Above: The Pittsfield Generating Plant at 235 Merrill Road, Pittsfield. Mass, owned by Hull Street Energy; still image from the short documentary, The Peaker Plant Problem, by Ben Hillman, via YouTube.
Listen to the show live HERE Thursdays from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. Eastern every week.
Send your questions and comments by e-mail to [email protected].
THE TOP LEFT CORNER for the week of Thursday, July 29, 2021
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Top Left Corner!
If you’re here for the first time, the Top Left Corner is a locally focused weekly live internet radio show and podcast based in Williamstown, Mass.
We do our best to wade through the spin and biases and bring back the important stuff that most of us really care about. Every week, we’re going to tell you what we think about local current events and the national stories that directly affect the people of Williamstown and Berkshire County. We also interview amazing guests.
You can listen live—and participate live. You’ll find a chat box you can use to comment live–anonymously if you wish. We do our best to read and address everyone’s comments on the air:
–Jay and Steve
Stuff we might touch on during our opening banter.
Baker says Massachusetts is different as other states impose COVID-19 protocols
Governor Charlie Baker said that he sees no need for Massachusetts to reinstate restrictions in response to rising COVID-19 cases, striking a contrast with President Biden, who is urging Americans to mask up again and requiring many federal workers to get vaccinated. But the governor did say he is considering mandating masks in public schools this fall.
Can you turn and point to where Mt. Greylock is, generally? Then we’re talkin’ ’bout you.
Shutting down “peakers” to protect public health.
TAKE ACTION TODAY to PUT PEAKERS IN THE PAST:
Sign the petition.
Rosemary Wessel is Program Director of No Fracked Gas in Mass, a program of Berkshire Environmental Action Team. No Fracked Gas in Mass offers acts as a website, information and action-plan clearing house for activists opposing fracked gas and other combustion-based infrastructure development in the Northeast: connecting and advising community activists on its impacts, resistance through the project approval process and reducing demand through efficiency and renewables. No Fracked Gas in Mass’ current focus is in pressuring peaker power plants to convert to grid scale storage and clean energy sources.
Rosemary is also Clean Energy Coordinator for Old Stone Mill Center Zero Waste Maker Space in Adams, MA, which has vowed to remain fossil fuel free in its development. She’s a graphic designer, managing her Three Salamanders Design Studio in Cummington. Her education includes a Master’s degree in Architectural Studies from UMass Amherst and a Bachelor’s in Fine Art from Castleton State University in Castleton, VT.
Williamstown Community Needs Survey, Cost Draws Ire
By Stephen DravisContinue reading →
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Select Board on Monday heard concerns from multiple residents about the cost and direction of a community needs assessment project that the town began earlier this year. The Williamstown Cares Community Assessment and Research project came under fire for what some alleged is an attempt to draw a “biased” sample of respondents to study the community’s public safety needs. It also was defended by residents who made the case that the town needs to hear from voices that historically have been ignored.
North Adams library eliminates overdue fines for nearly all items
By Greta Jochem, The Berkshire Eagle 10 hrs ago
NORTH ADAMS — In recent weeks, people were able to sit in the North Adams Public Library and read books or use the computers for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, there is one policy that is here to stay: no more late fees.
About 90 libraries in the Central and Western Massachusetts library system do not charge late fees, according to Library Director Sarah Sanfilippo, and she does not expect that the policy change will result in a significant loss of money for the library.
WILLIAMSTOWN — As affordable housing advocates, renters and homeowners brace for expiration of federal and state coronavirus pandemic protections against evictions and foreclosures, the town’s Affordable Housing Trust is ready and able to help.
From our border with Pownal to the Race Point Lighthouse
Coalition seeks to force greater transparency on Beacon Hill
Michael obtained his Bachelor’s in Science, Computer Science, from Eastern Connecticut State University in Windham, CT and went on to get his Master’s in Arts, in Public Relations at Western New England University in Springfield, MA. He is a former Marine and has been a Selectboard member in the Town of Becket since 2017. He was recently elected the Communications Chair of the Berkshire Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). He works for Price Waterhouse Coopers in Albany as a DevOps Manager.”
Ella McDonald is Act on Mass’ Communications Director. Before joining Act on Mass, Ella spent 2020 working five different election cycles across the country to elect Green New Deal champions up and down the ballot. In 2019, as an organizer with Sunrise Movement, she coached middle school, high school and college students across the country to organize climate strikes on their campuses. Ella lives in Somerville.
Sometimes Canada. Maybe Mexico. Probably Greenland if we can annex it.
Teen who allegedly crumpled up ‘back the blue’ sign charged with hate crime
A Utah teen has been charged with a hate crime for allegedly stomping on and crumpling up a “back the blue” sign, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Garfield County Sheriff’s Deputy Cree Carter said in a statement that when he was doing a routine traffic stop at a gas station, he saw a teen take a “back the blue” sign and stomp on it.
“Back the blue” is a slogan that shows solidarity with law enforcement in the country, often used to counter Black Lives Matter protests, as well.
The teen, identified as 19-year-old Lauren Gibson, allegedly crumpled the sign in a “destructive manner” and started to smirk at Carter in “an intimidating manner,” according to the officer’s statement.
Also the Moon and nearby planets in the Sol System
A controversial “golden passports” scheme run by the Pacific nation of Vanuatu saw more than 2,000 people, including a slew of disgraced businesspeople and individuals sought by police in countries all over the world, purchase citizenship in 2020 – and with it visa-free access to the EU and UK, the Guardian can reveal.
The passport scheme allows foreign nationals to purchase citizenship for US$130,000 in a process that typically takes just over a month – all without ever setting foot in the country.
Some resources re: the situation in Massachusetts and our area:
Very Rough Transcript of the Show
Jay Velázquez: And this is the Top Left Corner here on Radio Free Berkshires. Today is Thursday, July 29, 2021, and I’m joined by, as always, by my faithful co-host, Steve Dew. Steve, good morning.
Steve Dew: Good morning, Jay. How are you?
Jay Velázquez: I’m well, I’m well, I’m just sort of updating the show notes for today, hoping that they are actually being updated. I can’t tell. It looks like it’s hung up on something. It’s ticking me off though. It usually works. I mean, you can usually embed YouTube videos pretty easily, but that might have been a thing that kind of. Kind of did me in here, but we’ll wait another couple of seconds here, we have a great show today, Steve,
Steve Dew: It looks like it.
Jay Velázquez: Do you know? Do you know what we’ve got going on today. We have Act On Mass. This is a group which is joined by many, many groups, including the Berkshire’s DSA and fighting for various causes, including a greater transparency on Beacon Hill. Did you know that legislators can kill a bill in committee and you never you never even hear. You don’t even know it existed.
Steve Dew: Yes, and I know this because I’ve tried to research the voting records for a couple of our locals here in Berkshire County, local representatives to state government. And look, I may not have the sharpest research skills in the in the in the world, but I know my way around, you know, a legislative website. There is no way, no way to find this information. You would literally, I think, have to be present at these at the, you know, on Beacon Hill in in in our beautiful state house to really know what’s going on. And that’s not right.
Jay Velázquez: No, no. There’s a number of things that that they’re trying to change. But we’re going to let Michael Lavery from the Berkshires DSA, — Democratic Socialists of America, and Ellen McDonald from Act On Mass, discuss the efforts that they have brewing to try to force it — they’ve had some success — to try to force a little bit more transparency out of our legislators. Probably the most shocking thing — well, maybe it’s not shocking to our listeners or to you, but that all four all four representatives from the Berkshires voted the measure down.
Jay Velázquez: And they’re all all Democrats.
Steve Dew: Well, we can get into that.
Speaker1: We can get into that, obviously. But what’s really shocking is that there are a number of Republicans who have voted for this bill. Now, of course, they may be voting for this bill just to make the Democrats look bad because they know it’s not going to pass anyway. Because that happens. But still, ugh!. So then we also have coming up — and that’s at 9:30 — coming up at 10:00-ish. We’re going to have Rosemary Wessel and she’s going to talk about peakers. And I’m not talking about people high on acid who have finally achieved that, that mythic state of nirvana called “I’m peaking, man! Don’t kill my buzz man.”
Speaker2: I know what peakers are. These are these horrible fossil fuel burning power plants that come online during periods of high demand on our electrical grid.
Speaker1: Yeah, yeah. And they just belch out toxins basically almost like they’re made to just belch out toxins. That’s what they do. Yeah. So, yeah. So she’s going to be talking about efforts. There’s just one major one left that looks like this is going to be a problem. Apparently the owners of some of these plants are interested in going green and and, you know, they see the writing on the wall and they know that, you know, electric batteries are the way. I mean, they’re just the way. So, you know, I think that that’s probably coming down the pike.
