Sen. Whitehouse clarifies stance on pipeline expansion

Sen. Whitehouse clarifies stance on pipeline expansion

(Publisher Tom) Ward's recent column "Let's ask the activists: Do you support freezing kids?" Aug. 19 criticizing local activists who oppose the natural gas pipeline expansion in Burrillville, goes on to suggest that I have enabled these activists to oppose the pipeline, yet fails to note that the activists did a sit-in protest in my office over the pipeline. If I were really enabling them, my office would be an odd place to protest.

For years now I have been fighting in the Senate to reduce our nation's reliance on high-carbon fuels - particularly coal and oil, and to support a clean energy future that will benefit both our environment, our bays and oceans, and our economy here in Rhode Island. As we move toward renewables and away from coal and oil, U.S.-produced natural gas is an inexpensive bridge fuel with a lower carbon load.

New England has had winter natural gas price spikes, however, because of inadequate pipeline capacity that can't always meet demand, so we've missed some of the price benefit.

Natural gas does raise serious issues about methane leakage and "fracking" technology, and I'm working to solve them, but solving our regional pipeline capacity constraint is a separate issue.

The proposed expansion project in Burrillville will receive a public meeting with the federal agency in charge on Sept. 16, at Sen. (Jack) Reed's and my request. This will give both supporters and opponents an opportunity to make their voices heard. I'll be monitoring that public comment process to assure that the Rhode Islanders are heard, and the health and safety of local residents is protected.

Please don't paint me as an opponent of this project, which on its face stands to lower winter energy costs across Rhode Island.

Sheldon Whitehouse

U.S. Senator for Rhode Island