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Study: Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

Natural gas power plant

Researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund have concluded in a recent study that natural gas power plants release 21–120 times more methane than earlier estimates.

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that for oil refineries, emission rates were 11–90 times more than initial estimates. Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner and more climate-friendly alternative to burning coal, is obtained in the U.S. mostly via the controversial horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The scientists measured air emissions at three natural gas-fired power plants and three refineries in Utah, Indiana, and Illinois using Purdue’s flying chemistry lab, the Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (ALAR). They compared their results to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

“Power plants currently use more than one third of natural gas consumed in the U.S. and the volume used is expected to increase as market forces drive the replacement of coal with cheaper natural gas,” the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said in a press release. The nonprofit commissioned and funded the study with a grant from the Afred P. Sloan Foundation.

“But if natural gas is going to deliver on its promise, methane emissions due to leaks, venting, and flaring need to be kept to a minimum.”

Methane Leaks Major Source of Emissions

Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but hangs around the atmosphere for a shorter time, with a global warming effect 84–87 times that of CO2 over a 20-year period, according to the EPA.

“[Methane is] a better fuel all around as long as you don’t spill it,” Paul Shepson, an atmospheric chemistry professor at Purdue, said in a press release. “But it doesn’t take much methane leakage to ruin your whole day if you care about climate change.”

The researchers were careful to differentiate between emissions related to natural gas combustion versus leakage, with the latter found to be the primary source of methane emissions in this small, preliminary study. Previous estimates of methane emissions were reported to the EPA from the facilities themselves and were restricted to what came out of the smokestack, which means they excluded leaks from equipment such as steam turbines and compressors.

The study was done as part of EDF‘s ongoing series of studies measuring methane emissions and leakage throughout the U.S. natural gas supply chain. EDF said in its press release that the Purdue scientists plan to follow up with research at additional oil refineries and power plants. Purdue stated in a press release that support for the research also came from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Natural gas recently eclipsed coal as a power source feeding the U.S. electric grid, according to data published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

“For decades, coal has been the dominant energy source for generating electricity in the United States. EIA‘s Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) is now forecasting that 2016 will be the first year that natural gas-fired generation exceeds coal generation in the United States on an annual basis,” explained the EIA in March 2016. “Natural gas generation first surpassed coal generation on a monthly basis in April 2015, and the generation shares for coal and natural gas were nearly identical in 2015, each providing about one-third of all electricity generation.”

Trump Admininstration Dismantling Methane Regulations

The Purdue-EDF research results were published the same week President Donald Trump proposed massive cuts to the EPA, which would include a 23 percent cut to the enforcement division tasked with overseeing emissions at gas-fired power plants and oil refineries. The Trump administration has also announced its intentions to halt former President Barack Obama’s proposed methane emissions rule for gas situated on U.S. public lands and has already reversed the Obama EPA‘s information request for methane emissions data from U.S. domestic oil and gas producers.

As DeSmog previously reported, Carl Icahn, the business tycoon who interviewed and vetted current EPA Administrator Scott Pruittowns petrochemical refineries with a documented history of exceeding allowable emissions rates set by the EPA. In addition to being a major donor to Trump’s campaign, Icahn also serves as an adviser on regulatory issues to the Trump White House, a position set to benefit his extensive business holdings and raising concerns about conflicts of interest.

Icahn, however, has dismissed these concerns, telling Bloomberg Businessweek, “It may sound corny to you, but I think doing certain things helps the country a lot. And yeah, it helps me. I’m not apologizing for that.”

Eversource seeks higher fees on customers with solar

Environmental group raises concerns about proposed demand charge

Eversource is proposing special charges for customers with solar installations to make sure they pay their share of the cost of operating the power grid.

The proposed charges are contained in Eversource’s rate filing, which is under review at the state Department of Public Utilities. The utility says the charges are needed because many solar customers produce more power than they use, which allows them to escape paying their share of the power grid’s fixed costs.

The proposed new charges for homeowners with solar installations coincide with a push by the Baker administration to cut in half the subsidies paid by electric ratepayers to solar developers. The overall cost of solar incentives paid by ratepayers through their electric bills has been running at $400 to $500 million a year (or 40 to 50 cents a kilowatt hour), and the new plan is expected to cut that in half, Baker administration officials said. The new plan is intended to spur the development of the next 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity.

Reducing the size of solar incentives and assessing higher charges on customers with solar installations are policies that have been high priorities of Massachusetts utilities. The utilities say they are merely trying to keep electric bills reasonable and fairly distribute costs among customers. But environmental advocates have suggested that solar power is a long-term threat to companies like Eversource, which rely on customers who want electricity delivered to their homes rather than customers who produce their own power.

Bills for electricity typically have two types of charges – a fixed monthly customer charge that recovers the cost of connecting a home to the grid and per-kilowatt-hour charges for everything else. Homeowners with solar installations on their roofs don’t fit neatly into this billing system because they produce much of their own electricity and receive net metering credits when they sell electricity into the grid. The credits are valued at the retail price of electricity, so homeowners can use the credits to offset the cost of electricity being drawn from the grid when the sun isn’t shining.

» Read full article

Western Mass pipeline fighters win legal battle over Clean Water Act

Otis State Forest Entrance
State agencies have the right to hear Clean Water Act challenges related to natural gas pipelines, the First Circuit ruled on March 15, 2017. (Mary Serreze photo)
by Mary Serreze, Special to The Springfield Republican
March 20, 2017

BOSTON — Western Massachusetts residents fighting the Connecticut Expansion pipeline won a legal battle last week when a federal appeals court agreed that Clean Water Act challenges under the U.S. Natural Gas Act should be heard by the states, and not by a federal court.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on March 15 that it has no jurisdiction to hear a Section 401 Water Quality Certification appeal related to the 14-mile, three-state project proposed by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a Kinder Morgan subsidiary.

The judgment affirms the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s right to conduct its own permitting process — from beginning to end — when it comes to applications from gas pipeline firms to alter streams, ponds, and other water resources under its jurisdiction.

The ruling came as the result of a legal action by members of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, or BEAT.

“Although we are disappointed with the Court’s decision, we are confident that we will successfully complete the permit processes, and look forward to executing on this project to increase deliveries of clean, domestic natural gas for New England consumers,” said a Kinder Morgan spokesman.

Tennessee had argued that such challenges should be heard by the First Circuit, and asserted that letting the state handle the appeals process could lead to a lengthy delay.

Tennessee gained a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certificate for the project in March and had hoped to have the pipeline up and running by November 2016.

Tennessee first filed for a required water quality certification on June 30, 2015. MassDEP issued a conditional certificate one year later, and pipeline opponents quickly filed an appeal. That appeal is pending, and MassDEP says it will issue a ruling by April 3.

