com
Kinder Morgan’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) gas pipeline has garnered widespread opposition locally and across the region. In response a group of young faith leaders and concerned citizens mobilized an effort to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and the need to refocus our attention away from destructive fossil fuel expansion and towards a more sustainable, cleaner energy future.

The Pipeline Pilgrimage, a 12-day walking journey that concluded Sunday, April 12, along the proposed pipeline route, kicked off on April 1 with a group of about 20 people walking from the South Congregational Church in Pittsfield to the First Congregational Church in Dalton. The Quaker-led walk will cover nearly 150 miles through western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, concluding on April 12 in Dracut, Mass., the endpoint of the NED pipeline.

The walk, organized and led by the New England Young Adult Friends Climate Working Group (YAFCWG), is meant to both bear witness to the pipeline route and call attention to the local impacts, and also to reflect on the troubling reality of climate change.

“We decided to walk the length of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline, starting in Pittsfield and ending in Dracut, with concerns for the local impacts of the pipeline, but more substantially with concern about how we are to move forward given the reality of climate change,” said YAFCWG’s Meg Klepack, one of the walk organizers. She acknowledged that while we “don’t know what to do in the face of climate change,” the science speaks clearly. “Given the science that says we need to get back to 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere, [the future] definitely can’t look like continuing to build out infrastructure that carries fossil fuels that continue to build the CO2 levels in the atmosphere.”

Klepack and others have been organizing this pilgrimage since January. While the walk was Quaker-led and had a spiritual purpose, it was inclusive and open to all. The walkers stayed in churches and retreat centers along the way and partook of community potluck dinners.

“We wanted to be able to invite the extended anti-pipeline activist group to join us for food and fellowship each evening, and to be able to relate stories of the pilgrimage so far and also to hear about all the persevering work that has been going on in so many places against the pipeline,” Klepack explained.

The first of these community potlucks was held April 1 at the First Congregational Church in Dalton. Walkers mingled with local activists, and folks of all ages came together to share a meal and share their concern about pipeline expansion and climate impacts.

“People here tonight range from like 4 years old to 60-something,” walker Patrick Cage pointed out. “That’s what this pilgrimage is about, and that’s what trying to act for a sensible direction on climate change is about. It’s about trying to do justice for future generations and for today’s children.”

Cage, a climate justice intern with the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, said he planned on walking the entire route. He sees this pilgrimage as a way to come to terms with these pipelines, but also to seek better way forward. “In the spirit of Easter hope, it’s about trying to find where the opportunity is for transformation to something more just and sustainable than the path we’re on right now,” he explained.

“I think one of the challenges with climate change is that it is abstract,” added Jay O’Hara, one of the walk organizers. “But when we do things like spend twelve days seeing where a pipeline is proposed to go, we make that a bit more real and we bring others with us to see that, making the abstract a little more concrete.”

<![CDATA[Cape Wind proponents rally for renewable energy future]]>Mon, 16 Mar 2015 20:48:04 GMThttp://oneearthnow.org/blog/cape-wind-proponents-rally-for-renewable-energy-futureOriginally posted online at theberkshireedge.com
PictureLiza Sockwell speaks on behalf of youth advocates for clean energy
Hundreds turned out on the Boston Commons on the last day of February to rally support for Cape Wind and call on utility companies to reinstate their contracts to purchase clean power and jumpstart the offshore wind industry in the U.S.

Cape Wind, a project consisting of 130 turbines producing 468 megawatts of clean, renewable power in Nantucket Sound, was first proposed in 2001. After facing over a decade of opposition, including lawsuits by oil billionaire Bill Koch, what was positioned to become the nation’s first offshore wind farm is now on life support and may ultimately be nixed.

The final straw came in January 2015 when National Grid and Eversource Energy, formerly Northeast Utilities, backed out of their agreements to purchase 50 percent of the Cape Wind power. The utilities’ decision was due to the wind developer’s failure to meet financing deadlines, a failure that is largely attributed to the Koch-backed lawsuits blocking the project.

According to Craig Altemose of Better Future Project, Bill Koch, who owns three multimillion dollar gated compounds on the Cape, filed close to 30 lawsuits to block development of the wind farm offshore from his property. This endless onslaught of litigation deterred potential investors and ultimately led to the utilities dropping their contracts with Cape Wind due to the project’s lack of secure financing.

Had it not been for these lawsuits, Cape Wind would be under construction this year.

“You people here today are what has inspired us to fight through over 26 lawsuits. This project would be up and running on Horseshoe Shoal if it wasn’t for those lawsuits,” Cape Wind President and CEO Jim Gordon told the crowd of supporters gathered on the Boston Common.

He said the utilities failed to tell him that they would be terminating their contracts with Cape Wind. Instead, his Communications Director found out through contact by a reporter at the Boston Globe. “We were never notified,” Gordon said.

