Where Should It Go?

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The “it” being electrical facilities.

On our home page, we posted the event “Environmental Justice and Building Our New Grid – Where Should It All Go?” that took place at the First Parish church in Concord on Saturday, January 20th, 2024 at 2pm. CCAT was also one of the many sponsoring organizations. The event was well attended and very effective. In short, the objective was to get us to sign a petition for improving the EJ Siting process in Massachusetts. More on that later. But if you don’t need more convincing, please sign the petition for EJ Siting Improvement in MA http://tinyurl.com/EJSiting4MA

One of the speakers asked us to close our eyes and picture the ideal community we would want to live in. Think of things like clean water, clean air, access to healthy food, good public transportation, affordable housing, neighborhoods free of noisy and dangerous infrastructure. We all want to live in a clean and healthy environment. I’d add that I would like to live in a community doing its part to reduce carbon emissions with lots of solar panels on rooftops, EVs, and heat pumps.

Last year I (Tom Amiro) attended a rally at the State House protesting FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) slowing down clean energy projects. I think they weren’t allowing bids for electricity generated by solar and wind to be too inexpensive. No kidding. We know it is critical to power the grid with clean energy, and it is frustrating when regulations. politics, and NIMBYism push back. At the same rally, some people were also protesting Eversource’s plans to build a new electrical substation in East Boston. I was confused. Don’t we need to upgrade the grid to handle the clean energy from renewables? Isn’t that a good thing? They weren’t talking about drilling, fracking, and building pipelines.

On Saturday at First Parish, I learned from the speakers why East Boston had good reason to protest the substation. Eversource hadn’t got community input early on. While a substation may not seem as detrimental to a community as a flaring oil well, a polluting gas power plant. etc. It isn’t innocuous. It emits some noise, and is a potential danger to the neighborhood. A substation can explode! No matter what, the siting of energy facilities has to be equitable and require community engagement. Otherwise, environmental justice communities, where more people of color. low-income, and limited English proficiency live, will be overburdened with the infrastructure needed to transition off fossil fuels.

Decisions where to locate or site energy facilities are made by the Energy Facilities Siting Board. You may ask what can I do. Well, you can support bills H.3187 and S.2113 proposed by Representative Maduro and Senator DiDomenico. These bills will require the Siting Board to evaluate EJ, public health, and climate impacts; require community engagement,; require a cumulative impact assessment and EJ impact statement; prohibit approval of electrical generating facilities or substations, if its harms to EJ communities would be greater than to other communities; all the while still expediting timelines for solar, wind, and geothermal.

To show your support please sign the petition for EJ Siting Improvement in MA http://tinyurl.com/EJSiting4MA

So what’s the answer to the question “Where should it go?”? Energy facilities (especially wind, solar, and geothermal) should only go in communities (whether EJ or not) that have had a chance to express their concerns over the impact from the beginning. It should only go in communities where the Siting Board’s assessment of cumulative impacts on EJ, public health, and climate are favorable. Passage of the aforementioned bills will help get the correct answer!

One more thing. Building more distributed energy generation facilities, like solar on our rooftops, will reduce the need to build out the grid in ways that may not be so innocuous to our communities.

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