The Boston Globe - 31.08.2019

(Joyce) #1

AUGUST 31, 2019



eave it to the Trump ad-
ministration to see an
environmental success
as a problem.
Over the last three
decades, a rare climate bright spot
in the United States has been the
nation’s steady reduction in emis-
sions of methane, which accounts
for about 10 percent of America’s
greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane isn’t as well known as
carbon dioxide, the more common
greenhouse gas, and it doesn’t last
for centuries in the atmosphere the

way that CO2 does. But the gas,
which is generated by agriculture,
coal mining, the oil and gas indus-
try, landfills, and other sources,
packs a far stronger planet-warm-
ing punch for the few decades be-
The gas is also the main compo-
nent of natural gas, and that adds
an important economic wrinkle.
Methane that leaks into the atmo-
sphere isn’t just an environmental
threat. It’s also wasted energy.
Since 1990, according to the En-
vironmental Protection Agency, the
nation’s methane emissions have
declined by more than 15 percent,
mostly because of progress reduc-
ing emissions from landfills, coal
mining, and oil and gas operations.
That’s especially notable because
domestic oil and gas production
skyrocketed during the same time
In other words, the oil and gas
industry can do just fine while also
taking steps to limit its methane
What a responsible presidential
administration would do is build
on that progress, while also looking
for ways to tackle methane in the
agricultural sector, where emis-
sions have actually gone up since

1990, according to the EPA.
Instead the Trump administra-
tion, bowing to the demands of
small oil and gas companies, wants
to roll back common-sense regula-
tions that require the companies to
plug leaks, inspect wells and pipe-
lines, and install technology to pre-
vent methane emissions.
Some of the biggest oil and gas
giants, including Exxon, Shell, and
BP, had lobbied to keep the current
rules or even expand them.
Independent producers, though,
say they don’t have the resources of

Big Oil to comply with the regula-
tions. And now the Trump adminis-
tration has taken their side, propos-
ing to eliminate the methane rules.
Those companies will still have
some economic incentive to limit
methane leaks — natural gas is
worth money, after all — but that’s
clearly not enough.
Maybe — hopefully — the
Trump administration will imple-
ment the methane rollback with its
usual incompetence, leaving the
change vulnerable to legal chal-
lenges. In the meantime, the big oil
and gas companies ought to follow
the lead of America’s automakers.
The administration also wants to
eliminate Obama-era rules requir-
ing carmakers to improve mileage
in new vehicles, but auto giants
have said they’ll keep raising mile-
age anyway.
Since methane has economic
value, limiting the amount that is
wasted ought to be just about the
easiest and least controversial cli-
mate policy. But the fact that the
country has managed to cut meth-
ane emissions with no noticeable
economic impact apparently means
nothing to an administration that
seems almost to takes pleasure in
harming the global environment.

A big leap backward

on climate




Thursday, around
9 a.m., somewhere
near North Beverly:
a commuter rail
rider’s lament

Editor’s note: This is an edited
version of a letter the writer
sent to Charlie Baker while sit-
ting on a commuter rail train.
Dear Governor,
I am sitting on yet another
broken-down train between
Hamilton and North Beverly
stations. I have ridden this
line for 27 years from my
home in Ipswich to my job in
Boston. For the first 20 years,
issues were surprisingly rare. I
was a huge booster of the sys-
tem. For the last seven years
or so, the line has been unreli-
able. For the last two or three
years, it has been a nightmare.
Not one week of the last
two years has gone by without
a major disruption — broken
trains, signal crossing issues,
major delays, weather prob-
lems (in years past, the trains
ran reliably throughout the
I own a business in Boston,
and my employees and I rely
on the MBTA to get to work.
My business is a temporary-
employment agency serving,
primarily, the Boston profes-
sional services sector. Our cli-
ents, from Boston Consulting
Group to Massachusetts Gen-
eral Hospital, all rely on the
employees we source for them
to get to work on time. When
our contract employees can’t
get to work, they don’t get
paid. We don’t get paid. The
economy grinds to a halt,
along with all these broken-
down trains.
As I am typing this long e-
mail into my phone, there
have been no updates. It’s
been 25 minutes.
How can we, as a state,
continue to compete in this
global economy if our leader-
ship cannot make transporta-
tion reliable?
I have traveled widely in
my life. I don’t exaggerate
when I say that today’s MBTA
is the worst system I have ever
used. It’s shameful and embar-
rassing. But worst, it is killing
the livelihood for many resi-
dents of our state.

