XR Boston plays basketball in halls of MA State House to demand Healey ban new fossil fuel infrastructure

On Monday September 18, more than 30 climate activists from Extinction Rebellion Boston (XR) played a creative version of basketball in the halls of the Massachusetts State House, to demand that Governor Maura Healey "stop playing games with our future." The activists split into two "teams," one team representing the government (with sponsorship logos for fossil fuel companies on their jerseys) and the other team representing "New Fossil Fuels". On the second floor outside Governor Healey's office, activists made raucous throwing and dribbling motions, while shouting as if in game-play. Meanwhile, other activists playing the role of Massachusetts residents as spectators carried banners and shouted for the game to end. Spectator chants included: "Commonwealth, you’re breaking the rules, don’t pass the ball to Fossil Fuels! You’re our home team, we must win! It’s our planet, go all-in! Fossil fuels, aren’t you ashamed? It’s our future, not a game! We see your fouls to make a basket, there’s no games on a dead planet!"

After a long game, the crowd of activists occupied the Governor's Constituents office for two hours until eight arrests were made. During the occupation, they chanted together and sang protest songs in high spirits.

When asked why she participated in the demonstration, Dr. Claire Paduano, an event organizer and one of the arrested climate activists, said "I'm at the State House today because we are running out of time to do something about the climate emergency, and I am tired of watching our government leaders act like nothing is wrong. Governor Healey has made a lot of lofty statements about how she is going to coordinate a comprehensive response to the situation, but she's given us no details. In an emergency, months of silence from our leaders is unacceptable. We don't need her to have all the answers immediately but we do need her to give detailed updates. In 2023 it makes no sense to be building new fossil fuel infrastructure that would be running for the next 30 or 40 years, and I would love to hear Governor Healey's reasons as to why she's still allowing this infrastructure to be built."

Kathleen Scharf, another activist who joined the rebellion, added, "I am in the State House because I am a mother and a grandmother and an aunt and a great aunt fighting to ensure a livable future for my kids and everyone else’s kids, demanding that our elected leaders take real and immediate action on climate change. I want Governor Healey to stop ALL fossil fuel infrastructure projects right now: plants, pipelines, airport expansions, etc."

Extinction Rebellion Boston demands that the Healey administration ban New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure by immediately taking the following steps:

  • Issue a public announcement that the Governor is committed to a No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure policy for the Commonwealth, including opposing projects under construction or currently in the permitting process
  • Issue a public commitment that the Governor will only appoint anti-new fossil fuel infrastructure policymakers to the Energy Facilities Siting Board and Department of Public Utilities, the key independent boards that permit new energy infrastructure
  • Work with Speaker Mariano and Senate President Spilka to introduce legislation that would permanently ban new fossil fuel infrastructure in Massachusetts

Banning new fossil fuel infrastructure includes:

  • NO new fossil fuel power plants
  • NO new residential or commercial gas connections
  • NO new or expanded natural gas distribution pipelines, transmission pipelines, or compressor stations
  • NO new liquified natural gas production facilities, storage facilities, or terminals
  • NO new gas stations or other gasoline and diesel infrastructure
  • NO new airports or airfield expansions

Stopping new fossil fuel infrastructure under development includes:

  • MMWEC’s Peaker Plant in Peabody
  • NEC’s Liquified Natural Gas Facility in Charlton
  • LNG expansion to Douglas
  • L.G. Hanscom Airfield's North Airfield Development in Bedford
  • "Modernization" projects in Lowell and Worcester
  • "Reliability" projects in Western Mass. and Sharon-to-Brockton
  • The Hopkinton-Ashland Transfer Line
  • Meter stations in Longmeadow and Charlton

After months of continual pressure, Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer scheduled a meeting with members of XR and members of the Healey administration to discuss their No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure demand. Hoffer admitted that Massachusetts will be unable to make its legally binding target to reduce emissions by 50% with respect to 1990 levels by 2030, per the 2021 Act Creating A Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy, and that the administration does not have plans to phase out new gas hookups. Despite assuring activists present at the meeting the Healey administration would shortly release a statement publicly opposing new fossil fuel infrastructure in Massachusetts, neither Hoffer nor Healey have put out a statement publicly opposing new fossil fuel infrastructure in Massachusetts.

For the past 16 weeks Extinction Rebellion and allies have held an ongoing stand-out in front of the General Hooker entrance to the State House, calling on the Commonwealth to ban new fossil fuel infrastructure. No matter the weather, from 9 am to 5 pm on business days two or more rebels are stationed with banners, engaging State House employees and passersby in conversation about the climate crisis. They have committed to standing out until the Governor adopts No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure.

Climate activists from Extinction Rebellion Boston previously staged a sit-in at the Governor's office this past February, calling on Governor Healey and Climate Chief Hoffer to publicly commit to no new fossil fuel infrastructure. During this sit-in, Hoffer briefly met with the activists and heard their arguments for why Massachusetts should be a leader in the transition to a fossil free future. In May and June, rebels disrupted sessions in the House chamber and Senate chamber. In the June demonstration, climate activists pulled down their pants and mooned the Senate chamber, with the words "Stop Passing Gas" written across their backsides. Ten XR and Scientist Rebellion rebels were arrested after blocking access to a private jet company at Hanscom Airfield in December. Last September, 15 XR rebels were arrested while disrupting traffic across the city in an effort to raise attention to the need for No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure.

The Massachusetts State Government must make decisions based on the well-established scientific consensus of the climate emergency and stop fueling the climate fire with new fossil fuel infrastructure. New York State is already acting to ban certain fossil fuel infrastructure, including recently-approved legislation to ban natural gas connections in new buildings.The law bans gas-powered stoves, furnaces, and propane heating, and effectively encourages the use of climate-friendly appliances such as heat pumps and induction stoves in most new residential buildings across the state. It requires all-electric heating and cooking in new buildings shorter than seven stories by 2026, and for taller buildings by 2029. In comparison, lawmakers in Massachusetts approved a paltry pilot program last year that would allow 10 cities and towns to ban fossil fuel-powered appliances in new construction and major renovations, if they meet certain requirements, and the Executive Office has still not officially given the green light for municipalities to start the pilot.

The global average temperature for July 2023 is confirmed to be the highest on record for any month. August 2023 is the hottest August ever recorded.1 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that as of July 12, 2023, the United States had already suffered 23 billion-dollar disasters this year, 10 of which were severe thunderstorms and tornadoes caused by climate change.2 By refusing to take action to mitigate effects of the climate crisis, our government is dooming themselves to financial disaster. More disturbing, the government is sentencing residents to suffer more crises like this summer's floods in Vermont and the heat waves across Massachusetts that have sent hundreds of people to the hospital for heat-related conditions.3



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