» Read full article

Appeals court says pipelines must pass state reviews

Recorder Staff
Friday, March 17, 2017

An appeals court this week rejected the notion that federal law allows pipelines to proceed without all relevant state reviews.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s pipeline through the southern Berkshire town of Sandisfield now can’t proceed before getting final water quality certification from the state.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals deferred to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s own process of issuing a final federally required water quality certificate for the proposed Connecticut Expansion Project.

The company, which proposes to extend an existing pipeline in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, sought a stay of a DEP adjudicatory hearing and other administrative proceedings after Berkshire Environmental Action Team and a citizens’ group jointly appealed a preliminary certification notice last July.

Richard Kanoff, the lawyer who brought the group’s appeal, said, “The decision means in the future that Kinder Morgan/TGP will be required to procure a final DEP water quality certificate, following a full and complete evaluation. The notion that DEP’s review may be interrupted midstream following an initial determination, as TGP claimed in this case, has been rejected.”

TGP spokesman Richard Wheatley said, “Although we are disappointed with the court’s decision, we are confident that we will successfully complete the permit processes and look forward to executing on this project to increase deliveries of clean, domestic natural gas for New England consumers.”

The conditional approval TGP received included a condition forbidding the company from “conducting any ‘work subject to this Certification, including the cutting of trees,’ until ‘the expiration of the Appeal Period,” according to the 18-page decision by the three-judge panel that included retired U.S. Supreme Court Judge David Souter.

“In a literal sense, state agencies repeatedly take ‘action’ in connection with applications for water quality certifications,” the decision reads. “They docket applications, review them, and express opinions about them. We see no reason, though, to think that Congress wanted us to exercise immediate review over such preliminary and numerous steps that state agencies may take in processing an application before they actually act in the more relevant and consequential sense of granting or denying it.”

The ruling leaves in place DEP’s internal appeal process, which is expected to result in a final decision from the DEP commissioner around March 27, according to Jane Winn, executive director of Berkshire Environmental Action Team. The organization filed the case along with 16 citizens, including Winn, Ashfield Selectboard member Ronald R. Coler, Kathryn Eiseman of the Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast, and Rosemary Wessel, cofounder of No Fracked Gas in Mass.

BEAT appealed the DEP’s water quality certification process on the grounds that the agency did not thoroughly consider alternatives, Winn said. The project would pass through Otis State Forest and hurt wetlands, endanger rare species and cause extensive damage to the environment, according to BEAT.

“We appealed on solid grounds, but we’re thrilled it delayed it,” said Winn. She noted that any final decision by DEP could still be appealed to the federal court.

Without a needed 401 water quality certificate, federal and state laws prohibit “authorization of tree-cutting or other activity that will result in the discharge of dredged or fill material” into any water body.

Eiseman said the case is significant because it “helps define the limits to the pre-emptive powers of the Natural Gas Act, and highlights the pivotal role that key state decision-making processes play in interstate pipeline permitting.”

She added, “There are limits to the Natural Gas Act’s pre-emptive powers, that this case is helping to define. Pipeline companies are just trying to go beyond reasonable limits, and the justices were not falling for it at all. … The federal appeals court was saying, ‘Let them work through the agency process.’”

You can reach Richie Davis at rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

Court Victory for the People, Loss for Tennessee Gas

by Kathryn Eiseman, Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast
March 17, 2017

BOSTON — In the many ongoing proceedings regarding the Connecticut Expansion pipeline proposed by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP), an important legal victory has just been won for Clean Water Act advocacy in the context of Natural Gas Act proceedings. This decision has potential ramifications for interstate gas pipeline proceedings nationwide.

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has rejected TGP’s legal arguments with which the company sought to cut short the Massachusetts state agency review of the company’s water quality application filed for the Connecticut Expansion Project.  (Link to court decision)

Last July, the Citizen Petitioners — 16 individuals, together with the Berkshire Environmental Action Team — appealed an initial Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) water quality certification issued by the MassDEP Western Regional Office.  In accordance with Massachusetts law, that appeal was filed with the MassDEP Office of Appeals and Dispute Resolution.

TGP responded by suing all of the Citizen Petitioners in federal district court, asserting that MassDEP lacked jurisdiction to continue with its administrative process because of a section in the Natural Gas Act that the company claimed preempted further state agency review.

Thus, the Petitioners filed their First Circuit appeal in August out of precaution, to preserve all rights of appeal. The Petitioners asked that their own court appeal be dismissed as premature because the MassDEP proceeding remained ongoing.  On Wednesday, the First Circuit did dismiss the appeal, as the Petitioners had requested, allowing the MassDEP review process to continue through to a final decision by the commissioner.

Kathryn Eiseman, president of the Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast (PLAN), explains:  “This case helps define the limits to the preemptive powers of the Natural Gas Act, and highlights the pivotal role that key state decision-making processes play in interstate pipeline permitting.”

The three-justice panel that heard the case and ruled against TGP included retired United States Supreme Court Justice David Souter.  The Court refers to TGP’s various arguments as “[p]ushing back on … [a] common sense conclusion” and of “little if any persuasive force”.

The Citizen Petitioners were represented at the First Circuit by Richard Kanoff of Burns & Levinson LLP.

The Connecticut Expansion Project would degrade or destroy over ten acres of wetlands in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, much of it in Otis State Forest in Sandisfield. The project is intended to serve three gas utilities in Connecticut.

» Link to all 401 appeal filings

 


» No shortcut for gas pipeline water review

Decision expected in April on review for Otis forest project, and either side can appeal

“No Business as Usual”: Over 130 Groups Nationwide Announce their Opposition to FERC Appointments

Signers of pledge agree to block Trump Administration appointments to the Federal Energy Resource Commission; Action called for on FERC’s rubber stamping of pipelines

by Max Karlin, for Green America
March 8, 2017

Washington DC – Over 130 organizations across the country announced today that they will oppose nominees made by the Trump Administration to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The move reflects the growing resistance nationwide from residents, farmers, business owners, physicians, and environmentalists to FERC’s practice of recklessly permitting pipelines that put hundreds of communities and the drinking water of millions of Americans at risk, in addition to the global climate.

The 135 groups range from dozens of local community organizations and activists to national nonprofit organizations (Beyond Extreme Energy, Center for Biological Diversity, Food and Water Watch, and Green America). At a time when citizens are increasingly calling on Senators to oppose appointed officials that support the fossil fuel industry, the pledge signers, representing over a million people nationwide, pledge to work against each nominee to FERC made by the Trump Administration, and to call on U.S. Senators to use the nomination process to highlight FERC’s rubber stamping of pipeline projects and refusal to listen the legitimate concerns of community groups.

» Group sign-on statement and full list of signers go to

FERC is the agency primarily responsible for reviewing applications for pipelines and conducting environmental assessments, and the agency has been increasingly criticized by local communities impacted by pipelines for its failure to take into account community concerns and independent environmental impact analyses documenting the risks.

Awareness of the dangers of pipeline construction has been heightened with the opposition to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. These are just two of the dozens of pipelines nationwide that are being planned and constructed. The risks are clear: Over 1,000 pipeline accidents occurred between 2010 and 2015 across the U.S. Yet, FERC has rejected only one gas pipeline in 30 years, and relies extensively on the industry’s chosen experts for environmental impact data.

