You know who anti-vaxxers are, right? The parents who won’t give their children vaccines because they fear the vaccines may give their kids autism or allergies. Because of this anti-vaxxer movement, there’s been a recent resurgence in measles–particularly in New York City. A group calling themselves Physicians for Social Responsibility is trotting out scare tactics to oppose a pipeline compressor station in Weymouth, Massachusetts. One writer calls them the anti-vaxxers of energy. We love it!
Another term that equally fits this group: Doctors Without Basic Math Skills.
The folks of Weymouth, Massachusetts have for years tried to block a new compressor station project, part of a Spectra Energy/Enbridge project to beef up capacity along the Algonquin Gas Transmission pipeline. Algonquin filed a lawsuit against Weymouth Town and its conservation commission in District Court of Massachusetts. The court ruled in Algonquin’s favor and the town appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Weymouth asked the First Circuit to dismiss Algonquin’s lawsuit and “help it protect its natural resources” by rejecting the compressor station. In February the court told Weymouth “NO” (see Weymouth, MA Loses Fed Court Case to Block Compressor Station). The court rightly recognizes the compressor station as part of a federally regulated project. Weymouth had drafted up a wetlands ordinance prohibiting the compressor station. The First Circuit said too bad so sad–but federal laws trump your local ordinance.
In January the State of Massachusetts granted the project an air quality permit (see Antis Outraged: Massachusetts Gov Approves Weymouth Compress Stn). Antis can still contest the state air permit (and did) to buy a few more months during an appeals process, but the end game is now in sight. The state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) is scheduled to hold a hearing on the compressor project tomorrow.
Enter the radical Physicians for Social Responsibility. Yesterday the group issued a statement “heavy on terrifying hypotheticals but light on data and facts.” Using a map with a big red circle on it, the group claims an explosion at the facility would be fatal for many people.
As usual, the local PBS affiliate, WGBH Boston, lapped up the propaganda from the group with no questions, no challenges, repeating it almost verbatim. We’re sorry to do this, but you must first wade through how the meeting was presented by an uncurious media before reading the excellent rebuttal that follows.
From taxpayer-supported (and uber-biased) WGBH:
Physicians and public health experts are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker and state environmental officials to take a second look at plans to build a natural gas compressor along a cove in Weymouth near the Fore River Bridge.
Public health academics and doctors say the project by energy company Enbridge would add pollution to the surrounding, densely-populated neighborhood and create, should there be a leak or other mishap, the threat of a potentially devastating explosion.
“Everything in this red area. Everybody would be — would be dead,” Dr. Matt Bivens, chair of Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, said as he pointed out concentric circles on a map of the proposed compressor site and laid out what he said could happen if a two-minute long gas leak lead to an explosion.
“And people in the orange area and the yellow area would suffer either painful burns or severe second degree burns,” Bivens said, adding that his report did not factor in what would happen if infrastructure at the neighboring sewage plant, Fore River Bridge or Calpine electrical plan were also damaged.
Enbridge failed to respond to a request for comment.
The state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is scheduled to hold a hearing on the compressor project Wednesday. This quasi judicial hearing will hear an appeal challenging the wetlands permit granting Enbridge permission to build on the site.
Throughout the controversy, Baker has largely restricted his comments to defending the regulatory process. Baker said Monday morning that he’s receptive to complaints about the project, but that objections should be directed to federal authorities who that have ultimate say.
“People who have issues with the site, they should absolutely file those and we’ll include those as part of the record and we’ll get a serious review,” Baker said.
The project is designed to pump natural gas through Massachusetts to the rest of New England and the Canadian Maritimes.
Opponents say an air quality review ordered by Baker found dangerous levels of carcinogens already in the neighborhood, even before construction.
“This is Flint on the Fore River,” Dr. Philip Landrigan, director of Boston College’s Global Public Health Program, said at a press conference hosted by the college Monday. Landrigan compared the health impact of the compressor station to the polluted water supply in Flint, Michigan, and response by local government.
“We have an unresponsive state government who is refusing to look at the public health hazards, is refusing to look at the safety hazards,” Landrigan said.