Speaker2: It sounds like it’s about time, but of course, there always seems to be one or two flies in the ointment here. Right? Somebody somebodies rice bowl is going to break over this thing.
Speaker1: Well, I mean, look, the the whole point about progress is that it almost implies friction. You know, it almost implies like, you’re not going to, I mean, you wouldn’t have progress if the thing that you had before was good enough, right? I mean,
Speaker1: It’s kind of what it’s all about. If the thing is good enough, you know, what’s the point? And there’s always somebody invested in that last thing. Oh, yeah. I mean, we know damn well that the fossil fuel companies are going to jump out as soon as every single state has determined that they may not have, you know, the oil for, you know, other than the most emergency uses, they’re going to pop out and say, “Oh, guess what? We developed this awesome battery system that we’d like to sell you now. Or rent to you.
Steve Dew: Right.
Jay Velázquez: Right. That’s you know. They aren’t going to get on board until there’s until they’ve squeezed every last drop of oil out of every last, you know, handful of tar sands that they can. But we’re going to let that Rose-Marie rage about that for us. We don’t have to do that ourselves. That’s what we have guests for.
Steve Dew: Well, wow what a relief,
Jay Velázquez: Right, then we don’t have to do all that raging ourselves.
Steve Dew: So exhausting. It can be.
Jay Velázquez: It can be exhausting, especially this early in the morning. We have other things to talk about also. Of course. Yeah, but I think. I think you’re right now, why don’t we when we do the news,
Steve Dew: All right, sounds good!
Jay Velázquez: Let me makes sure I’ve got it loaded up here. Do I have it loaded up or is it loaded up? Can it be loaded up? The answer is… I’m wearing a wrist splint also, so when you see typos in the next week or so, I just want you to know that that’s not me. I don’t do that normally. But in this case, boy, it’s it’s hard to hard to type or use a computer at all with this thing. Yes, we do have the news. The Commonwealth is not Featured Story News, but we have Commonwealth news right here. We’ll see you guys in six minutes. Steve, you and I will chat as soon as I roll news.
Steve Dew: Sounds Good.
Jay Velázquez: And that was the news from the Commonwealth News Service brought to us for free. Doesn’t mean it’s free for them to produce. And I’m going to hopefully, once I get some more, perhaps sponsors, supporters, members to donate, contribute their hard earned cash to this show, to the Gorilla Glass. I will make a regular contribution to the Commonwealth news service so that I can help them in their mission to to bring news to to any and all. I think it’s great that they make it available to radio stations like this. Never even spoken to them, which is funny. It’s they just I got some sort of an invitation one day and then, you know, boom, they are OK. So, yeah, look at that. We do have a new news show notes. Thank heavens you. I don’t know what the problem was. It was. It was. Yeah. It looks like it’s all here now. So ladies and gentlemen, people, good people of the Berkshires and beyond. We have a governor here in this state, Governor Charlie Baker. Since we’re different in the Commonwealth, different than other folks, we don’t need no restrictions. We don’t need no masks.
Steve Dew: This is the latest chapter in this epic cluster fuck. That is the way this pandemic has been managed in the country. And surprisingly enough, in Massachusetts, the what do they call maybe they call Boston, the Athens of of the country that, you know, we are supposed to be the best and the brightest.
Jay Velázquez: There is no life after Boston, says Charles Winchester, the third. Yes.
Steve Dew: Yeah, we’ve we’ve really been fucking this up. Look, it is we are doing well here in the Berkshires, in Vermont, Vermont and Massachusetts. Look, credit where credit is due. The first and second highest rates of vaccination in the country. So that’s good. Absolutely great. And I think it’s a testament to the sense and just good citizens civic mindedness of all of us. We want to take care of ourselves, but we also want to take care of other people. Mm hmm. The problem here is that, as we know, interstate travel is unrestricted. And people I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, Jake, people drive, sometimes drive from state to state. What you know where
Jay Velázquez: You mean people who just over the line in solidly red upstate New York. Yeah. Can just they can just come here and breathe? And cough.
Steve Dew: And this is another, you know, Baker, has anyone done a good job, any governor done a good job on this? I don’t think so. And the problem is, first of all, masking has been has been has become viewed as a kind of punishment. Right. Instead of something you do for yourself and for your your fellow citizens, it’s become this punishment. It’s like, you know, putting that cone around your dog’s head after they get color of shame. Yeah. So that’s one problem. And then this this complete unwillingness to do sensible lockdowns, which could be very short, very brief, as long as the state and the federal government gave people the resources to ride it out if they can’t get to work. So here we are. It is it it’s it’s what? Eighteen months after. And I feel like we’re heading back to square one.
Jay Velázquez: Kind of feels that way. Yeah. Kind of feels that way. I look there was a time when I was motorcycling across the country is going this time west to east from California back to Connecticut. And I was about to embark on Highway 50, which starts in southern rural California, which is like canyon land and Highway 50 is known as the loneliest road in America. And I had some gas in the tank. Right. And I figured, yeah, I’ve been doing a really, really good I mean, on on fuel economy. And so when I passed the gas station, that was closed because it was like five thirty six o’clock in the morning and they didn’t open for two hours, I’m like, oh, but there’s another one up ahead I’ve been doing I’ve been really lucky so far.
Steve Dew: Yeah.
Jay Velázquez: And I went farther and farther and farther. And the great thing about a motorcycle is that like if you drop it into like fifth gear and you just putt putt, putt putt putt putt putt putt putt at like, you know, ten miles an hour, you can you can stretch that last half gallon a long way, which is what I had to do. Because let me tell you, when the sun rises over the desolate desert wasteland that well, I should say wasted, it’s beautiful. It’s it’s it’s a beautiful place. But the desolate desert lands of the heart of the loneliest road in America, you don’t want to be stuck out there. And so I feel like the governors are sticking us out in that frickin wasteland of uncertainty. We’ve been doing pretty well, just like I had been doing pretty well on fuel economy. Right. And and there was a gas station. And if I had just sat down, had a snack, smoked a joint, whatever. Waited for the gas station to open. Then I would have had certainty, I would have been able to go into rolled down Highway 50 with that sort of sense of security that you get when you know that you didn’t just do something stupid, but instead I did something stupid. So I know a little bit about stupid, OK? And and Baker, I think, is being stupid. So that’s that’s me.
Steve Dew: Yeah. And I feel I actually love this as a metaphor. It’s like we’re all riding in that. We’re all in a sidecar on that motorcycle of yours putting along with half a gallon in the tank, hoping that there’s a gas station up ahead. Does that
Jay Velázquez: Work? I you know, look, I, I was afraid that I was, you know, maybe stretching it a bit. But no, I think the idea is it’s the gas station. The gas station represents the the the the policies that we can enact right now, as uncomfortable as they are. And, you know, here’s the thing. I have I have a I have an alternate an alter ego in the video sort of massively multiplayer World Second Life. And I love to check in on the folks in Second Life. There’s a lot of a lot of actual, you know, trolls there, too, but there’s a lot of international trolls. So you get trolled by people from all over the world. But one of the things it’s lovely that one of the things that is is useful is that you get to really hear unvarnished opinions about about America. And, you know, these are news people from across the pond. These are just, you know, everyday citizens, mostly young, most of them, or at least, you know, middle aged, young. And and they think we’re freaking nuts. I mean, they don’t understand the whole they don’t understand the denying science thing. They just don’t get that. And when I asked them this was last night because I knew we were going to talk about this today, I asked them, well, what do you think about what do you think about this notion that we might have to go back into lockdown? And the the overwhelming answer was, we’ve been doing it for 18 months. We could do it for another 18 months if we have to. But that’s not America. That’s not the way, you know.
Steve Dew: So absolutely not. And don’t even don’t even wear your mask if you’re hanging around the Lake of the Ozarks and in southwestern Missouri these days, apparently people are being you will be openly mocked, if not worse, as somebody. Yeah, you may even get run over by somebody’s jet ski. Really? Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah, it’s yeah, you know, I don’t know, getting covid to own the lips I think is the motivating sentiment behind all of that stuff. And it’s it’s super depressing.
Jay Velázquez: You think they actually want to get covered and survive so they can say, I got Koven survived.
Steve Dew: Maybe, baby. I mean, but, you know, there’s there was a national herd this on was listening to NPR W Knepper yesterday and there’s a there’s a radio host in Nashville, very well known conservative talk radio host who refused to get the vaccine and became gravely ill with covid and is in the hospital right now, I believe. And his son came on the show to tell people that his father had had a change of heart and wanted to tell everyone, all of his listeners to get vaccinated.
Jay Velázquez: Wow. That’s that’s useful. Late, but useful.