Beyond Extreme Energy, one of the groups coordinating the campaign to oppose Trump’s nominations to FERC, says they are exploring different ways to stop or delay the nominations, including through petition, call-in days to Senators, Senate office visits and rallies, and nonviolent civil disobedience.

“FERC serves the industry it supposedly regulates instead of the American public, and its rubber stamping of pipelines nationwide puts millions of people at risk,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America. “It is imperative that all Americans voice their opposition to business as usual at FERC and oppose any Trump nominees to the agency.”

“FERC is abusing its powers and the law in how it reviews, approves, and greases the wheels for pipelines cutting through communities across America,” said Maya van Rossum, of the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “Given the level of harm pipelines inflict on communities, Congress should be working hard to prevent new nominations to the FERC commission in order to prevent restoration of the quorum they need to approve new pipelines, rather than working with President Trump to advance them.”

“Five days ago, Pruitt’s EPA cancelled all the regulations on venting methane and dumping coal ash in streams,” said Maggie Henry, an anti-fracking activist from Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. “Something must be done to stop the insanity and hold polluters accountable for devastating impacts on people lives and the environment.”

“It is important that Americans understand these pipelines are being used to export our resources, not for us to use them for our energy independence,” said Briget Shields, outreach director, Friends of the Harmed. “I work with families who have been harmed by the extraction of fossil fuels. We need to stop promoting the O&G industry and start protecting the people and the future for our children. It’s time to do away with FERC and fossil fuel expansion and invest in renewable safe energy.”

“Pipelines promote and enable increased fracking, which puts our climate in peril,” said Heather Cantino, Athens County [Ohio] Fracking Action Network. “With methane being 86 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2 (at the 20-year time frame) and methane leakage at high rates unavoidable at all stages of production, fracking is worse for the climate than coal. There is no place for fracking in a livable future.”

“Despite numerous conflicts of interest, strong evidence of harm, demands by Senators and the Governor, FERC permitted Spectra to build their ‘Algonquin’ Pipeline expansion only 105 feet from critical safety infrastructure at Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.” said Dr. Courtney Williams, coordinator with Resist Spectra. “This egregious disregard of public health and safety must be investigated and rectified before FERC is free to act again. We must not empower FERC to harm with impunity.”

“We cannot allow this or any administration to hold the American people and the environment hostage while a handful of oil and gas billionaires develop an energy policy based on climate change denial,” said Tim Spiese, Lancaster Against Pipelines.

“At every step of the way, FERC has worked against efforts to protect people’s health and safety from harms caused by the gas industry,” said Donny Williams, We Are Cove Point. “FERC gave the go-ahead for a $3.8 billion industrial behemoth to be built directly in our community, with homes as close as across the street. FERC allowed Dominion to use safety standards that were written when LNG export terminals didn’t even exist in the US to help the company avoid the stringent review processes that are required by modern standards. The safety and well-being of people and ecosystems across this country are helped by FERC not being able to issue permits due to lack of a quorum.”

“In our work to keep our communities healthy and safe from the Northeast Energy Direct proposed gas pipeline, we were continually affronted by the ways in which the FERC process looked like it might protect citizen and community interests, but always turned out to whitewash our concerns and favor industry,” said Becky Meier, Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline. “It is a process which gives the illusion of fairness, but precludes real meaningful considerations. We were also dismayed that it gave Eminent Domain powers to private-for-profit pipeline corporations at the expense of private property landowners.”

“The clear intent of the current administration to further disempower and block a truly independent regulatory review process, which gives proper weight to those most impacted by the permitting process and most at risk of decisions that do not weigh factors of environmental justice and human well-being, means appointments to fill vacancies on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission need to be made by parties independent of the administration,” said Mark C. Johnson, executive director, The Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice. “A new way must open.”

“Over the past few years, thanks to the efforts of environmental advocates and impacted citizens, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s willful disregard for the public it was charged with protecting has become one of Washington’s worst-kept secrets,” said Karen Feridun, founder, Berks Gas Truth. “The Senate has a rare opportunity to address the issues while the lack of a quorum has stopped the clock on the Commission’s ability to make its reckless and devastating decisions. For the sake of our communities now and in the future, the Senate must act.”

“The evidence is clear: fossil fuels put the health and well-being of workers and many communities at risk,” said Maureen McCue, Iowa Chapter Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Extraction sites involve serious environmental damage and occupational risk.  The health of those living along transport routes and pipelines, like those living near refineries is adversely affected; health impacts associated with fossil fuel induced climate change are complex and widespread.  Fortunately, there are cleaner, healthier alternatives.  Efficiency and clean fossil-free fuels like wind and solar bring well-paying jobs and minimal to no health or adverse environmental impacts.  It’s time to consider the real costs and benefits of our dependence on fossil fuels.”

“To take more than we need and leave a ransacked world is not worthy of us as moral beings” said Cathy Strickler, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley. “FERC must change.”

“China, most of Europe, Japan, and even impoverished Island, Central American, and African nations have made substantial progress in transitioning off fossil fuel towards renewable energy,” said Ed Griffith, New Progressive Alliance. “Thanks to FERC, however, the United States is not among the leaders. It matters not whether a Democrat or Republican is in the White House or which party controls congress, FERC acts as an irrational anchor to the past.”

“What does it say about the tyranny of the pipeline profiteers who use eminent domain for private gain when just one pipeline, Energy Transfer’s Rover, filed a recent lawsuit against resistant landowners with 258 pages of the complaint dedicated to the names of all the people who are being sued?” said Lea Harper, managing director, FreshWater Accountability Project. “FERC is plundering human rights, and the antiquated Natural Gas Act is being used to destroy democracy in the U.S. for the sake of the multi-national investment community that cares nothing for our long-term environmental protection and economic prosperity.”

“Faced with an onslaught of fossil fuel infrastructure buildout, environmental activists have stepped up their pressure on FERC over the past few years, but FERC has responded by digging in to reinforce their pro-industry stance,” said Stuart Anderson, Concerned Citizens of Otego NY. “Despite overwhelming public opposition, FERC has almost invariably sided with the companies that they are supposed to regulate. We need regulators who understand that the damages done by the fossil fuel industries will haunt all humanity for decades to come.”

“If even the former FERC chairman Bay recognizes that FERC is set to cause even more economic and environmental damage unless a different path is chosen, ‘…analyzing the downstream impacts of the use of natural gas and to performing a life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions study…,’ then we must insist on waiting for new commissioners who will manifest a much higher standard of environmental care,” said B. Arrindell, director of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability along the Delaware River

“New fossil fuel infrastructure, from extraction sites through pipelines, shipping lanes and railroads to refineries, locks us into decades of growing fossil fuel use,” said Janet Scoll Johnson, Sunflower Alliance. “Such expansion means both additional global impacts of rising GHG emissions and worsening public health of front line communities. In defense of our communities and the future of life here on earth, Sunflower Alliance opposes all such projects.”

