Natural gas: The 'vape pen' of fossil fuels

Natural gas is said to be a bridge to transition us from fossil fuels. This reasoning is similar to using a vape pen instead of cigarettes. Natural gas burns cleaner and doesn’t make your car and clothes stink. But, what are the consequences of natural gas industrialization? Most people in Maine may not know how natural gas extraction, production and transportation actually burns communities of color the most.

In 2017 the Clean Air Task Force and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People published the study “Fumes Across the Fence-Line: The Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Facilities on African American Communities.” The study found that “More than 1 million African Americans live within a half-mile of oil and natural gas wells, processing, transmission and storage facilities (not including oil refineries). According to the study, these African American communities experience 138,000 asthma attacks and over 100,000 missed school days each year.

For some, this may just be a consequence of doing business, but for others it is a matter of environmental racism. Marcus Franklin, co-author of the report and program specialist on environmental justice for the NAACP, said, “It is time to shape an energy future that is not exploitative and does not profit from acts of environmental racism.”

How does natural gas impact Indigenous communities? Just last month in Canada, protests broke out across the country in response to dozens of arrests on Indigenous land where people are protecting against TC Energy Corp.’s planned Coastal GasLink pipeline. About 28% of the pipeline would pass through Wet’suwet’en lands and is opposed by the hereditary chiefs, who believe the pipeline will damage the forests and rivers.

Finally, scientists in California at USC and UCLA published a study last year in the journal Environment Health Perspectives showing that women living near oil and gas production sites where natural gas is flared have higher rates of premature birth. Black and Latina women were more affected than white women. These findings are relevant to the eco-guilt permitting some to choose natural gas over oil. But the decision is flawed. Trading one bad habit for another is only fooling ourselves and ignores the real truth: Natural gas may be a cleaner way to heat homes, but it still leaves people of color out in the cold.

Steve Byers


Bebb for selectman

It is my honor to support my friend Breanna Pinkham Bebb for the Northport Board of Selectmen. As a resident who grew up in Northport, left and chose to come back to raise my son here, I cannot think of a better person for this position.

Bre’s commitment to her community is something I’ve seen in action on many occasions in the more than 15 years we have known one another. She’s supported rural music education through her senior work at the University of Maine at Machias, assisted in statewide economic development initiatives with the Maine Downtown Center advisory committee, and lent a hand to many local causes. As a fellow Edna Drinkwater parent, I know that Bre cares about our wonderful school.

She is a small town woman with a huge love of her community that shines through the work she does in her job and her volunteer work, as well as day-to-day conversations she has with people.

I invite you to join me in voting for Breanna Pinkham Bebb for the Northport Board of Selectmen April 14.

Mara Gallagher


Backs Pine Tree Amendment

I am in support of the Pine Tree Amendment to the state's Constitution (LD 489), because it articulates what I believe to be an inherent right for us all.

It states: “The people of the state have the right for a clean and healthy environment, including pure water, clean air and healthy ecosystems and to the preservation of natural, cultural, recreational, scenic and healthful qualities of the environment.”

State and local government should be upholding these inherent rights that we share, forward through time and changing political landscapes.

As residents and communities, not only is it our right to have a clean and safe environment, but it is our duty to steward the land, waters and air where we live so that our children, and children’s children (not to mention the other species) will have a safe place to live themselves.

It’s kind of like picking up after yourself at a public picnic area. Is it right to leave it trashed for the next ones coming through?

Susan Cutting


Vaccine appreciation

Yesterday, my wife and I received our first COVID-19 vaccinations — a big step for us, and for everyone, in eventually putting this pandemic behind us. Thank you to the scientists and laboratories that invent the vaccines, the companies that manufacture so many doses, the businesses and governments that distribute them widely, and the medical professionals who administer them so graciously.

We appreciate the cool leadership of Gov. Mills and Dr. Shah, the serious concern and actions of President Biden and the diligence of nearly all of our citizens in wearing masks and keeping their distance for their own welfare and the welfare of others.

Most important, we feel for those who have suffered medically, economically, socially or emotionally from this pandemic and trust that better days are ahead for all of us.

Hugh Townsend