Sustainable Lebanon Delivers over 1,100 Petitions to City Council
[Lebanon, NH] This evening concerned residents, including a group of Lebanon High School students, rallied on the steps of Lebanon City Hall to send city government the message, “No Pipeline Here!” Some then walked inside to deliver over 1,100 signatures to City Council, all from Lebanon residents and students calling on the City Council to take every legal and regulatory action at its disposal to prevent the natural gas storage facility, regasification plant, and pipeline from proceeding.
Lebanon High School student Celia Barnett, who led the rally, said “Until I learned about the petition I was unaware of the gas pipeline that was planned for my community. I was shocked to find out about this dirty and dangerous pipeline. Installing this pipeline will make it much more difficult to move towards renewable energies in the future. I ended up immediately wanting to make a difference.”
Last March, Liberty Utilities secured a gas distribution franchise from the NH Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which provides it a license to build a fracked gas storage depot and construct a pipeline through Lebanon and Hanover streets, despite objection from thousands of residents and both municipalities.
Lebanon City Councilor Clifton Below told the PUC at a hearing that the city does not support expanding natural gas. He testified “to make clear to the Commission that our current Master Plan, which is the official policy of the City adopted by both the Planning Board and the City Council, does not support the expanded use of natural gas. It’s not consistent with our goals to move more quickly to reduce our carbon footprint as a city and to develop renewable energy.”
Catastrophic climate events have convinced Sustainable Lebanon that we have to move quickly to curtail the warming caused by burning fossil fuels. And many agree: a poll of NH residents in October 2016 showed that 67% favor renewable energy to 24% favoring natural gas.
“Many people think natural gas is green, but it’s not good for the environment,” according to Jon Chaffee, a member of Sustainable Lebanon. “It is a fossil fuel, and it causes even more global warming than the other fossil fuels now used for heating in Lebanon, because gas leaks up into the atmosphere where it has a greenhouse effect 80 times that of CO2”.
Chaffee, who recently organized a forum for Lebanon business leaders on renewable energy alternatives, also said, “The pipeline can be stopped if there are no customers. If local businesses are sensitive to public opinion and hear how strongly the public wants to see Lebanon move away from fossil fuels, we are hoping they will refuse to contract for pipeline gas.” Liberty is required by the PUC to obtain commitments from 50% of the customers needed to support the pipeline before it can start construction.
Sustainable Lebanon and city residents are concerned about the safety, health, and environmental impacts of fracked gas and pipelines too. Liberty was fined $54,000 in 2016 and 2017 for failing to monitor leaks in its existing pipelines.
Chuck Manns, resident of the Trues Brook neighborhood, which is closest to the proposed site of the storage tanks, worries about encountering tanker truck traffic supplying the depot, and about pipeline construction tearing up 12A, Rt. 4, and Rt.120, where combined sewer overflow projects have just been completed. Also, he asks: “Will this short stand-alone pipeline have a control center which will monitor the pipeline 24/7?” so that we don’t have our own disaster like the recent explosions in Massachusetts.”
“A lot could go wrong with this pipeline, and likely would go wrong, based on this industry’s track record. But this issue is way bigger than our backyard,” said Eric Bronstein, a family physician and resident of Lebanon. “We need to do better than just asking ourselves what could go wrong. We need to ask ourselves what can we do right for the safety of our neighborhoods, our families, our streets, our businesses, our state, and this planet we care about.”
“Something people should consider when making energy choices is the impact on those where the energy is extracted,” says Lebanon resident Darla Bruno, who previously lived in Ohio, where unconventional drilling aka fracking is taking place. “This process uses toxic, even cancer-causing chemicals to release the gas from shale formations. Fracking has torn apart communities, contaminated wells, filled the air with VOCs and sickened residents.”
Sustainable Lebanon asks that the City Council set up a Task Force dedicated to finding ways that the city of Lebanon can prevent the pipeline from being built. The Task Force should include citizen participation from the start and consider opportunities for City Council to prevent pipeline construction, such as developing an amendment to the City’s zoning ordinance, opposing the special exemption from the zoning board that the pipeline requires, and supporting local businesses in rejecting the pipeline proposal.
Sustainable Lebanon suggests that the City also explore ways that it can partner with other municipalities, such as Keene and towns along the Granite Bridge route, to oppose the pipeline, and join cities across the state in passing legislation to stop construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure.
“We hope our City Council will respect public opinion and our Master Plan principles and take further action to stop this pipeline,” says Sarah Riley of Sustainable Lebanon. She adds, “To that end, I think the best first action the Council can take will be to set up the pipeline Task Force as we have urged them to do.”
Sustainable Lebanon, a grassroots volunteer group founded in 2017, inspires and supports sustainable practices in Lebanon – working with residents, businesses, nonprofits, and the municipality, in a way that is inclusive, coordinated, and focused on a positive long-term vision.