Steve Dew: Yeah, right.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah, that’s sad and, you know, there was an article I was reading and it. It quoted a nurse who said, you know, every single day, she said just about down to a one, these people, they come into my under my care. They’re they’re cocky at first. They think, you know, I’m going to beat this. This is you know, I don’t even know why you’re making such a big fuss. And then they start to have trouble breathing and then they feel like they’re they’re drowning in their own chest. And then right before they get intubated, right before they get, you know, the hose stuck down their throat, they ask for the vaccine.
Steve Dew: Wow. Right.
Jay Velázquez: So they’re asking for the vaccine and it’s too late and she has to tell them, I’m sorry, sweetheart, it’s that was that was months ago. That was a vaccine. Will do nothing for you now, right?
Steve Dew: It takes two weeks at least. And I think for certain vaccines for weeks for for full effectiveness to kick in.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah. So but to think that there’s all these folks who just, you know, they once it hits them, they’ll believe it. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. And I don’t know who’s to blame. I mean, there’s a lot of people to blame. But the notion that people just do not believe reality anymore is it’s confusing. And I don’t know how we we survive. You know, into the next well, throughout this century of getting ahead of myself, I’m already ready for the next century. Let’s just get the 21st century over with people. I’m ready for the 22nd century,
Steve Dew: But I feel like let’s get the decade over with. I you know, it’s it’s the the news weather seems apocalyptic lately. Germany, Canada and Africa, terrible floods. Myanmar, it’s just and then, of course, the West, our our west here in the U.S., as it’s been and is 95 percent drought and the territory out west and with however that we need it. But this is scary, scary stuff. This is stuff that threatens potentially threatens food supply and things
Jay Velázquez: When I know it already has. Already he has I mean, there’s not even a potential. It’s I mean, it’s it’s weird to what degree at this point. To what degree? I mean, let’s let’s even look at it this way. We’ve got even you know, in our beloved Berkshires here in New England, we think we are, you know, in a in a safe climate spot. And that’s what the folks in Oregon were saying. They were saying, I thought that Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, would be sort of a climate haven because it’s typically cool and moist. Yeah. And what we have to remember is that the systems that we’re playing with, systems that that determine how weather might be and climate might be in one zip code, they can be affected in ways that we don’t even begin to understand. In our arrogance, we say things like, well, you know, we can we can put some sulfur up in the atmosphere and, you know, block the sun’s rays. We can we can fix this. No, no. The number of variables that go into making weather are probably we don’t have a computer with that sort of godlike omniscience. Yeah. We’re not going to have one for years. I just I just. Yeah, I’m you know, I was so annoyed with the New England. It rained and it rained and it rained and it rained. Right. I mean, that’s what we’ve been getting. I know I know people who are trying to get the hay in. They’re trying to get a first cutting in and they can’t
Speaker3: Because it has to sit in the field for at least two days of really good dry weather. Three is better. And so they have to go there and they tether it to terror. It’s this it’s this attachment on the back of a tractor that has spinning like little tines. And it fluffs it. It fluffs the hay. Well, I mean, when when it’s raining every single day, that means it never gets to dry out. Right. So that’s local beef dairy. That’s, you know, local, you know, cheese. That’s, you know, so that’s you know, that’s a lot of. And then, of course, it’s income for the farmer. Right. Because if he’s got a field of mouldy hay that he can’t do a thing with, then, you know. Well, we may be having guests pop on at any time here. Two out of six. In the car participants. Look at that, we’ve got some folks oh, no, not on this call. Let’s see, Michael Lavery is going to be on this call. Maybe we can give a little. Oh, here we go, here we go. Michael Lavery, it’s so good to have you here on the top left corner. Welcome.
Michael Lavery: Thank you for having me, Jason. Good morning.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah, we, uh, we were just kind of shooting the breeze and kind of talking about the weather, literally the weather. The climate is just going haywire. And I’m sure you probably won’t mind talking a little bit about that after we get through with our main topic. So, first of all, why don’t you give us a little bit of of of your back story. You are the communications chair for the brochure’s Democratic Socialists of America, but you’ve got a lot more on your plate than that.
Michael Lavery: Yes. Well, I am recently elected to that chair in the Berkshires County, not not the entire organization, but I have a lot of hats. I locally, I’m the select board member. I’m currently holding the Clark role in the town of Beckert. And I have a wife and two children there. And we’ve been dealing with the pandemic like everyone else. But they also have a full time job in Albany, New York. The office currently isn’t open yet, but we have a lot of things going on. It’s a tax company and and there’s tons of things in my life. But we think it has a trail opening up and I was spearheading that. So speaking of the environment, we’re trying to get some outdoor activities, especially during this time when people aren’t doing as many things indoors. So, yeah, that’s what I’ve got going on.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah, yeah. And I see also we now have Ella MacDonald on the line with us as well. Good morning. Hello. Welcome to the show. I mean. Oh, my pleasure. My pleasure. And of course, with us is Steve Do the R Faithful co-host and the voice of reason sometimes to bounce off my, you know, unhinged kind of rants. I’m not sure if it’s always that way, because sometimes Steve goes off on a rant of his own and then I have to steer the ship. But you you with act en masse. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that and also anything else that we should know about you?
Ella MacDonald: Yeah, absolutely. So Act On, Mass. Is an organization that was founded just a few years ago in twenty nineteen to shine a light on the lack of transparency and accountability in the Massachusetts State House. So we’re just sort of wrapping up a massive campaign we had to to bring attention to critical rules, reforms in the House. Most people don’t know that in Massachusetts. We actually don’t know how our state reps vote most of the time. So it’s a body that is really surprisingly not transparent at all. And as a result, we see progressive legislation killed in darkness year after year. So I’m the communications director for Act en Mass. I got my start organizing with Sunrise Movement, which is a climate group working for a Green New Deal and doing this work in Massachusetts. I saw that. I learned that it had been 12 years since that climate action in Massachusetts, a state where there is overwhelming popular support and support among legislators for for legislation like a green new deal. So I started to look more into it and I found out that transparency is really is really the block here and started to get involved with this transparency advocacy in the state House.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah, I can see that. That would be the very first thing when you’re wondering, OK, so like this is Massachusetts. We believe in preserving the climate and preserving the environment. Why wouldn’t it get done? And then you discover, oh, there are people trying to get stuff done. It just dies in darkness every time. Right? Wow. Well, yes, Steve and I were talking about that a little bit. Steve, why don’t, you know, talk about your experiences, trying to find things out.
Steve Dew: Yeah, right. So I you know, I am I’m an attorney by training and I may not have the sharpest research skills out out there that I was telling this to Jay earlier. But earlier this year when I was trying to do some research on our our state reps and our state senator in terms of their voting record, I could not find a way using their websites, the state House website, Mastech, there was nothing and I usually a pretty good instinct about this stuff. I could not find any information. And it was actually really, really disturbing. And I mean, we’re voting blind essentially when we have permission. And I’m wondering if, Janah, we’re also discussing before you came on that, interestingly enough, a number of Republicans. Yeah. Reported this this your efforts here. And I’m wondering if you could explain a little bit about that, because that might seem counterintuitive to some of our listeners.
Ella MacDonald: Definitely. Definitely. I know that’s been a really interesting phenomena that we’ve seen. So to the first part of it, I totally agree and have had so much trouble myself trying to just find out, like basic information about how my state legislator voted on bills and I’ve found or where a bill sits, if it’s in a committee right now, if it was if it’s being worked on. I was trying to find information about one hundred percent renewable energy by twenty forty five and had so much trouble navigating the website. And that begs the question, if I like a person who was pretty involved in politics, I’d say and especially state politics, if I can’t find it, then whatever. Just like the normal everyday person who might not know as much about their state government, but certainly elect their state rep. It’s like you said, like going we’re going in very much blind. We are electing people who we think support the issues we care about. They campaign on them. They’re on their car and on their website. But once they get in the state house, much of it is a black box. And that’s really disconcerting because, I mean, our state reps work for us, not the other way around. And we should be able to know how they vote. And then to your second question about Republicans. Yeah, this is something that was definitely surprising to me. So for people who might not know, we the the House rules just came to a vote in the state House and we were fighting for three critical rules reform. So one making committee votes public to we were fighting for 72 hours to review legislation because most legislators and definitely the public don’t have enough time to review legislation before they vote on it, which is pretty crazy. And public doesn’t have enough time to really organize behind it. And then third was reinstating term limits for the speaker, which the last speaker got rid of when he was about to hit his term limit. So we saw that almost all the Republicans voted in favor of this. And this is something that we’ve come to expect in this work. And the way we see it, the Republicans in the state House are further from the from sort of the influence of the speaker. The speaker of the House is, I like to say, the most powerful man in Massachusetts. He controls our state reps, salaries, their committee assignments, how many staff they get. And, you know, like Republicans are already not on the speaker’s great side because they’re not in the same party and they aren’t doing as much to try and appease the speaker. And then the other thing we see is that Republicans aren’t necessarily. I don’t know, like they’re not trying to hide the way that they vote and people know where they stand on a lot of the progressive issues that are the ones coming up for debate. So it’s kind of it’s kind of a strange phenomenon because we’re fighting for progressive legislation and we believe that greater transparency will allow our our state to truly represent its constituency, which is extremely progressive. But, yeah, we have seen that Republicans.