“When these facilities have a fire or they explode, the only thing that can be done is to cordon off a certain area and let them burn,” said Alice Arena, a resident of Weymouth and leader of the neighbors fighting against the facilities construction. Arena said the Weymouth site would be the only gas compressor in the country that isn’t located on acres of mostly vacant land.
Virtually ever elected official in and around Weymouth — including U.S Rep. Stephen Lynch — opposes the project. They’re asking Baker’s DEP to deny state approval after the Wednesday hearing. (1)
Copy of the map used showing “the blast zone” for the compressor station:
We then spotted this excellent column, pointing out the intellectual dishonesty (and vacancy) of Physicians for Social Responsibility:
Call them the anti-vaxxers of the energy debate — science-challenged fearmongers who want Boston to keep burning oil and killing innocent bystanders.
Who are they? They call themselves Physicians for Social Responsibility, but a more accurate label would be “Doctors Without Basic Math Skills.” And their Boston chapter is trying to stop the new natural gas compressor station in Weymouth.
On Monday, the Greater Boston chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (GBPSR) issued a scaremongering statement heavy on terrifying hypotheticals but light on data and facts, suggesting that the Weymouth project is essentially an unexploded bomb with an unstable detonator.
“Compressor stations for methane gas are known to explode or catch fire,” they warn in their report. “We find it alarming that plans to build this highly flammable, high-pressure gas infrastructure in such an inappropriate location have advanced this far.”
Like the anti-vaxxers, the GBPSR crowd start with the irrational fantasy that somewhere out there is a world without risks, where nothing can possibly go wrong.
In the real world, however, people in Massachusetts — where it was literally snowing on Mother’s Day — are going keep heating their homes, and they’re either going to use coal, oil, nuclear or natural gas to do it. (Wind and solar account for less than 3% of global electricity production.)
Are there risks from using natural gas? Of course — as Massachusetts was tragically reminded last September when one person was killed and thousands were forced out of their Merrimack Valley homes by a pipeline explosion.
What the GBPSR want you to ignore is that every energy source has risks. The question is which one offers the best mix of low risks and high efficiency — the least “bang” for the buck, if you will.
It turns out that natural gas is both safer and cheaper than either oil or coal, according to earth sciences expert James Conca. The safest of the big four power sources? Nuclear, with an industry “deathprint” of 0.1 deaths per 1 trillion kilowatts of electricity generated here in the U.S.
You’ll be stunned to learn that Physicians for Social Responsibility opposes nuclear power, too.
Why? The same reason they oppose pipeline projects like the Atlantic Bridge and Keystone and pretty much every other pipeline — despite the fact that trains and trucks are far more dangerous ways to move oil and gas (47 people died in a single oil train explosion in Quebec in 2013).
As energy analyst Brian Westenhaus writes: “The facts are rather — well — stark: Pipelines are lower cost, safer and less damaging than all kinds of motor transport.”
These anti-science activists don’t care. They want to live in that magic land where our power comes from fairy dust and unicorn sneezes, and they would rather keep the rail cars rolling and coal plants firing than take an intermediate step like transitioning to safer, lower-carbon natural gas and give up their fantasy.
Actually, it’s even worse because now these activists are pushing the scaremongering storyline that natural gas — like vaccines — causes dreaded diseases. The GBPSR website features a Dr. Phil Landrigan claiming the Weymouth station will cause cancer and heart disease.
Is there science to back this up? About as much as there is to back up the anti-vaxxers’ claims. Meanwhile there have been a series of studies showing that, no, there is no increased risk of cancer from natural gas.
In fact, America’s air quality is the highest it’s been in 50 years and the overall levels of benzene — the chemical these kooks blame for their bogus cancer claims — have gone steadily downward, even as America’s production of oil and natural gas has soared.
The pseudo-science being pushed by the GBPSR is a reflection of the sad state of the climate-change debate.
Author Michael Graham is a regular contributor to the Boston Herald. (2)
(1) Boston (MA) WGBH PBS (May 13, 2019) – Report From Weymouth Gas Foes Warns Of Pollution And Explosion Danger
(2) Boston (MA) Herald (May 14, 2019) – Group uses fear to slam natural gas station in Weymouth
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