Opponents of natural gas pipelines are in the midst of a mid-summer 43-mile walk to Boston that is scheduled to culminate on Monday with a State House rally.
According to organizers, about 150 marchers departed Medway Middle School on Thursday morning and about 450 are registered to march. Participants plan to pass through communities that would be affected by a proposed Spectra Energy pipeline such as Norfolk, Walpole, Sharon, Stoughton, Canton and Weymouth. They were in Sharon and Canton on Friday and planned to march in Norwood and West Roxbury on Saturday.
In addition to pursuing hydropower as a new energy source, Gov. Charlie Baker has generally backed efforts to bring more natural gas into the region to meet the state's energy needs but Attorney General Maura Healey's office issued a report asserting that new pipelines are not needed.
Protesters are urging Beacon Hill officials who are negotiating an omnibus energy bill to adopt a pipeline tax ban amendment added to the bill in the Senate. They also oppose a pipeline tariff being considered by the Department of Public Utilities and which Healey has resisted.
"This is a big fight between the two most popular politicians in the state," Charley Blandy, a volunteer for Better Future Project and co-editor of the Blue Mass Group blog, said in a statement. "Climate and energy are now a defining battle in Massachusetts politics. While AG Healey and a bipartisan group of legislators are mapping a clean energy future, Baker is defending a pipeline tax that no one seems to want." Blandy is among those organizing the march, along with 350 Mass for a Better Future and Mass Power Forward.
Natural gas is the dominant energy source in Massachusetts and policymakers are poised to pass a law aimed at bringing hydropower and offshore wind energy into the state's energy mix. While a shift toward more renewable energy appears inevitable, lawmakers are concerned with ensuring that baseload energy needs are met since Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is scheduled to power down.