Michael Lavery: So, Michael Michael, what do you say? Do you think it’s time you break bread with the Republicans? I think the DSA. Do you think that the TSA and the GOP can can find some common ground here? Well, why
Michael Lavery: It’s kind of a poison pill, but I think the progressives do want more representation and they want to find out why their bills are dying in committee. We as the DSA have put forth bills and folks like Mike Conley and Somerville, Cambridge, he’s for this truth, truth and transparency. And we have no idea what happened with that bill. I mean, to me, as a legislator, as an elected official myself, at the local level, we have to abide by what’s called the open meeting law and the attorney general, anybody who has a problem with the way we had a meeting or met outside of open meeting law and had a quorum and we can get. Fined for that or taken out of office for it, but at the state level, there’s no transparency. They can’t we can’t get the minutes of these meetings. We don’t know how legislators voted. It’s just a double standard. And this is supposed to be the birthplace of democracy in the states. This Massachusetts is one of the first places where we had a Democratic and a town meeting sort of government. So I don’t know whether we’ll be siding with the Republicans except for this issue.
Ella MacDonald: Yeah, and one thing I’ll add is just, you know, a lot of state reps will see state reps try and use this argument sort of against transparency, say like, oh, this is something that the Republicans support. So it must be bad. But at the end of the day, this is just an issue of good governance. And I think constituency that I’ve never seen that argument really hold a lot of water with constituents who just like they want to know how their rep is voting. They don’t care if they’re if their rep, like they just want they just want to know how their rep is voting. And I think that’s something that can sometimes get lost in this in this debate. So we see these as got critical, critical issues that will forward progressive legislation. And we just see this, like you said, as a democracy issue, as an issue about getting our state reps to abide to the same standards that local government does. Like you said, with open meeting law, which our state legislature has exempted themselves from, that is critical medical art of like just the work of being an elected official.
Jay Velázquez: Michael, you’re you’re rep — is it Tricia?
Michael Lavery: It’s Smitty (Pignatelli). Ella’s Point earlier the 72 hour time for for looking at bills before they have to vote on it. Smitty voted in the first form of the police reform bill against it and one of his reasons for voting against it, a group of citizens back in another other towns where Smitty is. The rep took him to task on his voting against the police reform bill and he said, well, I didn’t have time to read it, but yet he voted against this bill to have more time. So which is it? You know,
Ella MacDonald: Yeah. Yeah. So that bill, the police reform bill was over one hundred pages long. Our state reps had less than 48 hours to read it. And that is just extraordinary in a summer where we saw like this huge uprising for black lives and this was on everybody’s mind. So many people were organizing around this police reform bill and didn’t even have time to, like, figure out if they should be telling their rep to vote for or against it, like what was in the bill. And it allowed them to slip in a lot of provisions, like they removed a provision that would end qualified immunity. So we still have qualified immunity in Massachusetts. And I think it also offers like a layer of protection, right, for reps to be able to say, oh, I just didn’t have time to read it. So I couldn’t I couldn’t vote in favor of it. But like you pointed out, sort of the irony is that that committee did vote against 72 hours to review legislation.
Steve Dew: So I have a question and it’s prompted a little bit by what both of you were just talking about. But what about the the status quo right now, this lack of transparency? What is what are what are Democrats mostly? Why are they so vehemently opposed to shining some light on the workings of state government? Yeah, take it
Ella MacDonald: Home, as you say. I think a lot of it goes back to right. And representatives wanting to protect their own power and wanting to not sort of hurt their chances. So like I said, with the system that we have, the speaker pretty much determines everything that’s going on in the state House. There actually hasn’t been a vote that on the House floor that didn’t go exactly the way the speaker wanted it to in over a decade, which is…
Ella MacDonald: Pretty staggering thing. So. I think it’s like our reps have a vested interest in maintaining this lack of transparency where they can go to their constituents and say, you know what? Just trust me, trust that I’m doing the right thing. And we’ve seen a few reps break away from that. But we’ve also seen that there is an enormous amount of pressure. I mean, we’ve seen people speak out against our campaign and then the next day will get an extra legislative aide. And we see just this.
Steve Dew: Are you serious about that?
Ella MacDonald: Transactional power in the state House, and I think that gives us more of a window into why representatives would be willing to vote against this thing, that also not only is just common sense, but also constituents have spoken out in favor of much in the past, in the November 20 election, asking constituents in 56 different districts across Massachusetts if their reps should be instructed to vote to to make all committee votes public. And across the board, there was an average of 90 percent support. So this is something that is completely non-controversial among constituents. We’ve had over five thousand people join our campaign and rally their rally to their representatives about this issue. So it’s really clear where the public stands. And I think what July’s vote really highlighted is that reps are going out of their way to protect their power and vote with the speaker rather than actually representing their constituents.
Michael Lavery: I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know why. Like Act on March with for me it seems like the Reps and senators would all want this. I, I didn’t think it would be a tough vote. But what I heard in the past 11 years, and it’s just unbelievable. How did the 50 states in the union I think were the second to last, and transparency in government, which is perhaps just a horrible statistic. Hey, look, can I ask you specifically to name names, but you just said that you had you knew of a rep who had spoken out against your organization. And what you’re trying to accomplish is then rewarded with an extra staff member. You can ask who that was.
Ella MacDonald: I don’t want to name names, I think.
Steve Dew: Are you sure we don’t be transparent about this
Ella MacDonald: With the amount of time with the amount of, like, just pressure in the state house? A lot of a lot of a lot of reps will try. And I guess as like, oh, like we’re attacking people. And I like our thing is just like this is about the issues and it’s not about individual legislators. So.
Steve Dew: Yeah, OK. All right. Fair enough.
Jay Velázquez: Well, you know, I, I, you know, I, you know, coming from a journalistic background, it’s really, you know, there’s blood in the water and now and I can smell it. So, you know, if if I should get an anonymous email through like proton mail, dot com or something like that, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t complain. No, the the the fact of the matter is this, I, I don’t have to be nice because I don’t have I don’t have a. I don’t have an organization that has to continue to make people happy, I’m not here to negotiate with anything. I’m not here to, you know, play softball at all so I can I can be as nasty as I want to be and will be
Ella MacDonald: That and that, you know, that is the power. Just to give a little plug, it’s like that’s the power of independent journalism. Right. You see that I think one of the huge problems in Massachusetts, I mean, and this is happening all over the country, but sort of the lack of funding for local journalism has meant that most I would say most local papers no longer have State House reporters. They don’t have the staff for it. So all their information is just coming from sort of the state house news service. And I think the power of lack of independent journalism is being able to truly, truly, like, just say what you want to say, which is such a critical facet.