T could do much
now to ease
service to
The editorial suggesting better
rail service to Providence
(“Providence might be divine,
but the trip takes too long,”
Aug. 28) is right on target: The
trip takes too long, and the
Massachusetts Bay Transpor-
tation Authority could take
small steps to make it much
faster and more frequent.
The MBTA should pur-
chase electric multiple units
for the line (basically beefed-
up subway cars, with faster ac-
celeration and a higher top
speed than today’s commuter
rail) to reduce scheduled trav-
el times between Boston and
Providence without cutting
service to stops in between.
Faster service would mean
the same number of trains
could make more trips every
day. In the short term, the T
should run hourly service to
Providence during the midday
and more frequent service on
weekends (especially Sundays,
when the earliest train from
Providence to Boston doesn’t
arrive until after noon).
However, characterizing
level-boarding platforms as a
“long-term change” misses the
point. It would take focus, but
the MBTA should be able to
upgrade the Providence Line’s
stations within a matter of
years, not decades, using stan-
dardized designs to save time
and money. The time to start
is now.

The writer is a member of
the board of TransitMatters.

For commuters
west of Boston, it’s
the land of missed
As I read your editorial about
establishing better rail service
between Providence and Bos-
ton, I wondered when the
Globe, as well as Governor
Baker, will turn their eyes west
to the second-largest city in
New England, a mere 40 miles
down the Mass. Pike — to
We relocated to Worcester
County, from Pennsylvania,

for its affordable homes and
quaint towns, with the prom-
ise of a commuter rail to get us
to work in Boston. After one
month of 90- to 120-minute
commutes by rail from the
Grafton station, we opted to
get up at 4 a.m. and drive.
My husband is still making
those drives, and I’m retired.
In the meantime, I haven’t
even visited Boston in years
because of the hassle of sitting
on the Pike and the lack of ex-
press trains. What a shame. I
hear it is a lovely city. So close
yet so far.
North Grafton

Mass., Maryland
governors are not
great models of
transit leadership
In their jointly written op-ed
(“Governors tackle transporta-
tion bottlenecks,” Aug. 27),
Massachusetts Governor
Charlie Baker and Maryland
Governor Larry Hogan indi-
cate that they understand the
transportation woes of their
constituents. But neither has
done much about it. Baker,
under a mantra of “reform,
not revenue,” has implement-
ed fare hikes amid worsening
service and pursued privatiza-
tion in lieu of public invest-
ment. Hogan faced a civil
rights lawsuit for killing a de-
cades-long subway expansion
project that would have bene-
fited communities of color in
Baltimore, and abides by the
long-refuted view that widen-
ing highways will decrease
Massachusetts and Mary-
land have a lot in common.
Both are affluent, coastal
states home to large Demo-
cratic legislative supermajori-
ties and Republican gover-
nors. Boston and Baltimore
even have the same share of
their respective states’ popula-
tions. But both states also suf-
fer from a bipartisan political
aversion to raising taxes on
the state’s wealthy populations
and to investing in infrastruc-
ture to the degree required.
Our subway cars might still be
from the 1980s, but that
doesn’t mean our economic
policies should be.

All roads lead to...

well, that’s the issue

Commuters arrive during the morning rush at South Station on July 24.

The United States has cut emissions of

methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, by 15

percent since 1990. But the Trump

administration wants to roll back regulations

for the sake of small oil and gas companies.

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