“The Citizens’ Climate Collaborative of North Carolina absolutely opposes the environmentally reckless permitting of gas and oil pipelines by FERC,” said Tana Hartman Thorn, Citizens Climate Collaborative, North Carolina. “The health of people and planet are infinitely more important than the profits of big energy investors.”

“We oppose the appointment of any and all commissioners to FERC until the agency establishes an Office of Public Participation,” said Dave Elder, VeRSE (Vestal Residents for Safe Energy). “Congress passed a law in 1978 directing the agency to create such an office, but for almost 4 decades, FERC has refused to comply. The agency clearly does not care about how pipeline projects might hurt the public, as evidenced by its recent approval of a 42-inch high-pressure natural gas pipeline passing dangerously close to a nuclear power plant only 25 miles north of NYC. That project alone presents catastrophic risks for the entire NYC area, and demonstrates FERC’s total lack of concern for public safety.”

The pledge reads in full:
We understand that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, ignores and dismisses community and climate concerns when reviewing industry permits for fracked-gas pipelines and other infrastructure.

Research indicates that the agency has rejected ONLY ONE such application, in 2016, in 30 years. FERC is in essence a rubber-stamp agency for the fracked-gas industry.

Donald Trump will be able to nominate three Republican commissioners and one other commissioner to the five-member panel over the next six months, one of whom will be a new chair. There are now three vacancies, given the resignation of former chair Norman Bay in the last week of January, and one sitting commissioner’s term expires in June.

Within just weeks, FERC could be controlled by Trump. As bad as things are now with FERC, they could get worse. All FERC-sponsored, open community meetings on proposed fracked-gas infrastructure projects could become one-person-at-a-time, behind-closed-door meetings, as has happened already under the current regime in Ohio, New York, New Jersey and Virginia. FERC could institute rigid, compressed timelines for action on permit applications. Landowners fighting eminent domain abuse could face greater pressure from pipeline companies anxious to take their land. FERC staff could be ordered to do even worse jobs on Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements that deal with threats to community health, safety and climate. The FERC public relations department could actively attempt to portray communities that oppose proposed pipelines in the most negative light. The FERC building security in DC could become more repressive against those who protest there.

Trump’s nominations need to be approved by the full Senate. We call upon members of the Senate, especially those on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee which has to review those nominations, to speak out about the myriad problems with FERC and press Trump’s nominees about its rubber-stamp history for gas industry expansion.

We pledge that when Trump makes his first FERC nomination we will work actively against it and the other nominations, as best and as much as we can, in collaboration with other organizations doing the same.

MEDIA CONTACT: Max Karlin, for Green America, (703) 276-3255 or mkarlin@hastingsgroup.com.

Quorum Remains Out of Reach as FERC Awaits Trump Nominees

March 8 2017
Natural Gas Intelligence

Opposition groups seeking rehearing requests on recently certificated natural gas pipelines don’t appear willing to sit idly by until FERC’s quorum is restored.

Attorneys representing a group of landowners in a filing Monday accused the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of depriving “citizens of their due process rights” through the agency’s “near uniform practice of issuing open ended tolling orders in response to requests for rehearing.”

The filing, a rehearing request and motion for stay, was submitted in opposition to FERC’s approval last month of Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC’s (Transco) Atlantic Sunrise expansion.

Similarly, lawyers for the Accokeek, Mattawoman, Piscataway Creeks Communities Council Inc. (AMP Creeks) wrote in a Feb. 10 rehearing request for Atlantic Sunrise that “a tolling order in response to this request will result in a denial of rehearing due to FERC’s lack of a quorum…AMP Creeks and its members will suffer irreparable harm if the project is implemented. It will therefore seek immediate review of the certificate order in the court of appeals if FERC issues a tolling order here.”

The Allegheny Defense Project, filing jointly with other groups, also submitted a rehearing request for Atlantic Sunrise on Feb. 10.

“FERC’s use of tolling orders in [Natural Gas Act] certificate proceedings has allowed project proponents to engage in extensive construction activities (and in some cases place facilities into service) before FERC addresses the issues raised in timely filed rehearing requests, thus effectively depriving parties of judicial review,” the groups wrote.

If FERC does not issue an order on a rehearing request within 30 days it is considered denied under law. A tolling order gives the Commission more time to reach a decision, and staff are currently authorized to issue tolling orders while FERC lacks a quorum.
FERC currently has two sitting commissioners after the departure of former Chairman Norman Bay early last month.

It’s common for environmentalists and landowner groups to challenge FERC’s pipeline certificate orders, and the agency has generally succeeded in the courts in such cases, Washington, DC-based analyst firm ClearView Energy Partners told clients this week. But the unusual situation presented by a two-member FERC unable to act on rehearings could increase the risk of challengers securing a stay, ClearView said, noting that a similar challenge was filed against the Atlantic Bridge expansion by the Town of Weymouth, MA.

“Given the potentially novel legal arguments posed by these parties, we will be watching to see whether any federal appellate court would grant a stay at least long enough to hear what we expect will be motions for preliminary injunction/stays on the pipeline’s construction,” ClearView analysts said. “How long such a stay might last is unclear. In the past, the courts have instituted very short stays (as little as a week) on natural gas pipeline construction as the bar for such judicial relief is high.

“Pipeline opponents to date have not been successful in securing stays before the Commission acts on rehearing, and therefore a petition for stay on these more recently approved projects may not fare better than earlier cases.”

For its part, Transco responded to the rehearing and stay requests filed against Atlantic Sunrise, telling FERC that a stay would unduly harm the operator, which expects to bring part of the 1.7 million Dth/d expansion online later this year.

“Despite the Commission’s well-informed, carefully crafted findings and determinations in its certificate order, the Movants, motivated by their views that any natural gas infrastructure is harmful and that environmental considerations outweigh all other public benefits, now request that the Commission enter a stay,” Transco wrote.

“…This stay motion fails to specifically identify any imminent irreparable harm, but rather is proffered as a premature, blanket stay request designed to delay any progress with respect to this certificated project.”

Updated: Trump to nominate McIntyre, Chatterjee, Powelson to FERC, reports say

By
March 9, 2017

Dive Brief:

  • President Trump is expected to nominate energy lawyer Kevin McIntyre, longtime Senate aide Neil Chatterjee, and Pennsylvania utility regulator Robert Powelson to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to media reports.
  • Anonymous sources told Bloomberg this week McIntyre is expected to be nominated to chair the commission, a seat currently occupied by Acting Chairman Cheryl LeFleur, an Obama appointee who would stay on as a commissioner.
  • Senators from both sides of the aisle have called on Trump to nominate officials to FERC, which has been without enough members for a quorum since January, leaving it unable to make major decisions.

Dive Insight:

With nominees confirmed for the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy in recent weeks, the White House is now reportedly turning its attention to FERC.