Jay Velázquez: Well, look, there’s journalism. There’s this. And thank you. Thank you very much. In fact, you can go to Patrón dot com slash Radio Freeburg shares and make a donation right there or pichon dot com Agrella class, which is just as good, all good in the same bank account. So anyway, the, the idea here is that these reps there, they attend all the galas. This is the way I see the ecosystem. And I bet you Michael sees it similarly because, you know, it’s going on. You know, they attend this is the Berkshires. We have like this massive arts ecosystem, arts and culture, you know, theater and museums, all that. And there’s all these galleries. Right. And all summer long wine, cheese, fruit platters. And they’re all there with the artistic directors, with the heads of organizations, with the heads of the banks and the insurance companies and the, you know, the hospitals. They’re all sipping from the same goblet. They’re all sipping from the same champagne glass. And so it’s not like they exist in a vacuum as their legislators know. They are part of a and entrenched oligarchy, like a mini oligarchy here at the local level that controls what is being what reality is, because the other people sitting at that table drinking from that punch bowl are the heads of media organizations. Right. So the heads of the mainstream media, the, you know, standard newspapers of record, you know, who’ve been around since, you know, 1820 or whatever — not that I’m pointing at any particular ones. But but the thing is, they like having access. They like sitting around and rubbing elbows and shucking and jiving and saying, oh, isn’t it so nice? And talking about the vacations on Martha’s Vineyard. That’s the world they live in. They’re all part of the same club. They’re all on the same team. They all don’t give a fuck about how hard you know, how hard l is working to improve transparency or how hard Michael is working to try to make sure that the most underrepresented have a voice. They don’t care. That’s if I have a message for twenty twenty one. Right. If I have a message for twenty twenty one, it’s that we should know by now that they really it’s not that you can’t, that they need to be convinced. It’s not that they need more data or more information, more evidence that the people support it, it’s that they don’t fucking care. So the only way to get them to care is to drag these under rock dwellers out into the sun, into the sunlight and show this is you. We see you now. You work for us. OK, that was my that was see, this is why we have Steve on the show, Steve. So just rescue us. Steve rescue us,
Steve Dew: When are you when are you running? When are you going to primary? Adam Hines and then with that. Yeah. I mean, this is the problem. And the only way it’s going to I think one of the only probably one of the most powerful levers we have is the primary process. And yes, Massachusetts is run. There’s a bit of a Tammany Hall sort of not a bit. There is a patronage that is incredibly powerful here, but primarily people who think they’re safe, like Adam Hines, like Smitty, like Trisha, like John Barrett, primarily those people at least forces them to answer some questions. Right. If they go unopposed, they can just glide in and they know they’re going to win because. Berkshire County doesn’t vote for Republicans so well anyway, to get back to our discussion, I had a question. Well, this is a question for you and then the broader question for both of you. First of all, you have a wonderful website which is called Act en Masse, All One Word Dog, and people can go there and find a ton of information. I was reviewing this spreadsheet, the tally, the vote tally on this legislation that was going to increase transparency. And I’m wondering how you compiled that information since it’s so hard to to to get this kind of information.
Steve Dew: Yeah, great question. And just quickly to your last point as well about primaries. I will say that Massachusetts has the least competitive primary elections in the entire country. And I think that is you’re absolutely spot on that that is a huge part of the problem with reps know that they will like that. They basically don’t even have to run campaigns or that they aren’t going to be challenged. It adds this extra level of protection where they feel that they don’t have to be accountable to their constituents. And yeah, so with the spreadsheet, I’d love to give a huge shout out to our whole act en masse team. We have Ben Cohen, who does amazing work with our spreadsheets and data. So the one of our big one of our big goals with this July transparency vote, it became very clear pretty early on that we weren’t going to get majority support for this. But what we did do is get a roll call, vote on the House floor. So a roll call vote. Most of the votes that happened in the state House like are just voice votes where it’s like how you imagined sort of an old parliament, like a parliament happening, where they’re like all those all those in favor say, yay, all those persay nay in Massachusetts. The speaker just says that. But then nobody actually says yay or nay. He just decides which one he wants to win. That’s another issue. But if 16 reps stand up or one rep motions to have a roll call vote, 16 reps support it, then we can get a roll call vote, which is also one of the highest thresholds in the country. To get a roll call vote and a roll call vote means that every rep will be on the record for or against an amendment or a bill…
Michael Lavery: Don’t really have like five seconds to stand up.
Ella MacDonald: Yes, you do. It is. Yeah, there are a lot of there are a lot of sort of factors working against getting a roll call vote, which is why they happen very rarely. And we were able to get roll call on these bills, on these amendments, which was critical, which means that reps were on the record voting for or against this. And those roll calls are then published on the state House website. So we are able to get those roll calls from the website and compile them into that spreadsheet.
Steve Dew: Right. Well, that’s really that’s amazing. I didn’t know hasn’t of that information about the procedures. Wow. That’s that kind of blows my mind. Is both both of you guys, as you look ahead with this work, what is your strategy? What are you and what are some of the next steps you’re going to be taking?
Ella MacDonald: Yeah, so first a short break, because we are tired for the very long campaign that’s been basically the last eight months. Yeah. And then as we’re gearing up, I’m really excited to do a lot of just educational work. So we have this lull right before the next rolls, the next rules vote. But I’m excited to do a lot of educational work because a lot of people I mean, information about the state house is not accessible, like you point out in the very beginning of this episode. And what I realized pretty early on as a young person is that actually serve the people in power. Right. They don’t want it to be accessible. They don’t want these disenfranchised groups to be able to know what’s going on in their government, because that’s empowering and that’s empowering people to speak against sort of the powers that be. So I’m I think a really critical part of the work we do is education through workshops and just our social media making information about what’s going on more accessible across the state. And I’d also like to see some more roll call votes. So that’s something that we that we can do, although we like there are all these systems still in place. We can rally enough reps to get roll call on different on consequential votes that are happening on the House floor. And the other thing we can do is ask representatives to sign we have a voters deserve to know pledge, which is asking Reps to to publish their own votes to stand for roll call on bills that they’ve co-sponsored or amendments that they’ve co-sponsored and sort of getting at some of this transparency stuff from the from the inside. So I would love to see by the time the next rules vote rolls around, we have just a population that knows what is going on in their state house that is sort of is fired up and knows where their nose a little bit more had a little more clarity about where their reps actually stand on the issues that matter to them. Well.
Michael Lavery: I’m speaking of primary folks and and that sort of thing, I’m exploring options and I’m forming listening sessions and going to towns, not just the town where I’m a selectman, but other towns in the region to speak with people on what their issues are, what their concerns are, and possibly forming something. I was a Democrat, Registered Democrat for 30 years. And then what happened with Alex Morse and the chair of the Democratic Party caused me to leave the party. And and I’ve always felt like more of a green rainbow person when I take this test to tell you what party you belong to. And I just felt like being in the Democratic Party and paying your dues was the way to get up in the political spectrum. But now I’m not feeling that way anymore. I’m not going to try to convince Democrats to be more progressive. And I did join the Green Party in Massachusetts. So look for that in the future and hopefully we’ll see more of the same.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah, keep us up to date with that. We want we want you on we want you on the show first. When you make your announcement, we want an exclusive, if and when you do that. So I think it sounds to me like we’re talking about changing the culture. Ella, is that correct? Changes of the culture of of the capital, making it, making it that you’re sort of embarrassed if you don’t stand up for a roll call vote.
Ella MacDonald: We’ve already seen this cultural shift happening, which is really, really cool just with the amount of support this campaign has gotten. And we’ve gotten over one hundred district teams or about a hundred district teams to meet with their representatives and sort of form these relationships with them where then they’re like actually paying attention. They know who their state rep is and they feel more empowered to advocate. And they also know we do a training before before constituents go into a meeting with a representative where we, like, sort of prepare them with some of the arguments that reps might use against them. And we call them legislating and sort of the arguments of, oh, well, you just don’t understand how this works. Like I’m I’m the state rep. Like, I like things like that. And it’s just it’s just more complicated than you’ll understand or it’s a give and take. And I have to do like and just sort of breaking down those arguments. So we’ve seen an enormous outpouring of support. We also just last week, the Boston City Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution supporting or calling on the state House to embrace these transparent transparency reforms, which is really huge. So there is already, I think, this just growing movement for transparency. And I’m excited to continue to facilitate that culture shift across our state.
Jay Velázquez: And we are going to be excited to follow this topic over and over again. Once again, where can people go to find out more?
Ella MacDonald: Yeah, you can go to ActOnMass.org/the-campaign for the most information on the campaign that we just had. And you can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram. But yeah, you can find Act On Mass on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and that’s where we’re giving a lot of updates about what’s going on in the state House and doing a lot of this educational work as well.
Jay Velázquez: And of course, those links are in the show notes as well. So, Ella, it’s been great having you on. I Michael, because you’re local. We’re talking about a local issue. We’re talking about peakers. And I’m not talking about the people who are, like, finally hitting that nirvana of, like, psilocybin. Hi. I’m talking about power plants. If you want to hang out, by all means do. We’re joined by Rosemarie Wessell. But let’s have the news first. You’ve got a five minute news break coming up. Anybody who wants to stick around, please do. I know you’ve got to go, but thank you. And keep sending those press releases our way.
Ella MacDonald: Yes, I definitely will. Thank you so, so much for having me. And thank you for all the incredible local journalism, independent journalism that you do. Thank you. Thank you. So have a great day. You too.
Jay Velázquez: All right. So we’re going to just take a quick five minute break here. But first, let’s welcome Rosemary. Welcome, Rosemary, to the top left corner. It’s great to have you on the show.
