The announcement by Summit Natural Gas of the withdrawal of their plan to extend a fracked gas pipeline from Belfast through Thomaston is a win for our health, planet and economy. It’s also a testament to the power of community organizing.

Crews prepare to pump water and chemicals into a well in Charlton Township, Mich., in 2011 to release more gas from shale formations 1,200 feet beneath the Earth’s surface, a process known as “fracking” that has been linked to drinking-water contamination and earthquakes. John Flesher/Associated Press, File

I was born and raised in midcoast Maine. When it came time to settle down and establish roots, there was no other place I wanted to live. It’s full of quaint small towns, hardworking people and beautiful landscapes. It’s my home. And I’m lucky to be able to work for Sierra Club Maine, a nonprofit that works to keep it and the entire state pristine.

When Sierra Club Maine heard about Summit Natural Gas’ plan to bring more fossil fuels to the midcoast, we mobilized the community to say “no” to the proposal. In just days we received over 280 signatures on our petition against the project, and more than 100 people showed up in opposition to the project Tuesday at a Rockland City Council meeting.

The midcoast community should be proud. Hallie Arno, a student at College of the Atlantic and resident of Lincolnville, was one of the many to stand up against Summit Natural Gas. When she heard of the win, she explained, “I see this as a success for the midcoast community and the environment everywhere. I was encouraged by the advocacy of so many residents at the Rockland City Council meeting who spoke about the need to lower greenhouse-gas emissions, their concern for community health and the role Maine must play as a leader in solving the global climate crisis.”

We were pleased that Summit Natural Gas listened to the people. However, their letter announcing the decision misled readers into thinking this would be a “loss” for the community. The fracked gas industry has been deceiving individuals into thinking that fracked gas is good, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Here’s the truth:

In 2019, shale gas accounted for 75 percent of total gas, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, and shale gas needs to be fracked. The fracking process to obtain gas involves forcing a toxic mix of water, sand and unregulated chemicals to blast into subterranean rock formations. It has induced earthquakes and caused tap water to become flammable. Environmental impacts include polluting billions of gallons of fresh water while clearing forests and grasslands, which are replaced with industrial wastelands.

Fracked gas releases nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other compounds into our atmosphere, including methane, a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It is also bad for our health. Children in homes with gas stoves have a 42 percent greater risk of experiencing asthma symptoms than those without.

Jobs in the fossil fuel industry are declining. Any job creation as a result of this project would likely have been temporary. Meanwhile, renewable-energy jobs offer more long-term security and are the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S.

As the fracked gas industry continues to decline, consumers will be left with a useless stranded asset, and will eventually have to upgrade their systems again to run on electricity.

Fracked gas isn’t even the cheapest heating option. It costs $2,587 per year to heat the average home using fracked gas, while a heat pump powered by solar costs only $1,023 per year.

The best alternative to fracked gas and other fossil fuels is electrification. As we move to a renewable-energy economy, all electricity will become powered by renewable energy sources. Right now, there are incentives for heat pumps through Efficiency Maine. To help transition more people to clean electricity, Sierra Club Maine is advocating for a “Green Bank,” which will fund efficiency and clean-energy projects in Maine, with a specific focus on providing equitable financing opportunities, such as low-interest loans to low-income households, small businesses and those who otherwise would not be able to afford it.

It’s time to think of our future. Fracked gas isn’t a “bridge fuel.” It is just another fossil fuel that pollutes the planet. If we are to reach our climate goals, we must transition to clean electricity now. This win demonstrates that Mainers are ready for change and a better future. Together, anything is possible.


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