Kevin McIntyre, a lawyer at the Cleveland energy firm Jones Day, is expected to be nominated to head the commission. McIntyre is no stranger to the agency, having argued cases before the commission on behalf of energy companies.

Neil Chatterjee, a longtime aid to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), is also expected to be named to the commission. Chatterjee has long been involved in crafting conservative environmental policy in the Senate, Bloomberg notes, and helped coordinate efforts to oppose the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature climate rule.

And Robert Powelson, a Pennsylvania regulator and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, is expected to round out Trump’s FERC nominees, according to the Wall Street Journal. Powelson is a steadfast advocate for the expansion of energy infrastructure, particularly gas pipelines.

Reports of the nominations came a day after Greenwire reported McIntyre, Chatterjee and Powelson were in the running for seats, along with Wisconsin regulator Ellen Nowak.

Two well-connected Washington energy lawyers backed up some of the reports, telling Utility Dive Wednesday that they had heard McIntyre and Chatterjee were under consideration as well. The lawyers requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about nomination discussions.

While Bloomberg reports it could be months before the Senate gets around to a confirmation hearing, the two nominees could encounter little opposition.

More than a dozen Senate Democrats, including the ranking member on the energy committee, sent a letter to Trump this week calling on him to “act to restore the quorum” at FERC, which the agency lost in January when then-Chairman Norman Bay stepped down, leaving it unable to render major decisions.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the chair energy committee, said last month that she would personally shepherd FERC nominees through the confirmation process.

Currently, FERC has only two sitting members — LeFleur and Commissioner Colette Honorable, both Democrats. The Commission cannot have more than three members from one political party, and both sitting regulators are expected to stay on after new members are confirmed.

Montague says gas moratorium is resolvable

By MIRANDA DAVIS Greenfield Recorder Staff
Thursday, March 09, 2017

MONTAGUE MA,TURNERS FALLS — Montague town officials say Berkshire Gas Co.’s moratorium on new and expanded service can be quickly resolved by the company.

The town made this assertion in two testimonies filed in the Department of Public Utilities review of Berkshire’s Five-Year Forecast and Supply Plan.

“The solutions proposed by expert witnesses Kenji Takahashi of Synapse Energy Economics and John Rosenkranz of North Side Energy LLC would also be much less costly to implement than either of Berkshire’s two current proposals to end the moratorium,” town officials said in a press release Thursday.

The self-imposed moratorium is on the gas company expansion into its eastern service area, including Montague, Greenfield, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately. Berkshire Gas imposed the moratorium because the utility said it had reached pipeline capacity.

Since then, the company’s filing with the state Department of Public Utilities has been narrowed to recommend two ideas: a new liquefied natural gas storage facility somewhere in its Franklin County service area, or an expansion of its distribution main between Greenfield and Tennessee Gas Pipeline interconnection in Southwick.

Montague was accepted as a full intervenor in the proceeding, which allows Montague to provide testimony and to be involved in other aspects of the review. The town can also present alternatives to Berkshire’s moratorium.

Chris Farrell, a spokesperson for Berkshire, said the company has received a copy of the testimony and is currently reviewing it.

Montague’s witnesses in the review approach both the supply and the demand sides of the problem, according to the town.

Takahasi recommends the company decrease its estimate of how much additional gas it needs by more accurately taking into account the energy-efficiency programs it is carrying out. He also recommends renegotiating contracts with “two large customers,” with the idea of having those customers switch to another fuel during peak demand times.

Rosenkranz recommends that Berkshire Gas upgrade a section of its Greenfield Feedline from Hatfield to Greenfield.

He said by replacing some of the 6-inch-diameter pipeline installed in 1959 with larger diameter pipe, or adding a parallel feedline along the same path, it would help serve more customers.

He, too, according to the town’s release, “recommends modifications to delivery arrangements with major customers that he says would alleviate pressure constraints at the northern end of the Greenfield line — a key issue behind the moratorium.”

According to the town, the two solutions its witnesses are proposing would cost substantially less than the current solutions proposed by Berkshire Gas.

Hearings on the moratorium will be on April 4 and 5 at the Department of Public Utilities in Boston.
__________________________________

Additional information from testimony filed by Montague on Wednesday:

• Demand-Side Analysis in Testiomy of Kenji Takahashi of Synapse Energy Economics

• Supply-Side Analysis in Testimony of John Rosenkranz of North Side Energy

UNH Research Finds Increased Energy Use Not Needed to Grow Economy

University of New Hampshire
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
 

DURHAM, N.H. – New England does not need to increase energy use to continue to grow its economy, according to new research released by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire that looked at cost, reliability and risk associated with the region’s electricity future. Support for the research was provided by the New Hampshire chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority.

According to the researchers, from 2005-15 real GDP in New England grew by 9.7 percent while energy use fell by 9.6 percent. In addition, electricity consumption is expected to drop by 0.2 percent per year over the next decade.

The researchers also found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, New Hampshire residents and businesses actually pay the same or less for energy as other areas of the country. While the price per kilowatt has been higher than the national average for decades, the average residential electricity bill in New Hampshire is equal to the national average.

“It is important to prevent further increases in the cost of energy and ideally to reduce the overall cost of electricity in New Hampshire, especially for customer groups adversely affected by the state’s relatively high electricity prices, including more intensive commercial and industrial users as well as low-income households that pay a greater portion of their income for energy,” the researchers said.

While some have called for investment in new natural gas pipelines, the researchers found that the data suggest current natural gas pipeline capacity is adequate. Better contracting and other soft-infrastructure changes such as changes to rules, regulations and policies combined with the promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energy will have at least as much return on investment as expanded pipeline capacity without exposing ratepayers to higher electricity rates from expensive infrastructure investments.

The share of electrical power generated from natural gas has grown in New England from 15 percent in 2000 to almost 50 percent in 2015. Previous studies suggesting that grid reliability may be an issue after 2021 recognize the challenges are primarily associated with extreme operating conditions. In fact, the new Carsey study concludes that New England’s electrical grid has been reliable during periods of high energy demand associated with cold winter temperatures, including the extreme polar vortex event of January 2014.

“We believe that while the utility companies’ goal of reducing electricity costs in the state is admirable, their strategy of expanded natural gas capacity in the region funded by ratepayers poses a significant risk of raising electricity costs further,” the researchers said. “Policy makers may want to consider options that carry less risk and a better return on investment, including better use of existing infrastructure and increased investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

The Carsey report can be found here: https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/perspective/nh-electricity-markets

The research was conducted by Cameron Wake, research professor with the Earth Systems Research Center and the Josephine A. Lamprey Professor of Climate and Sustainability at UNH; Matt Magnusson, doctoral student in UNH’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences; Christina Foreman, affiliate research professor with the Earth Systems Research Center at UNH; and Fiona Wilson, executive director of the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise and associate clinical professor at the Peter T. Paul College of Business & Economics at UNH.