Rosemary Wessel: Hi. It’s great to be here and great to hear that I found this was immediately before me. That’s something I’ve been following as well.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s amazing how the whole system that we were brought up to believe was so. So democratic. So. So. Open is actually kind of like a black box you can’t see in two, and I’m betting that you probably have a lot of experience with that yourself. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take just a minute and we’re going to actually five minutes. We’re going to have our feature story, news that we have on the hour every hour, every hour. And it will be back in just about five minutes. So, Rosemary, don’t go away
Jay Velázquez: Welcome back to the top left corner here on Radio Free Berkshires, RadioFreeBerkshire.com. I hope that you’re enjoying that brief interlude of music, which is what happens when we experience technical difficulties. The music just comes on automatically. I’d love to know what people what were people listening to, what I can tell you. What you listen to. They’re listening to. I don’t know, probably probably some. That damn rock and roll probably so anyway, but we are here now using my cell phone as a hotspot and and we do that because wireless the the cable internet in my neighborhood sucks. I’m just going to say that I, I know that, you know, there’s probably a reason we only have one freaking choice for Internet around here, and that’s spectrum. We only have spectrum. There’s no other choice. And and there’s probably some reason that the free hand of the market makes that so that that, you know, corporate America has decided we only need one, because if they were to, they might compete and one of them might be able to offer an Internet that doesn’t go down on me once a week. Hey, anyway, welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you enjoy the news before that. We have with us still Michael Lavery. Thanks for sticking around. And we are joined by Rosemary Wessel, who is, among other things, she is a member of of No Fracked Gas in Mass. That’s hard to say. No Fracked Gas in Mass. That could be a drinking game right there. So welcome to the show, Rosemary.
Rosemary Wessel: Thanks for having me. We were originally thinking of calling ourselves Don’t Pass Gas and masks. That got bad reviews, but
Jay Velázquez: It’s a memorable. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about why you got started? You know, when we think about and some of this our listeners already know, I’m sure they’re aware of a lot of this. But when you think about fracked gas, you think about like, you know, Pennsylvania and you think about, you know, more the Southern Appalachia. Let’s hear why. What’s the threat? What has been the threat and what’s the current state of affairs?
Rosemary Wessel: Well, we started in 2014 responding to a very real threat in Massachusetts. Kinder Morgan proposed a large gas transmission line that was called Northeast Energy Direct. And at that time, it would have gone up from Pennsylvania through upstate New York, right across Massachusetts to a hub. I would embrace it. And it was proposed to be 30 inches wide, which was pretty large for our area. And some of the compressor stations would have been among the largest in North America. So it was a very, very large threat that was coming our way. And I had seen what had been happening to folks in Pennsylvania. I’d seen Gasland and a couple other documentaries, and I knew what the impacts were there and didn’t want to see that happen here. And that’s aside from the fact that we need to steer away from fossil fuels. You know, the climate crisis have been at us for a while, so we found enough gas masks to get the word out and get people activated and ended up working across the region. And we took that plant down or that project down in about two and a half years.
Jay Velázquez: That’s a that is a victory, that is a real victory, and I can remember that was supposed to go through all sorts of neighborhoods. And and the thing that I guess I mean, it’s good. It’s bad. You know, the Bush years was able to stop it, in part because there’s like nowhere in the pictures that you can really say is like and I know this is like the end. This is not corrected term anymore, but the wrong side of the tracks. So there’s no there’s no there’s very little there are few neighborhoods that you can run a pipeline through and and not care about what happens to those people, because those people are typically sitting on some very expensive property and they don’t want that. So what what are the typical challenges in fighting something like a big pipeline like this?
Rosemary Wessel: Well, choosing places that are wrong side of the tracks, as we put it, or seem as rural and probably not as well off if the same old environmental justice issues, they tend to put them where they think they can get away with putting them through. And from here, they originally went to Richmond, which was a big mistake. That’s a very wealthy town. And people lawyered up pretty quickly. And the governor at the time lived there. So that wasn’t a good choice. They changed the route to go instead through to the middle of the county and it would have come through Lanesboro and into Dalton and then up through Plainfield and the Hill towns that way and going through Plainfield and the Hill towns. They were really counting on it being a lot of farmers, hopefully less educated. So hopefully older folks that might not have a lot of experience and fighting things. And what they found was it’s chock full of ex lawyers, ex doctors, current lawyers, current doctors, among other folks that really were stopped, wouldn’t be able to get out of the way or a lawyer up and. We we ended up banding together.
Rosemary Wessel: We got no a the message was get out information to all of these towns and let them organize in each town. So everywhere they went, they had opposition. And we actually took a cue from a pipeline fight, the Constitution pipeline in New York State, and come up with the idea of blocking access for the pipeline company to survey properties and reject that. That’s the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that does the permits, rejected their application because they could only survey about 50 percent of our No. Seventy five percent of the route. Twenty five percent of people dissenting. We had fifty six percent of people in Massachusetts dissenting and they moved the route up into New Hampshire thinking maybe it’ll be easier there. It’s more conservative state. They didn’t count on it being libertarian conservatives and people not wanting people to mess with their property and they could only get 10 percent commission there. So what happened was we built on New York’s success, then built on our success. We kept telling each other. I keep saying it’s like full knowledge that gets passed on from one group of activists to another.
Jay Velázquez: Don’t, don’t don’t go messing with those hillbilly libertarians. It’s not going to get very far.
Ella MacDonald: You’re not going to get a foot in the door,
Jay Velázquez: Bring us up to today. We have we have now, this isn’t fracked gas, but it is another very disturbing situation with these peaker plants, some of which you’ve had some good, good news about, but not not 100 percent.
Rosemary Wessel: Yeah, this is actually a change in sight for us. Up until now, we’ve been fighting new projects being proposed and this is taking on existing sources of fossil fuel emissions. So people are the ones that come online when the grid is totally maxed out. So it tends to be really hot days, especially if it’s been a string of hot days and everyone’s running the air conditioning in the evening. The grid tends to peak in the evening and they turn on a bunch of older plants to help supplement the amount of electricity that’s available to do that. Most of them. Twenty four of them across the state, most of them are 30 years old or older. A good chunk of them are 50 years old or older. And it can be much more easily now with battery storage and clean energy because it’s only needed for a few hours and we’re pushing for that to happen. We started by focusing on Berks County, where we have three of these. And there’s there’s one big one that’s still generating it’s about one hundred sixty megawatts, and then there are two smaller ones. Dorene is in Pittsfield off the enduring street and Woodland Road in Leith has one as well, thanks to both about 20 megawatts. And those are 15, 16 years old and run on kerosene,
Jay Velázquez: Kerosene, kerosene. Oh, my gosh. So the. The oh, so I did want to ask you a few questions about about the biggest one, but I know that Michael has to go pretty soon. He wanted to do when he wanted to add something here. Michael, go ahead.
Michael Lavery: Thanks. Yes. Thanks, Rosemary, for that background. And the teacher plant, our group, the Democratic Socialist, the Berkshire County is opposed to the peaker plants. And we’ve been with you guys on the road and demonstrating. And, you know, it’s a social issue. It’s a it’s a protecting people of lesser income and disproportionately. That’s where these plants are. And there are asthma and respiratory illnesses because of these plants. And that’s why we’re really against it, because it does become a social issue. And and we wish you the best in your cause. And it’s looking good, but we’ll be right there with you. Thanks for being here. Thanks for having me on the show, Mike.
Jay Velázquez: It was great having you. And we have a link to the Berkshire’s DSA in the show notes, and I encourage people to check them out. You know, the DSA there, they’re friendly. As you can tell, Mike is a perfectly good representative, representative of the DSA folks. They’re friendly, they’re knowledgeable and they are fighting for us all. So thanks for doing all that you do, Mike.
Michael Lavery: Come on out. We don’t bite. Take care to care. Bye.
Rosemary Wessel: And thanks to the TSA for being an early member of the coalition, we now have twenty one groups that have formed the peaking power powerplant coalition in Berkeley County.
Jay Velázquez: You know, they they you know, that’s part of their platform, climate justice and environmental justice. And and, you know, the more groups and we saw this with the act en masse. When you go to the website and you scroll down and you see just how many other organizations are partnering up with them, it looks to me like we are hitting a critical mass of people who are saying enough, just enough. What we want is we want life the way it should be lived. We don’t want the corruption. We do want the benefits that, you know, we should be able to expect out of a society such as clean air, such as clean water, such as electricity that doesn’t destroy the everything. So talk about this talk about some of the successes that you’ve had, talking with some of the owners of these these plants.
