Letter to Mr Daniel Jantzen

Attention of:                                                                                            June 13, 2017
Mr Daniel Jantzen
Chief Financial Officer
1 Medical Center Dr, Lebanon, NH 03756

CC:
Anne-Lee Verville, Chair, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Board of Trustees
Dr James N. Weinstein, MD, President and CEO
Stephen LeBlanc, Chief Administrative Officer
Ed Merrens, MD, Chief Clinical Officer
Thomas Goins, Vice President of Facilities Management

Dear Mr Jantzen,

The undersigned organizations and individuals represent hundreds of Upper Valley residents who actively oppose Liberty Utilities’ proposal before the NH Public Utilities Commission to expand natural gas service into Lebanon and Hanover.  The proposal includes transporting liquefied natural gas by truck, building a storage depot and vaporization unit, and an 11.5 mile pipeline through Lebanon and Hanover.

We urge Dartmouth Hitchcock to pass on participation as an anchor customer for this project, as such a decision would help facilitate its approval, leading to broad negative implications for our community at large.

When DHMC transitioned to natural gas it was widely believed to be a relatively clean fossil-fuel “bridge” to renewable sources while they became economically feasible.  But over the past six years a large and growing body of peer-reviewed research has documented serious problems with natural gas, which we encourage DHMC, as a health care provider, to consider.

First, between 2009 and 2015 at least 685 peer-reviewed papers were published in scientific journals relating to the potential impacts of unconventional natural gas development (UNGD, another term for gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing, also called “fracking” or shale gas) on water quality, air quality and public health in the gas production areas. A 2016 paper published in the journal “PLOS One” compiled all the available data during that period, demonstrating that “the weight of the findings in the scientific literature indicates hazards and elevated risks to human health as well as possible adverse health outcomes associated with UNGD.” [1]

Second, a new understanding about the impact of natural gas on climate change has developed, which directly contradicts claims that it is a “clean fuel” or “reduces greenhouse gas emissions”.  Natural gas is primarily methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, over the 20-year term methane has 86 times more global warming potential than CO2[2], making methane leaks a very significant climate change factor in the critical short term. Methane emissions at the wellhead are considerably higher for gas extracted through fracking than for gas extracted through conventional methods.  More than two-thirds of the natural gas in the U.S. is extracted through fracking, and there is little doubt that most of Liberty Utilities’ gas supply will come from fracking. Peer-reviewed papers by Cornell scientists published in 2011 and 2014[3] conclude that over the next 20 years, due to leaks in the extraction and transport process, gas will have a larger greenhouse gas footprint than oil and even coal (please refer to the attached fact sheets for any additional information).

Hanover and Lebanon are actively pursuing a transition to renewable energy in all sectors over a short time frame.  Many residents and businesses are employing energy-efficiency retrofits, installing solar panels, air-to-air heat pumps, geothermal, and wood pellet heating.  The Town of Hanover currently purchases renewable electricity, utilizes real-time pricing, and has an impressive list of renewable and energy-conserving initiatives.  At the May 9, 2017 Hanover Town Meeting, residents voiced a unanimous vote approving the ambitious goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050.  Lebanon is moving rapidly toward renewably producing the City’s electricity at its landfill and developing a cost-saving smart electrical grid pilot as part of the development of a plan to become a municipal electricity aggregator pursuant to New Hampshire RSA 53-E:6, at the direction of the City Council.

The huge infrastructure needed for Liberty Utilities’ proposed gas project would be depreciated over 50 years, making it completely incompatible with the communities’ renewable goals.  Although Liberty will attempt to recruit new customers on the basis of current low gas prices, we believe the sales pitch runs counter to the interests of the community.  Renewable energy technologies become more efficient and less expensive every year but residences and businesses that invest in natural gas heating systems obviously will not be investing in those renewable technologies in the critical short term.  Those customers will have switched from one dirty fossil fuel to another and be locked in to its continued use for the life of their investment.  Rather than enabling a quick transition to renewable energy, Liberty’s project would significantly delay it.

Dartmouth College publicly stated its disinterest in natural gas on April 22, 2017, making DHMC the largest of the remaining nine potential anchor customers identified by Liberty Utilities.  Without DHMC’s involvement, the project’s financial viability would be severely compromised and the NH PUC would be less likely to approve it (Liberty failed to win approval for its previous proposal last year for lack of sufficient customer commitments).

We appreciate Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s leadership in rethinking its energy system. A rejection of Liberty Utilities’ project would be another sign of such leadership, one that will keep the future open to renewable options for Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s own operations and for the rest of the community.

In closing, we urge Dartmouth-Hitchcock, as a health care institution whose primary goal is the health and welfare of the public, to consider the long-term consequences of signing on to the proposed gas project and make the ethically compelling decision to forego such a commitment.

Thank you for your attention,

_____________________________

[1] Hays, J., Shonkoff, S., “Toward an Understanding of the Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development: A Categorical Assessment of the Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature, 2009-2015”, PLoS ONE, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0154164

[2] IPCC. 2013. Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/

 

[3] Howarth, R. W., “A bridge to nowhere: methane emissions and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas”, Energy Science and Engineering,   http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/publications/Howarth_2014_ESE_methane_emissions.pdf

 

Home of the NH Upper Valley Democrats