By Chris White
Massachusetts anti-fossil fuel policies is one of the primary reasons why the state has relied on natural gas imports from a Russian oil company the Department of State sanctioned during the Obama-era.
Officials in Massachusetts and neighboring New Hampshire blocked financing in 2016 for the $3 billion Access Northeast Pipeline, which would have helped the state weather an energy crunch this winter. The state’s decision to rely principally on green energy hiked gas prices and forced it turn to Russian oil imports.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey concluded in 2016 that “no new pipelines are needed” and that we “can maintain electric reliability through 2030 even without additional new natural gas pipelines.” Healey also joined New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation into ExxonMobil’s alleged willingness to hide internal documents about climate change.
Environmentalist groups like 350.org and Greenpeace are organizing online campaigns to oppose every new coal, oil, and natural-gas project in the country. Greenpeace, for one, has etched out the position that the only good fossil fuels are the ones that are left in the ground. The Sierra Club, meanwhile, claims the U.S. is ready for 100 percent green energy.
New England’s energy grid strained to keep up with skyrocketing energy demand in December and January when arctic temperatures hammered the region. Boston received a shipment of natural gas from an export terminal owned by Novatek — one of the Russian energy giants sanctioned in 2014. Russian oil and gas shipments, however, aren’t covered by U.S. sanctions.
Massachusetts’ lack of pipeline infrastructure forced the state to rely on coal production during the cold snap, which caused energy prices to pitch upward. President Donald Trump appointed a top regulator in 2017 who suggested in January that the electric grid could have operated without coal so long as customers were willing to pay higher energy prices.
“We wouldn’t have seen any widespread outages absent coal,” Kevin McIntyre, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency, told senators during a Jan. 24 meeting assessing how the grid responded to a recent spate of snowstorms. Coal production did help reduce energy prices.
“[C]oal was a key contributor,” McIntyre added. “It wasn’t exempt from operational problems — there were some issues, as I understand it, with frozen coal piles in certain sites and so on. But it was, no question, a key contributor.”
Coal accounted for more than 40 percent of the electricity makeup delivered this winter on the PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization responsible for delivering energy to more than 50 million people, said the group’s president and CEO, Andrew Ott.
“We could not have served customers without the coal-fired resources; that’s the reality,” he said.
PJM burned so much coal, in part, because the price of natural gas skyrocketed during the cold snap, Ott said. Winter weather pounded Massachusetts and New York again in late February, dropping several inches of rain in the state. The cold snap will likely continue for the time being as spring nears.
The latest barrage is forecast to roar into New England and New York through Tuesday, bringing snow, strong winds and coastal flooding, forecasters told CNN Tuesday. The latest storm could reach “bomb cyclone” status.
Nearly 50 million people are under a winter weather advisory or warning from the Tennessee Valley into New England, including New York City, Boston, and Portland, Maine.
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