Author Archives: RoseWessel

Arctic death spiral speeds up sixfold, driving coastal permafrost collapse

The Arctic just saw its hottest May on record.

Joe Romm, ThinkProgress
June 10, 2019

Drone surveys have revealed erosion of coastal permafrost in the Arctic — up to 3 feet a day. Researchers reported Friday that the recent rate of erosion is six times higher than the historical rate.

Meanwhile, the Arctic just saw the hottest May on record, with temperatures in northwest Russia hitting a remarkable 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius). Global warming is driving Arctic sea ice to near-record lows, which in turn is driving ever-worsening summer heat waves in the southern United States, according to another new study.
» Read full story


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City Council Hearing on Safety of Boston’s Gas Infrastructure

October 30, 2018
» Watch full hearing Video on
— (Close captioned – 4 hrs., 5 min.)

Councilors O’Malley, Flynn, Pressley, Edwards, McCarthy, Essaibi-George, Zakim, Janey, Wu, Campbell.

3 panels and public testimony.

National Grid did not attend – sent statement letter to O’Malley read at beginning of hearing, offering individual private meetings with Councilors.

All councilors had strong criticism for National Grid’s opting to not participate in the hearing, many advocating for subpoena to bring them to a future hearing. Wu and Pressley also advocated for no new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Summation of introductory statement by Councilor O’Malley:
2016 Gas leaks ordinance signed by Mayor Walsh. National Grid took them to court – status conference in December.

Over 1,000 workers locked out by National Grid since June. Replacement down by over 80%. Metering service work down by over 60%. Work on mains down by over 50%. National Grid is currently finding roughly 7 times more leaks than they can repair – twice as many not being repaired as usual. 42% of its infrastructure is leak-prone and needs to be replaced in the next 17 years (as opposed to 26% state-wide).

Worcester has a “co-operative patching program” since 2001, has saved 57% of it’s repaving cost by being allowed to coordinate with gas company.

Repairing is far more cost effective than replacing – Cost to repair a leak is $3,000, to replace a gas main is $4.7 million. Replacing locks customers into another 50-60 years of use. “We should be talking about repairing, not replacing”.

» Boston City Council Ordinance Regarding Management and Elimination of Natural Gas Leaks

» From HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team)
Did you know Boston has one of the oldest natural gas infrastructures in the country. One that constantly needs repairs and replacement? The dispute between National Grid and the labor union means that this work is months behind.
» See if your street is affected

Columbia Gas policy change raises questions about its previous oversight

By Matt Rocheleau, Shelley Murphy and Milton J. Valencia, Boston Globe
October 04, 2018

Days after the natural gas calamity in the Merrimack Valley, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts updated internal policies to require additional oversight and safeguards when performing the same underground pipe work that has been suspected as the cause of the disaster.

The edict raises questions about the company’s previous practices, and whether there was a lack of oversight or safeguards at Columbia construction sites on Sept. 13, when a series of explosions and gas fires ripped through three communities, Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren said in a new letter to the utility.

Mark McDonald, president of NatGas Consulting, a Boston-based company that investigates gas explosions, said Columbia Gas’s initial policy failed to follow industry standards and shouldn’t have been approved by the DPU.
He said the DPU should have acted as a “stop gap” to prevent Columbia Gas’s “failure to enforce the safe industry minimum standard.”

» Read the full story

Letter to Editor: There’s money on the table

Berkshire Edge Letter to the Editor, May 28, 2018
by Uli Nagel, project manager for Living the Change Berkshires, ener-G-save, of the Greener Gateway Committee

How many Berkshire residents realize that every month, through their electric bill, they contribute to a utility fund for energy efficiency? It’s a few dollars per household that add up to major amounts that the utilities are obliged to spend on supporting energy efficiency measures (yes, they get paid to do this).  There is also a state program, more on that below.

Berkshire residents and towns can benefit substantially from these programs and should, given our region’s economic challenges. Strangely, we don’t fully do that yet.

First, homeowners can receive free energy assessments including perks like LED light bulbs and power strips. Even if you had an assessment before, you can have one every two years and make the improvements you were not able to do last time.

At least 75 percent of the cost of insulation you need for your home will be paid for by the utilities. This is for everyone and without a cap. If your income is low, it’s 100 percent and you can replace inefficient appliances with better ones for free. There really is no reason not to start the process, which can take some persistence. If you need help, you can contact the non-profit ener-G-save: for assistance. With the recent ups and downs in temperature outside, our house stays much more comfortable due to wall insulation, and our heating bills are lower.

Now to the state program: more and more of our towns are becoming so-called Green Communities. They receive grants to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. From Clarksburg and North Adams in the north to Egremont and Great Barrington in the south, towns are taking up the offer to improve boilers, insulation, windows or other infrastructure to save taxpayers’ money.

For example, Becket received $140,000 for assessing the energy efficiency of two municipal buildings and improving insulation and air conditioning.

The conditions for receiving these grants are not that hard to meet and the benefits for towns’ coffers, our health, and the environment are substantial.

Residents should check with their select boards or mayors about taking advantage of this program and thank them if they already are. It is amazing that this opportunity exists. Let’s make use of it to the fullest extent possible for the sake of all of us in the Berkshires.

Uli Nagel — Lee, MA

The author is project manager for Living the Change Berkshires, ener-G-save, of the Greener Gateway Committee.

» Berkshire Edge site

Reprinted with permission of the author.