The Carsey School of Public Policy conducts research, leadership development, and engaged scholarship relevant to public policy. They address pressing challenges, striving for innovative, responsive, and equitable solutions at all levels of government and in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

The University of New Hampshire is a flagship research university that inspires innovation and transforms lives in our state, nation and world. More than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries engage with an award-winning faculty in top ranked programs in business, engineering, law, liberal arts and the sciences across more than 200 programs of study. UNH’s research portfolio includes partnerships with NASA, NOAA, NSF and NIH, receiving more than $100 million in competitive external funding every year to further explore and define the frontiers of land, sea and space. 

Clean energy intrigue alleged

by Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine
February 23, 2017

Environmental advocates say a 1,200 megawatt clean energy solicitation developed by the Baker administration is biased in favor of large-scale hydro projects favored by some of the state’s utilities.

The energy diversity legislation authorizing the clean energy procurement was approved last year on Beacon Hill with a provision giving preference to hybrid projects that deliver hydroelectricity in tandem with either wind or solar power. But the environmental advocates say the draft request for proposals includes provisions that make it difficult for wind and solar to compete for space in any procurement.

“It’s an energy diversity bill that stifles diversity,” said George Bachrach, the president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

Bachrach said he is wary of the contracting process because the state’s electric utilities are not only helping to write the RFP with the Department of Energy Resources but expect to benefit from it by building the transmission lines that deliver the power.

Eversource Energy, for example, helped craft the RFP and is also working closely with Hydro-Quebec on the Northern Pass project, which would deliver hydroelectricity only on a transmission line running from the Canadian border to southern New Hampshire. “How many hats can you wear?” Bachrach asked.

One provision in the draft RFP requires any project combining hydro and either wind or solar to include an annual schedule of deliveries on an hourly basis. Another would require the energy sources to produce at least 60 percent of the highest annual single hourly delivery during the winter peak. Failure to comply with either provision would trigger financial penalties.

Both provisions are problematic for variable energy sources such as wind and solar, whose output depend on the weather. Solar, in particular, would have a problem with the winter peak requirement, since the sun typically is down by the time the winter peak occurs.

Peter Shattuck, the Massachusetts director of the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group, said the RFP should be changed. “As written, the RFP would favor large hydro over the wind and solar that we need to diversify the energy mix, drive in-region economic development, and achieve renewable power requirements,” he said.

Kevin O’Shea, a spokesman for the Department of Energy Resources, issued a statement that did not address the concerns raised by environmental advocates but said Massachusetts “continues to lead in its pursuit of a diversified renewable energy portfolio in order to provide the Commonwealth’s residents with a cost-effective and reliable clean energy future.” His statement said all feedback on the draft RFP will be evaluated and considered.

Environmental advocates aren’t the only ones raising issues with the RFP.  Ed Krapels, the president of Anbaric Transmission, which is working with National Grid to import hydroelectricity from Canada along with wind power from New York, said the RFP is very complex. “It will be hard for wind and, therefore, wind and hydro, to bid into this RFP,” he said in an email. “Small solar projects may find it easier because they may not be as dependent on new transmission. I’m sure [Massachusetts officials are] getting lots of comments from stakeholders, so maybe they’ll fix it.”

Peregrine Energy Group, which was hired as the independent evaluator of the contracting process, raised some of the same issues as the environmental advocates in its report on the RFP. But Peregrine didn’t seem overly concerned, saying the issues could be addressed by tweaking some of the RFP’s language. Peregrine raised more concerns about other requirements outlined in the RFP, which the company said “will likely limit participation of wind projects as bidders.”

In a conference call on Wednesday with financial analysts, top officials at Eversource sounded very optimistic that Northern Pass, which has yet to win regulatory approval in New Hampshire, will not only pass muster in the Granite State but land at least a portion of the Massachusetts clean energy contract.

Jim Judge, the CEO of Eversource, said on the conference call that Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire is a strong supporter of Northern Pass. He indicated the project should win approval in the fall. As for the Massachusetts RFP, which is expected to win final approval and go out later this spring, with bids due three months later, Judge was optimistic. “We believe Northern Pass is well positioned for this RFP,” he said.

Clean Energy Jobs Mean Business

By Ron Pernick, CleanEdge.com
March 6, 2017

Clean energy jobs have been in the news lately, and for good reason. Solar jobs expanded by 25% and accounted for one out of every 50 new jobs created in America last year, according to the Solar Foundation’s annual census of solar employment. Based on projections from the U.S. Department of Labor, the fastest growing job in the U.S. over the next 10 years isn’t in healthcare or high tech, but in clean tech: wind turbine technician. And solar and wind power generation jobs (474,545 combined nationwide) now outpace jobs in natural gas electric power generation (362,118) and coal power generation (160,119), as reported in the second annual Department of Energy (DOE) survey of energy jobs in America.

The growth in clean-energy jobs isn’t surprising when you consider that renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind) accounted for nearly 15% of domestic utility-scale electrical generation last year, up considerably from just 10.4% in 2010. An assessment by the Sun Day campaign, which reports regularly on U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, finds that “electrical output by utility-scale plus distributed solar grew by 44% in 2016 compared to 2015. By comparison, electrical generation by coal dropped by 8.3% and that from petroleum liquids & coke plummeted by 15.4%. Solar-generated electricity is now more than double that from petroleum sources.”

The DOE’s U.S. Energy and Employment Report provides the best available census on the traditional energy and clean energy workforces. A consortium of national business groups, including the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Advanced Energy Economy, American Wind Energy Association, and Solar Energy Industries Association – utilizing government statistics and applying a common definition of what constitutes a clean energy job, say that the clean energy industry now accounts for more than three million U.S. jobs. That’s roughly equal to those in retail stores, and twice those in building construction.

According to the group’s assessment of the DOE data, the clean energy sector now supports:

  • Nearly two million workers making buildings, appliances, and other products more energy efficient
  • More than 600,000 workers involved with clean power generation, including from such sources as biomass, biogas, fuel cells, geothermal, hydropower, solar, waste-to-energy, and wind
  • 100,000 workers in advanced grid technologies, including energy storage, and another 100,000 workers in biofuels
  • 200,000 jobs in advanced transportation, including hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles.

A review of state-level activity is equally telling. In a growing number of states, clean energy jobs now outpace those of traditional energy (in a range of categories). A Clean Edge review of the state-level charts finds that:

  • Arizona now has more people working in solar power generation (9,774) than natural gas and coal electric power generation combined (9,709)
  • A growing number of states now have more jobs in renewable electricity generation (solar, wind, and hydro combined) than in conventional electricity generation (natural gas, coal, and oil combined). These include a host of red states (based on 2016 presidential election results), including Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma
  • In Hawaii, in the transmission, distribution and storage jobs category, the number of microgrid-related jobs (2,317) outpaces that of the traditional transmission and distribution workforce (1,341) by more than 70%
  • In California, solar electricity generation jobs (152,947) are nearly 10 times those in natural gas electricity generation employment (16,960)

Any reliable assessment of clean energy industry growth, and the jobs created by it, isn’t possible without access to the rich datasets from the EIA, DOE, Department of Labor, and other federal institutions. The release of the DOE’s second annual reporting on energy jobs is key to open and transparent reporting and the ability to track and analyze energy-related job trends. We hope to see such critical accounting continue.