Rosemary Wessel: Yeah, our our approach was to start talking with the owners by sending a letter saying we really think you can switch to battery storage, good storage and clean energy. And have you thought about that as we had no idea what they thought about it yet? And if not, can we help you? And we heard back almost right away from the owners of Green and Woodland. It’s a company called Genta, and they also own a power plant in West Springfield. And they were like, you know what, you’re right, we’ve been thinking about this, but we haven’t really acted on it. So thanks for the nudge. And let’s all get together and see what we can do. And we’ve had tremendous luck with our our legislators. Actually, the delegation joining on the request point out that letter went out with signatures from Teisha, probably Buppie Adam Hines, maybe Ellie and Palmach. And I guess that helped because they responded right away. And they’re also working with a Generex gentrifies now finding out what the obstacles may be. They’ve already said that they’re ready to put in the capital investment or buying the infrastructure. The switch, which is great. It’s more of a regulatory hurdle that they run into ISO markets and regulatory hurdles and they’re identifying what they’re going to run into, you know, what they can do right away and what hurdles will run into. And we’re working with legislators to see if those can be taken away. This process becomes easy.
Jay Velázquez: That’s that is probably was a little bit of a surprise that some were so quick to to to be so receptive. I know about quick but receptive to the idea. I guess maybe they see the writing on the wall, the right.
Rosemary Wessel: Yeah, the writing’s definitely on the wall because the next generation climate bill, we are going to have to decarbonise. And when we mentioned where the plants are, especially Pittsville generating is right smack in the middle of downtown Pittsfield, right next to environmental justice communities. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for them to join on there. Like, of course, you know, we’re we’re having a conversation now. Unfortunately, we need to start. This process.
Steve Dew: Rosemary, let me ask you about efforts at the federal level, because I know that a lot of the power transmission and I think it’s it it’s solely regulated by federal agencies. You mentioned earlier you had good luck with our local state representatives. What about our federal delegation? Have you interacted with them at all on this issue?
Rosemary Wessel: Yeah, we talk to aides anyway from one market and Neal’s office and watermarking are sort of there with us. I mean, they think it’s a good thing. They’re sort of watching to see what each other are doing and they’re waiting to see what develops. Neil’s office was less quick to engage, but, boy, they have a lot of information on where federal incentives might come from. You can tell these Ways and Means Committee. So they’ve been helpful and we hope they’ll engage more as we as we progress.
Steve Dew: That’s really good to hear and I’m wondering, you know, are are you confident that these these, well, seemingly well-meaning politicians are are at the end of the day, going to put their money or the taxpayers money where their mouths are? And what’s your timeline look like?
Rosemary Wessel: Well, the timeline is a little tight with Pittsville generating, they applied for a renewal of their air quality permit with the EPA and we contacted them before they applied and we didn’t hear back from them and then they applied. So we know that they’re planning to move ahead with business as usual. We’ve been trying to get them to talk with us and they’re not, so we’ve actually received help from Shefali Bouvier and I think Adam Hinds as well to pressure the EP to not let them proceed with the permit until they have a conversation with us about transition and that that was a nice vote of confidence from them as well to take it to that level. We’re also getting support from Tricia Farley, Bouvier and Homer to make sure that she holds a hearing in person in Pittsfield. Right now they’re just planning on Zoome. They weren’t originally planning on having a hearing at all because it falls under a certain threshold and we managed to get them to agree to a hearing. And then we’ve been working to try and make sure that it’s accessible to the communities that live near the plant. And Zoome isn’t always an option. Some folks don’t have great connections to the Internet and you’re working off a hotspot right now. So that kind of gives you an idea of where that falls. So they said, well, Zoom also has a Colins phone number. But if you tried to call in to zoom and get into a question, do you know that it doesn’t always work, right? Yeah. So we’re pressing for a hearing at Ellendale School, which is directly next to the plant.
Jay Velázquez: Which gives people an idea of just what the stakes are, having it right there where children are, you know, who are vulnerable, their you know, their lungs are still developing, the brains are still developing. What are what are some of the what are some of the dangerous compounds that are coming out of these things? I mean, what is the health risk? I know you’re not a doctor, but what’s the health risk to that? To these kids? To the communities?
Rosemary Wessel: Will they mainly burn Pittsville, generating mainly burns natural gas, which puts out particulate matter and PPM two point five is a really fine particle and it gets really deep into the nasal passages in the lungs and it can cause cardiovascular and pulmonary disease and especially vulnerable our children and elderly folks. And it also contributes to the deaths, not the amount of cases, but the amount of deaths for the amount of cases that are around, it bombs up by 15 to 18 percent, depending on which study you look at. So there are some real consequences. And there’s also nitrous oxide and sulfur oxides that are put out by the plants as well. The ones that burn kerosene are more strong on nitrous oxide than the fuel generating, but Pittsville generating is much higher volume and runs more often. It has climate impact, but it also has health impact and we’ve had multiple boards of health actually signed on to a health professional statement for touting transition to clean energy and also writing to the company and saying, please have this conversation about transition.
Steve Dew: And Rosemary, can I ask. We know I mean, I’m old enough to remember the acid rain problems that we were having here in New England, in the Adirondacks, and it was mostly due at the time. This is what I was led to believe. It was due to Midwestern power plants and the particulates and the other things. You mentioned nitrous oxide. Do you have a sense of how other states, other regions, especially those that are historically upwind from us, are are doing on this issue?
Rosemary Wessel: New York is doing really well. They’re fighting because they’re well and they’re getting some major strides towards transitioning. I don’t know how things are going further west like Ohio and Illinois. And that’s where a lot of the acid rain pollution came from. That tended to be from coal plants. Those were the worst offenders. Yeah, we’re still we’re still vulnerable to those, you know, to pollution from other areas, and the Marcellus Shale, of course, is under Pennsylvania and Ohio and they’re trying to frack that as as much as they can before they give it up. One of the things that’s happening, as more and more things are turning to clean energy and energy efficiency is putting a dent in how much power needs to be generated in the fracking industry. Now, listen, plastics as the big market plastics are made out of byproducts from fracking and a lot of energy gets used in creating them. And they are actually marketing. They’re looking at targeting their marketing towards millennials as packaging is the coolest thing that you can see your product through this plastic packaging. And, oh, this is great. And it’s really falling on deaf ears, which is great. But the more you can avoid plastics, the more you’re doing the world a favor.
Steve Dew: Sure.
Jay Velázquez: You know, I have this you know, you go to the deli and and again, in the I’m old enough to remember category. I’m old enough to remember when the deli handed you your cold cuts in paper, in deli paper was waxed on one side way. They’d write with a with a black. I guess it’s like a, you know, wax pans or whatever, you know, and and and, you know, they’d write 295 or whatever it was. And now you go to the deli at least places like Stop and shop and they give you it in wrapped in what looks like paper. But it’s actually plastic. It’s wrapped, it’s thick. It’s I mean, it could be I mean, it could have been wax paper. It could have been what’s the word I’m looking for?
Jay Velázquez: But anyway, but and then then they put it it’s they put it in this plastic paper and then they put it in a plastic bag. And if it’s something like roast beef it double bag it. So it’s in a plastic paper. Plastic sheeting I guess is where plastic film and then two bags. And I’m like, what happened? What was wrong with with wax paper.
Rosemary Wessel: Yeah, a lot of that has been the plastic lobby that changes in and it’s often touted legislatively as being more hygienic. Use plastic when it hits the shopping bags. Know this reusable shopping bags that everyone was using at the time. More and more, there were plastic bag bins in towns and people are switching to reusable bags that went away. They started saying, no, you have to use disposable plastic bags because we don’t know if this is transmitting. Right. And everything got put on hold for a while. And that was probably one of the worst things they could do. It undid the plastic bag bans for a while and got everyone back into the habit. You have parchment paper was one of the things they used to use. There was brown craft paper that was used to wrap things. And we need to get back to that one, one organization. It’s also a program of the environmental assessment team. There’s no forecast. That message is virtually for zero waste initiative has the cool acronym of this week and they work on reducing that kind of packaging waste and they have a restaurants program to help restaurants transition away from all that. Nice. Yeah, my wife actually used to work for a while. She worked for the big evil Wal-Mart in the garden department when she was between nursing jobs for a little while. And she saw all these reports going in the dumpster and she’s like, can I bring these home? We use plants all the time. And they said, no, they need to go in the dumpster because they can’t be reused by us by state law. It’s considered unhygienic and they need to go into the dumpster. The count as a Los. Wow, they had to throw them away in order to basically be able to claim a loss on their accounting.
Steve Dew: Wow, that is. Yeah. Rosemary, can I ask you. So we put up a what J tells me is a great YouTube video on our show notes. I unfortunately did not get a chance to watch it before the show, but I encourage everyone who’s listening to do stuff. And then can you tell us what what we can do, the rest of us to support your efforts?