The utilities’ sudden decision spurred a robust campaign by environmental activists and clean energy advocates to rally public support for Cape Wind. Led by Better Future Project in partnership with ten other organizations, activists delivered a petition with more than 95,000 signatures to National Grid urging them to reinstate their contract with Cape Wind.

“We’re focusing on National Grid and calling on them to save Cape Wind, because that would be enough to revive the project at this point,” said Emily Kirkland, Communications Coordinator at Better Future Project. By appealing to Marcy Reed, President of National Grid in Massachusetts and a supporter of offshore wind, Better Future Project and its allies hope the utility will reconsider its decision.

“Marcy Reed has been a longtime public supporter of offshore wind, and so we feel optimistic that if she sees the depth of public support for Cape Wind, she’ll be willing to step up and do the right thing,” said Kirkland.

As a demonstration of this public support, Better Future Project convened a rally on Boston Common featuring songs, chanting, a theatrical performance, and concluding with a symbolic planting of 130 colorful pinwheels in the snow to symbolize the turbines that would be built in Nantucket Sound.

Speakers at the rally emphasized the urgent transition to renewable energy that Cape Wind represents and the importance of making this transition to protect the future of today’s youth and future generations.

“I want to be able to have children and not feel guilty about bringing them into a ruined world, but that will only be possible if we remove our dependency from industries that spew CO2 into the air at reckless rates,” said Liza Sockwell, a junior at Newton South High School and an ACE New England Action Fellow. “In my lifetime, I want to see the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and the building of Cape Wind would be the start.”

Carolyn Barthel of 350MA Central Mass Node spoke as a mother of two 24-year-old millennials: “My children will live the vast majority of their lives in this century, and right now it’s not looking pretty!” she exclaimed. “We need a huge, World War II-like mobilization of green technology, policy decisions, and restructuring of our economy if we’re to have hope for a reasonable future. That’s all I want for my kids, a reasonable future.”

Anne Goodwin of the group Mothers Out Front echoed this concern. “I’m here today because I cannot look my daughter in the eye if I have not tried to protect her future while our leaders on every level fail to act on climate change,” she said. “We must not let [our leaders] act for the short-term gain of a few. We must make them make the right choices for our children, our grandchildren, and generations to come.”

Sabine von Mering, a member of 350MA Metrowest Node and a German professor at Brandeis University, compared Europe’s ambitious effort to build up the offshore wind industry to the lackluster effort by the U.S. to do so.

“In 2002 the world’s largest offshore wind farm was connected to the grid in Denmark. That was 13 years ago. Germany’s first offshore wind farm went online five years ago. Today, there are seventy-four offshore wind farms up and running in Europe, and 12 more are in construction. How many offshore wind farms are there in the U.S.? Zero! That’s why we’re here,” von Mering declared.

According to Kirkland, potential offshore wind developers are wary about starting other wind projects given the obstacles Cape Wind is facing. “We felt it’s important to launch this effort to save Cape Wind, even if it is a ‘Hail Mary,’ because the fate of Cape Wind will have enormous consequences for the fate of offshore wind more generally,” she said.

Craig Altemose, executive director of Better Future Project, acknowledged the unfavorable odds facing Cape Wind.

“When we heard the news that the utilities would be terminating their contracts, the odds for Cape Wind looked pretty grim, and we knew we were going to facing a pretty uphill battle. But for those of you who have been involved in the Keystone XL fight, I know you’re no strangers to uphill battles,” he told the crowd gathered on the Common.

Altemose referenced President Obama’s recent veto of a Keystone XL bill as a testament of the power of grassroots activism. “That was because of people like you coming out on days like today to places like this. That’s how we’re going to get Cape Wind built, with that same dogged persistence.”

Gordon said he will keep on fighting.

“The vast majority of citizens in Massachusetts want this project built,” he said. “We are not giving up! We have just begun to fight. We are going to go back, we are going to talk to the utilities and try to amicably resolve this issue.”

National Grid has not indicated whether it will reconsider its decision to back out of Cape Wind. But according to Jake Navarro, Massachusetts spokesman for National Grid, the utility is committed to pursuing other renewable energy projects.

“While Cape Wind did not fulfill the terms of the power purchase contract, National Grid is still committed to promoting renewable resources within the region,” he said in an email statement. “We still believe the solution to New England’s energy challenge is a diversity of energy sources, which is why we support many renewable projects, including 334 megawatts of on-shore wind in Maine, the Deepwater Wind project in Rhode Island and the installation of an additional 16 megawatts of solar power we will own and operate in Massachusetts by the middle of this year. In the last five years, we have also processed more than 15,000 applications to connect customer-owned electricity generation to our grid.  We will continue to pursue other renewable options, such as the recently announced solicitation for additional renewables, consistent with our goal of reducing emissions while minimizing the cost impact on our customers.”