THE NEED TO MEASURE NATURAL GAS EMISSIONS
Every day natural gas spews from our aging and corroding pipeline infrastructure into the air we and our children breathe. The utilities report 1,462 gas leaks in Boston and more than 20,000 statewide. Natural gas is 95-perecent methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Among other environmental insults, methane kills trees and aggravates asthma.
Responding to public pressure that leaks be fixed more aggressively than they currently are, the state has asked for new regulations to repair those leaks that are “environmentally significant.” This is an opportunity to get the job done and to get it done right.
But regulations recently proposed by the Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Public Utilities (DPU) do not address the issue reliably: they recommend estimating the emissions from gas leaks. In a Harvard/Boston University study, Kathryn McKain measured the level of natural gas in the atmosphere over Greater Boston and found it to be more than eight times the amount the DEP estimated for the same year.
Estimates are not good enough. Emissions (not just from large environmentally significant leaks but from all leaked gas) need to be measured using the best available methods if we are to have confidence in the results and see that progress is being made. As customers, we pay for all leaked gas. As a society, we pay for the cost to public health and the environment. And, as parents, we pay keen attention for the sake of our children.
PROPOSED MILLIONAIRE TAX NOT SO SIMPLE
This letter responds to Karen Cord Taylor’s article on the proposed millionaire tax. I found this article flawed in its simplistic assumption minimalizing the tax increase using a gross base of a $2-million income. She implies that “millionaires” have more than enough, not deserving to keep most of what they earn.
First, she did not take to account that the income base is really the net of federal taxes, property taxes and state taxes already paid. This yields a base of $1,070,000 assuming that the couple owns a $3-million condo. When you consider that additional $40,000 tax, that couple will pay almost 50 percent of their income in taxes. How fair is that when you consider the cost of their education, time and effort to achieve their salaries?
If two children are sent to private school because the public school option for Beacon Hill is inferior, they have a $2-million mortgage, car, insurance and health-care obligations, then that increase of $40,000 looks even bigger. Maybe they cut charitable contributions to the Civic Association, Hill House and MGH?
The rationale for the increase going to education and transportation is also flawed. Despite rises in property taxes schools remain miserable since my move to Beacon Hill 35 years ago. And transportation costs are crippled by the high pensions paid out. Proposed cost reductions are met with violent outbursts by the unions who claim they deserve them not acknowledging they are being paid by the already overly burdened taxpayers.
Finally, Gov. Baker does not have the power of the purse, so to call the budget his is a misstatement. It is the state legislature dominated who controls spending and always takes the easy way out. Forget investigating increases in efficiencies. Just raise taxes and take it from the “millionaires” who do not deserve what they earn.
Dola Hamilton Stemberg
PLEASE ATTEND ZONING BOARD MEETING
What would you do if you discovered that a real estate developer was planning to build a hotel, restaurant, nightclub and health center on the other side of your apartment’s wall?
That’s what’s happened to the residents of 31-33 Commonwealth Ave. and at first we simply dismissed the notion because our neighborhood sits squarely in a residential district that doesn’t allow for commercial development. But it turns out our zone does allow for provisional approval of “social clubs” and the well-connected developers of this project at 29 Commonwealth Ave. are calling their proposal a “social club” to get around the zoning regulations.
Curiously, there is no real definition of “social club” in the Boston’s zoning regulations and the city has never seen a for-profit social club, as this one will be. All other social clubs in the city – The Harvard Club, Algonquin Club, Somerset Club etc. – are non-profit organizations.
The developers of 29 Comm. Ave – or Haddon Hall – say they will charge members more than $3,000 a year to visit their near 600-seat restaurant, rooftop nightclub and health center.
The neighbors around Haddon Hall, who are unanimously opposed to the project, believe we will be detrimentally impacted by a commercial enterprise which benefits those who live primarily elsewhere. This is contrary to the intent of the zoning code.
The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals is meeting on Oct. 31 – Halloween, to hear from interested parties and apparently make a decision on the proposal.
Mary Lou LeSaffre