Selectman Votes Against Natural Gas Deal, Citing Environmentalist Concerns

Describing herself as a strong environmentalist, Selectman Beth Jones on Tuesday declined to support the town’s long-awaited agreement with the utility company to bring natural gas to New Canaan.

Casting a lone dissenting vote on the Board of Selectmen and saying the town should invest instead in renewable energy, Jones during the group’s regular meeting said she was “worried for the communities where the fracking is happening.”

“You can have a ‘NIMBY’ attitude about it and say it won’t affect us in New Canaan, but it affects others,” Jones said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.

She referred to a plan that will bring natural gas from Route 106 in Stamford up through South Avenue. First Selectman Rob Mallozzi and Selectman Nick Williams voted in favor of the approval.

According to Jones, both Maryland and New York have banned fracking, due in part to debates over how to dispose of waste.

“If, down the road, we are tied into a 15-year deal where we are required to get gas from you and you start getting sued for polluting the ground or water, and things end up more expensive, it could cost an incredible amount to the town,” Jones said.

Eversource’s Christopher Luca responded that the economics of the contract could be revisited at any time, and that the town could “basically buy themselves out of the contract.”

He added that most of the natural gas that would enter Connecticut is liquified from the southeastern United States rather than fracked from Pennsylvania.

Even so, Jones voted against the agreement, saying, “It still haunts me that I did not oppose the artificial turf, so I have to oppose this.”

Luca, who had addressed the Utilities Commission the night before, outlined the three phases of the expansion. With a $25 million investment from Eversource, the company plans to lay approximately 4.7 miles of lines, which will serve residences along South Avenue, South School, Saxe Middle School, and NCHS, before bringing natural gas to an even greater number of homes along the route to East School.

“We’re aiming our marketing efforts towards the residential portion of the community,” Luca said. “We have a unique position with residential communities at the moment—we now have the tools that we can use to get into a residential type settings, which we have not been able to do in the past. We’ve worked with contractors to control costs for residents. The town will not be impacted and the taxpayers will not be impacted. It’s actually a cash flow positive project for you.”

Director of Public Works Tiger Mann worked closely with Eversource, and assured the board that the project will be managed to the town’s standards. Further, Eversource will make an effort to ensure that construction of infrastructure will come at no cost to residents, who will instead only have to pay for conversion costs, officials said.

Mallozzi and Williams said they were impressed by the presentation.

“This is a good deal for the town,” Williams said. “We’ve started this sort of dance [with Eversource] a few years ago, and I’m glad we’ve come to this agreement that works for our citizens.”

6 thoughts on “Selectman Votes Against Natural Gas Deal, Citing Environmentalist Concerns

    • Being an environmentalist can be so confusing. I was under the impression that natural gas emits 40 % less CO2 gases. On the surface it would seem that promoting natural gas over oil or electricity for heating needs would be a positive. You could also make the case that artificial turf could be a positive for the environment. You don’t need to waste water or use harmful chemicals to maintain it. You also don’t need a gas powered mower to cut it weekly. Maybe Beth Jones should not feel tortured for her vote after all.

  1. Thank you, Beth Jones, for your principled leadership. Like artificial turf, natural gas appears to be the next big improvement, except both come with serious consequences, both to human health and the environment. I think we can all understand that in the case of natural gas, we’re looking at a “bridge” fuel, that while still a fossil fuel is considered marginally better, primarily because it offers some independence from oil. Still, it’s a shame that given the strong, ongoing growth in renewables we continue to invest in a past where we know how the story ends rather than in a better future. I appreciate your environmental stewardship. We need that in New Canaan.

  2. Natural gas is clean burning alternative to heating oil and is a much cheaper and plentiful source of domestic energy. Fracking is controversial, but it can be done safely while providing high paying US jobs. Alternative energy is a nice, feel good mantra, but it is extremely inefficient and costly. Our nation will be using natural gas for decades to come as a prime source of cheap energy.

  3. I grew up outside Rochester NY in the 60’s and 70’s. We had gas stove, oven, hot water heater and dryer in the house and a gas grill on the back porch, all fed by natural gas. In 2 completely different homes we never had any problems. No trucks (polluting the environment) coming to fill our tank, no running out of oil in the dead of winter. Upon moving to Connecticut in the early 80’s i was disappointed to find out gas was not available. The fluctuations/volatility in the home heating oil market have proven to me to be significantly higher than nat gas. After 35 years I’m looking forward to the simplicity and reliability of being back on the pipeline.

  4. I am amazed that anyone would call themselves an environmentalist and vote against natural gas. To think it is better to have oil trucked to people’s homes is misguided. We almost did not move to New Canaan because of the fact there was no Natural gas, perhaps there are others choosing to live in places like Darien where they can get it.

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