Rosemary Wessel: Yeah, first of all, watch the video. It’s a big time before media. Ben Hillman. It’s really great. You did a fantastic job encapsulating the whole issue in just a few minutes. And we have a petition that’s gaining a lot of steam. It’s that tiny you URL dot com slash and that’s E and B, create a new world that’s come in and sign. That petition is getting us a lot of traction, showing that people oppose the idea of continuing to use fossil fuels or what can easily be solved with batteries and storage and clean energy. And if you’re a health professional and you’d like to find a health professional statement, I can put that up on the Web site. I don’t think it’s there right yet. I’ll put that up at finding your URL and fruits and join us on Fridays. We have a standout every Friday from four thirty to five thirty on Merrell Road at Bolton Plaza. It’s right across the Plastics Avenue. And we’re letting people know that this is the thing and that we’re hoping that if you want to know the permit, it’s still generating
Jay Velázquez: A lot of ways people can get involved. And the the shirts to all of those excellent. Especially the tiny URL because that’s and pick. Yeah. So the the I guess the last thing I want to ask is. If action doesn’t happen soon, what are the consequences of not getting this done? Is there like another round of, you know, what’s the what are the potential consequences of not getting this done?
Rosemary Wessel: Well, if they get their permit, that’s another five years of burning fossil fuels, so we are really looking to see if we can change the rules. The air quality permit doesn’t take a lot into account for emissions. I mean, it’s been OK up until now for them to admit it’s emit as much as they do. And we’re looking to have that change in light of the next generation climate bill and decarbonisation plans that are in place. We’re hoping that we can convince the EPA to take on stronger regulations. Hmm.
Jay Velázquez: Well, so there is there is a little bit of a sense of urgency here. Excellent to know that, because otherwise people people can sometimes get a little lackadaisical. We can’t have that. We don’t have time for that yet.
Rosemary Wessel: We don’t have the hearings scheduled yet. He hasn’t finished their draft of the permit. Once they do, they’ll release. That will be all over the place. I mean, people know that this hearing is coming up and hopefully we can push back enough that they don’t get a permit and hopefully they’ll come around and talk to us and make the leap into Genta.
Jay Velázquez: Fantastic. All right. Well, do keep us up to date on all of this. Send us in press releases, invitation’s the works. And we will keep we’ll keep the public up to date as we can with you. All right. Well, thank you so much for being on the show, Rosemary. I hope we have you back again soon.
Rosemary Wessel: All right. Thank’s for having me. Bye bye.
Jay Velázquez: So, yeah, it’s it’s a real it’s a real challenge to get people to understand the absolute critical nature of this. Yeah, it’s not just climate change. It’s not just the fact that there are solutions that that can be. It’s the you know, these are literally neighborhoods where vulnerable populations live and you can go to school and plan. It shouldn’t even it shouldn’t even be a thing.
Steve Dew: No, it shouldn’t be a thing. And, you know, at the end of the day, and this is something people don’t really like to acknowledge, we are all part of a vulnerable population because we are we happen to be human beings who are living on this planet right now. And if the urgency of this issue isn’t apparent to people, given the the the catastrophic weather events all over the globe that we’ve been seeing this summer, then I don’t know what what it will take. This is this is climate change is happening right now. The models have always been too conservative. We are headed for, I fear, for real, real trouble if we don’t get a handle on this right now.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah, I agree. And, you know, I. I don’t know. I’m trying to imagine the scenario of not getting a handle on it. I’m trying to imagine where that will leave us. And and the reality is that I can’t come up with a scenario where we don’t get a handle on on climate and and things are even remotely OK.
Steve Dew: No, I don’t think they I don’t think they will be, but you know what I was really heartened by today, listening to all of our guests, is that when people work together, like minded people come together. You don’t have to agree on everything. But when we come together, we can really get a lot of stuff done. We have we really do have a lot of power. And Rosemary mentioned working with constituents, stakeholders, citizens in New Hampshire who, you know, it is it is known as a more conservative state. But as Rosemary said, it’s a libertarian conservative right wing to win a big, you know, pipeline company, asks somebody in the live free or die state if they can come on to their property to serve us well. I mean, you can imagine the answer there. And she said only 10 percent of the property owners that were from whom a survey was requested agreed. And that is that is encouraging to me.
Jay Velázquez: So, yeah. So that’s that. Well, we’ve got a few moments left and I know you’ve got to zip out of here. I actually have a hard stop at 11 as well. So the time we got we got a
Steve Dew: Few minutes is there you know, as always, there is so much more on the show notes which people can find, by the way, at radio free dot com slash shows, slash top dash left dash corner that we haven’t talked about. And so maybe what do we want to where do we want to go here? Should we talk about the latest, what’s going on maybe in Williamstown here?
Jay Velázquez: Well, we do have locally going on in Williamstown, we have a delay. Yeah. The Select Select Board. Yes, the the community needs survey costs, draws ire, and this is by Stephen Dravis from IBRC, shares a select board on Monday, heard concerns from multiple residents in Williamstown about the cost and direction of a community needs assessment project that the town began earlier this year. The Williamstown Keres Community Assessment and Research Project came under fire from what some allege as an attempt to draw a biased sample of respondents to study the community community’s public safety needs. There’s also defended by residents who made the case that the town needs to hear from voices that historically have been ignored. I would say that Randall Fippinger. was one of the proponents of Let’s get everybody that we can. Fippinger made the point that what’s what’s the harm? What’s the threat of getting the most marginalized voices at the table, as well
Steve Dew: But some people thought that that would result in a quote unquote, biased sample of respondents.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah, because, you know, hey, they could show up just, you know, if they wanted to. We don’t have to reach out to them. They know where we are. They know that we have meetings. You know, they’re afraid of stacking the deck of packing the courts, as it were.
Steve Dew: Well, I guess I’m confused. So biased. Is it would it be biased in some people’s view because it over samples, Marg, historically marginalized?
Jay Velázquez: I think that’s I think that’s the complaint.
Steve Dew: Yeah, got it. OK, so in other words, too many people of color in our sample will bias at.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah, I’m not even sure what you’re getting at, man, crazy
Steve Dew: Thing, getting at the idea of racism, of bigotry, of unthinking white privilege and all of that good stuff that we’ve we’ve been talking about for months here in Williamstown. And, you know, I guess I suppose I’m not surprised. I am disappointed to to, you know, learn about this. But let’s see how it goes. You know, I think in the elections earlier this year, in May, the people of Williamstown spoke loud and clear that they want things to change around here. And unfortunately, some people may not like that. Not everybody likes change, as we’re told repeatedly. But we’re heading in. We’re going to be heading in that direction. Folks, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not it’s not the same world that maybe some people grew up in. It does seem
Jay Velázquez: Very much like we have a new mood of let’s just stop with the games. Let’s stop with the pretense of fairness. That’s I think there’s a lot of people that just don’t want to they don’t want to keep going doing this dance. We don’t want to keep, you know, enabling we’re enabling it by playing along and acting as if everything is cool and acting as if a little bit of the time incremental change. I don’t know that we have a lot of time for incremental anything.
Steve Dew: We we don’t we absolutely do not. If there’s anything anybody listening or will listen to the show took away today, it should be that, you know, our guests today were really interesting. When I look at the work that act en masse is trying to do what Rosemary and her group know fracked gas and mass is trying to do. They they can’t get what they want done without the help of each other. And it’s and it’s and and what they’re what they’re advocating for needs to needs to be done right away. We have no more time for business as usual.
Jay Velázquez: Yeah. And I think I mean and certainly when it comes to marginalized communities, communities of color, you know, how can you look them and look these communities in the eye collectively and tell them to wait anymore? I mean, this is this is what you know, this is what, you know, Dr. King was talking about in this. And, you know, we get it. We get it that it’s scary. We get it that it is going to be a turbulent time. But it’s only, you know, it doesn’t have to be doesn’t have to you don’t have to lose. I mean, if you if you think about communities that are empowered, communities that are healthy communities, then then you’re actually gaining
Steve Dew: Where everyone is going to ultimately win. We just need to get over the hump of a fear and uncertainty.
Jay Velázquez: Well said. Absolutely. Absolutely. So, no, I think I think that that’s you know, that’s a good. A good place to leave it, I guess, because we’re really here to really here to to stand up for these voices, to make sure that people hear about these these issues, these causes, whether it’s environmental, whether it’s social justice, whether it’s, you know, housing, justice, it’s you know, we really you know, that’s why we exist. And so I hope I hope we’re serving our community as best we can. So, ladies and gentlemen, good people of the Berkshires and beyond. Thank you so much for tuning in again this week and putting up with the, you know, by now ridiculously predictable technical difficulties. And we’ll get that sorted out one day, I promise, Steve.
Steve Dew: All right. Take care. Thank you. Bye bye.
Jay Velázquez: Well, and that was the top left corner here on Radio Free Berkshires.com, RadioFreeBerkshires.com And we will we will talk with you next week.