Last week an East Boston mother and head of the Eastie’s chapter of Mothers Out Front testified at a natural gas hearing held by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) at the Massachusetts Statehouse.
Eastie’s Sonja Tengblad provided testimony in support of H.2849, or “An Act for Utility Transition to Using Renewable Energy,” also known as the Future Act.
This act, if adopted, would have wide ranging effects for Massachusetts’ aging energy infrastructure, addressing issues ranging from paving over gas shutoff valves and mandatory timeframes for fixing certain gas leaks to creating a path for utilities to begin piping renewable thermal energy into homes.
Like others that testified at the hearing Tengblad argued the bill works with utilities to make these changes happen, and also seeks to re-introduce additional public scrutiny within the Department of Public Utilities through improved transparency measures.
“There are two days that changed my life forever: the day my beautiful son Soren was born, and a day two months later when I read a Bill McKibben article outlining the climate crisis,” began Tengblad at last week’s hearing. “That day, I realized that when my son is my age, he might not feel he has the option to have a beautiful child of his own. Not on this planet. That night, I sang him his regular lullaby, and then cried myself to sleep: I see trees of green, red roses too, I watch them bloom, for me and you, and I think to myself: what a wonderful world.”
Tengblad said the climate crisis became even more tangible to her later that week while visiting one of the busiest family parks in Eastie.
“Standing there, it’s easy to see why asthma rates are up to 400 percent more than any other neighborhood in Greater Boston: planes leaving every 60 seconds and crippling car traffic resulting from airport expansion are all causing our kids to inhale ultrafine particulate pollution matter, far beyond safe levels,” she said. “In addition, this same park contains a gas leak frequently reported to 911 by its neighboring daycare provider at the community center. Neighborhoods like ours, a minority-majority community that ironically also has the lowest tree canopy in all of Boston, simply can’t absorb gas leaks on top of it all.”
Tengblad said this series of realizations marked the beginning and end of certain parts of her life.
“The beginning of finally understanding what needed to be done, and the end of doing nothing about it,” she said. “It called me to change everything about my life as I knew it. Yet everyone here knows that what’s desperately needed even more than individual changes are system level changes, and you as the TUE committee have the power to lead and recommend those actions.”
Tengblad said through the Future Act the state is uniquely positioned to be a beacon to the rest of the country and to transform our gas-reliant infrastructure into a safe, renewable, and equitable system for generations to come.
“We have an opportunity to seize the tiny fraction of time we have left, not to comfortably accept our infrastructure from the last century, but to plan and invest in the future we need for all families,” she said.
Tengblad also deliver over 50 letters from other Massachusetts moms to the joint committee chairs, each with an accompanying photo of their children, about why the committee should support the Future Act, and how the legislation will help to create a liveable climate for all of the commonwealth’s children.