But the significant upside of the clean-energy revolution, and its concomitant jobs, is being overlooked, and even maligned, by the Trump Administration. Trump’s America Energy First Energy Plan, for example, lacks one single mention of renewables. Nothing on solar, wind, efficiency, energy storage or EV integration. Instead, it reads like a fossil fuel baron’s wish list from an earlier era.

This short-sighted and one-sided approach overlooks the positive social, economic, and, dare I say, environmental benefits of clean energy. As prices for solar, wind, and energy storage continue to decline, and cities, states, and corporations demand ever higher amounts of low- and zero-carbon electrons (in some cases up to 100%), Trump puts the entire country in jeopardy by disregarding the job-creating prowess of these rapidly expanding technologies. With China, India, Germany, Denmark, and other countries leading the clean-energy charge at the national level, such actions put America’s global energy and economic leadership at serious risk.


Ron Pernick is founder and managing director of research and advisory firm Clean Edge and the coauthor of two books on clean-tech business trends and innovation, Clean Tech Nation (HarperCollins, 2012) and The Clean Tech Revolution (HarperCollins, 2007).

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Revealed: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s Close Ties to Lobbyists For Spectra Energy, Whose Pipeline Projects He Backs

By Itai Vardi, DeSmogBlog
February 28, 2017

There has been fierce opposition across Massachusetts to the natural gas pipeline projects of Spectra Energy — residents, campaigners, and politicians have been lining up to oppose the pipelines that will run across the state.

But none of this opposition has swayed the state’s governor, Charlie Baker, who has consistently backed Spectra’s plans.

However, DeSmog can reveal a cozy relationship between Baker and a lobbying company that has been working to push Spectra’s plans through. Those ties run from publicly declared “love” between one lobbyist and Baker to a loaning of office space.

Behind Spectra’s Lobbyists, ML Strategies
Late last year, the governor’s political campaign committee used the services of the law firm Mintz Levin, whose lobbying arm ML Strategies represents Spectra in the state.
An expenditures disclosure by the committee includes a payment from last September to the Boston-based firm Mintz Levin for “legal consulting.”

ML Strategies has been lobbying for Spectra Energy since 2015, as the pipeline company began pushing for the approval of two of its projects in the state, Atlantic Bridge and Access Northeast.
Both projects are planned upgrades to its Algonquin Gas Pipeline carrying fracked gas from Pennsylvania, through New York, and into New England and Canada.

While Spectra has received approval for Atlantic Bridge by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), it is still waiting on a final permit decision by Massachusetts regulators under the authority of the Baker administration.

DeSmog asked Governor Baker’s office about the payment to Mintz Levin but a spokesperson declined to comment and, instead, referred DeSmog to the Massachusetts Republican Party.

A spokesperson for the Massachusetts GOP did not respond to DeSmog’s several invitations for comment. Mintz Levin also failed to respond to questions.

A Cozy Relationship with Spectra Lobbyist Firm
Charlie Baker also has close ties with senior figures at ML Strategies. One of the firm’s lobbyists is Bill Weld, who in 2016 ran as the vice-presidential nominee of libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Weld, himself a former governor of Massachusetts, was Baker’s previous boss and political mentor. Baker served as the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services under Weld in the mid-1990s. And the two have remained close.

In one of his 2014 gubernatorial campaign videos, Baker is seen walking alongside Weld. When asked last year if he’ll be voting for the libertarian ticket, Baker reportedly said of Weld “I love the man, OK? I really do.”

The chair of ML Strategies, lobbyist Stephen Tocco, was Baker’s former colleague in Weld’s administration. Tocco, who served as Weld’s special assistant and close advisor, reportedly still maintains a close relationship with Baker.

Mark Robinson, another attorney at Mintz Levin, served as a counselor for Baker’s transition committee as he took the governor’s office in 2015. Previously, Robinson was former Governor Weld’s chief of staff.

The Baker committee’s historical expenditure disclosures also show that since 2013, Baker rented Mintz Levin’s office space in downtown Boston a total of three times. In May 2015 ML Strategies held a fundraiser for Baker, raising close to $30,000.

» Read more

Beaton Sees State Permitting Role in Controversial Weymouth Gas Project

By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON — As pressure mounts on Gov. Charlie Baker to speak out against a planned natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, the town’s mayor hopes to torpedo the project through a state permitting process.

Activists opposed to new fossil fuel infrastructure who fear gaseous pollutants seeping from the proposed station and the potential for a disaster have sought to enlist Baker in their cause to no avail.

Speaking to anti-pipeline activist Margaret Bellafiore, who called in to WGBH’s Ask the Governor program last week, Baker said the state only has a bit part to play, with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission taking the leading role in permitting Spectra Energy’s multistate Atlantic Bridge pipeline.

“The feds at the end of the day control these decisions,” Baker said on Thursday.

“Lock, stock and barrel,” ventured co-host Margery Eagan.

“That’s right,” Baker replied.

Although FERC controls the siting of the project, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton said that as part of the federal approval the project must receive state environmental permits.

“Now it turns to us as part of that FERC license to make sure that the project meets the requirements of state environmental permitting and we are going to look at those issue by issue,” Beaton told the News Service on Friday.

Beaton said the project would be assessed based on the merits and “not in any predetermined way.”

Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund, a Republican and former state senator, has been waging a multi-front legal challenge to Spectra’s plans for locating a compressor station within the Weymouth Fore River Designated Port Area.

The South Shore town contends that building a gas compressor across the water from Quincy contravenes the state’s federally approved Coastal Zone Management policy of promoting water-dependent industries in the state’s ports.

“It has to be a water-dependent use under that designation and we’re contending this is not a water-dependent use,” Hedlund told the News Service. Hedlund said the proposed compressor station is also uniquely situated in a densely populated area.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, compressors maintain pressure to keep gas flowing, and there are 1,400 in the U.S. natural gas pipeline network.

In its conditional approval, FERC described the Weymouth compressor station as a 7,700 horsepower facility that will be raised to about 19 feet above sea level with a permanent footprint of about 4 acres.

A spokeswoman for Spectra Energy Partners said the Atlantic Bridge project will “move reliable, economical natural gas into New England and to specific end use markets in the Canadian Maritime provinces targeting an in-service date in November 2017.”

Before the Office of Coastal Zone Management finishes its consistency review, Spectra will need a so-called Chapter 91 waterways permit and an air quality permit from the Department of Environmental Protection, according to Beaton’s office.

The Weymouth mayor thinks defeating the compressor station is a longshot.

“The odds are still against us,” Hedlund said. He said, “You haven’t seen one of these projects ever rejected.”

