Virtual Event: Gas Leaks, Energy Justice, and Community-Based Monitoring

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This conference will convene gas leak activists alongside lay and professional scientists for a discussion about how civic science fits into the push for a Just Transition. Civic science is ”a science that questions the state of things, rather than a science that simply serves the state” (Fortun & Fortun, 2005).

In aging cities across New England, utilities leave hundreds of gas leaks unfixed. These leaks are exacerbating climate change, threaten public safety, and choke our tree canopies–all on the public’s dollar. These environmental and economic impacts exacerbate preexisting environmental injustices, hurting low-income people and communities of color the most.

Over the last decade, a unique coalition of utility whistleblowers, mothers and caregivers, tree advocates, labor unions, and community-engaged researchers have risen up to demand change, winning legislative and corporate policy changes in Massachusetts and beyond. Many of these groups have adopted public gas leak detection and visualization as powerful and accessible tactics for shifting the narrative around gas. From mapping utility data into user-friendly downloadable formats, to organizing neighborhood walks with methane detectors, to posting multi-lingual notices about known leaks, advocates have insisted on the public’s right to shape the energy system that affects all of our lives.

Panelists will discuss: How has mapping and detecting gas leaks built momentum for new policies? What are the challenges and potential pitfalls in raising awareness about gas leaks? What are the key elements for building effective partnerships between university-based scientists and grassroots investigators? How does searching for and visualizing leaks connect to the growing struggle for racial and economic justice?

Full agenda to be announced in the coming weeks – confirmed events and speakers include:

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Diana Hernandez – Energy Insecurity, Public Health, and Environmental Justice

Interactive Activity: We’re Paying for What?! In this interactive session, participants will learn to interpret their own gas bill. Learn how the charges connect to issues like pipeline expansion, renewable energy, gas leaks, and environmental justice, and how to take advantage of efficiency programs like MassSave. Bring a gas bill (or use one of our samples), some markers, and your enthusiasm for home collages! 

Panel: Community gas leak monitoring, counter-mapping, and the push for energy justice:

  • Gaylen Moore, Mothers Out Front—Worcester
  • Jessica Wright, Boston University
  • Dr. Madeleine Scammel, Boston University
  • Martina Muller, Gasbusters
  • Audrey Schulman, Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET)
  • And more!

Breakout Groups

An Introduction to Mothers Out Front Worcester’s Gas Leak Detective curriculum – join this workshop for an introduction to the new gas leak grassroots science curriculum in development by Mothers Out Front–Worcester and their academic partners. Participants will learn about the collaborative process behind the curriculum, and brainstorm ideas for how to develop local campaigns using the content.

And more to come!

*Support for the conference provided by the JPB Foundation for Environmental Health, and the George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University