For Alice Arena, an activist who believes the pipeline project would foil the state’s required greenhouse gas reduction target, the field of battle is both within the courts and the political sphere.

Arena was part of a group that tried to raise Baker’s awareness of the project by delivering anti-pipeline messages from thousands of residents to the governor. Arena said she does not know why the governor is discounting his power to affect the outcome.

“It’s kind of hard to predict motive. He continues to give the industry line that we need the gas,” Arena told the News Service. She said, “We will continue to petition Governor Baker.”

Arena’s group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station has hired attorney Carolyn Elefant, based in Washington D.C., to contest FERC’s decision, and it has been fundraising “aggressively” to finance the legal challenge.

On the radio, Baker attempted to shift the focus to members of Congress.

“We’ve talked about this before. And you really ought to make sure you communicate those postcards to your federal representatives,” Baker told Bellafiore. “Because in the end these decisions get made by the federal government. The state has a minor role to play.”

Congressman Stephen Lynch has come out in opposition to FERC’s decision, and said he would work with both state and local officials on the matter.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey asked FERC to immediately rescind the approval before it loses its quorum.

Sen. Patrick O’Connor, a Weymouth Republican, said the area’s entire delegation is opposed to the Weymouth compressor station and the governor has been responsive to him.

“The governor has taken every single conversation that I’ve had,” said O’Connor, who said the federal energy lobby has made it difficult to challenge energy companies through the regulatory process. He said, “We’re in a really bad spot here.”

Shortly after taking office, Baker spoke favorably about another Spectra project, Access Northeast.

“I was glad to see Eversource and National Grid come out yesterday and talk about working on a project that would support that, to widen and expand existing pipeline capacity along the existing right-of-ways,” Baker said in a February 2015 New England Council breakfast.

Ways you can help stop destruction of the few Indian features left in Massachusetts

by Lisa McLoughlin of Nolumbeka Project

• preserve land for whatever reason — environmental preservation usually means that cultural resources are preserved on that land too. Support your local land trust.

• support Tribal efforts to protect their traditional cultural properties — protest projects that will bulldoze them, and make connections with Tribal Historic Preservation Officers if you have
found some stone structures that need protection (either through your historical commission, Nolumbeka Project, or similar group or reach out to them directly)

• influence the workings of your town, state, and national governments toward protection of cultural resources — introduce and enact laws that put in place protections and processes that require traditional cultural properties to be taken into account, that encourage smart development (or less development), that take a wholistic approach.

• learn about cultural resources and the governmental agencies that manage them — the writings of Thomas F. King are especially good at helping non-experts understand what’s at stake and how to go about protecting it: Saving Places that Matter, and the National Park Service Bulletin 38 are 2 good places to start.

• read history, especially local history, and collect stories from older people, hunters, and farmers (people close to the land) in your community — find out and document what was/is there so that if it is threatened you can speak to its importance. This applies to the land pre- and post- colonist—an important part of doing this work is setting the record straight and reclaiming the history of the first people before we came, and our interactions with them since. It will tell us a lot not just about them, but about us and issues we still have not resolved about how we treat others as a culture.

• talk to others about why these features matter.

Finally, I’d say that while many stone features have been destroyed, there are still thousands left. They are hiding in our back yards, in our state forests, along our waterways — everywhere in plain sight. Help others realize why they should be respectful of these when they find them, help them imagine what it might mean to have a religiously-important structure (e.g. something built to honor someone in your family) technically belong to someone else, or be at risk from vandals, pot-hunters, and developers. These stone structures are examples of how humans found a way to interact respectfully and in a mutually-beneficial way with nature. They are Natural Cultural nodes, blueprints for how we will need to think in the future if we are to survive and allow our natural world survive. They are important beyond the specific, and they should give us hope.

» Learn more about Ceremonial Stone Landscapes impacted by Kinder Morgan’s CT Expansion Pipeline path in Massachusetts

» Learn more about Nolumbeka Project

CT Legislation to support!

From Connecticut Chapter Chair, Sierra Club:
Several bills
 that could determine Connecticut’s energy future are before the state legislature.

Efficiency and clean energy have created tens of thousands of jobs in Connecticut, but some of those jobs are at risk if the legislature doesn’t act to build upon Connecticut’s successful clean energy policies. Instead, we could be stuck paying higher bills for more dirty and dangerous energy.  

On February 7th the Legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee held a hearing to consider a critical bill to continue and increase the state’s renewable energy requirements after 2020, Senate Bill 630. What wasn’t discussed was a bill to end ratepayer subsidies for more gas and pollution, known as House Bill 6546. The legislature is faced with the choice to invest in a clean energy economy or more dirty fuels and they need to hear from you today!

Contact Sen. Kevin Witkos and Rep. Brian Ohler today, and ask them to help lower energy costs and deliver more clean energy jobs by supporting both Senate Bill 630 and House Bill 6546. 

In 2016, the state’s renewable energy requirements led to contracts for new solar projects across the state in and near Brooklyn, Canterbury, Colebrook, Enfield, Litchfield, New Milford, North Haven, North Stonington, Plainfield, Pomfret, Preston, Simsbury, Somers, Stonington, Wallingford, and Waterford, reducing carbon pollution and generating affordable clean energy, new jobs, and revenues for local communities. But those requirements don’t increase after 2020.  

If our legislators don’t continue supporting clean energy, we’ll be stuck paying higher bills for dirty energy like gas, instead of investing in cleaner air and more wind and solar in New England. We’ve already subsidized new gas conversions and pipelines, and that needs to end.  

Your representatives need to hear from you: send a message to them today in support of clean energy and reducing carbon pollution. 

Legislators also discussed other bills that could subsidize the unreliable Millstone nuclear plant (Senate Bill 106) and limit solar power (Senate Bill 412). Be sure to let your officials know that we need more clean energy from wind and solar power to avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption, not unnecessary restrictions or last century’s outdated technology.  

Thanks for all you do for the environment and your communities! 

Sincerely,
Martha Klein
Connecticut Chapter Chair
Sierra Club

 

Proposed Access Northeast pipeline will cost New England $6.6 billion, not the $3.2 billion claimed by pipeline sponsors

February 7, 2017 – The costs of the proposed Access Northeast pipeline to transport fracked gas into Massachusetts and other New England states would be more than double what pipeline sponsors claim — $6.6 billion versus the projected $3.2 billion – according to a dramatic new report by Synapse Energy Economics.

Furthermore, the report projects that the use of natural gas in New England for electric generation will decrease by 27% by 2023, compared to 2015, leaving the pipelines underused and unneeded.

The report was sponsored by a coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club of Massachusetts, Consumers for Sensible Energy, Pipeline Awareness Network of the Northeast, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, Connecticut Fund for the Environment and the Sierra Club of Connecticut.

Rather than reduce consumers’ bills, as claimed by the pipeline sponsors, the pipeline would increase costs for Massachusetts consumers by $141 million over the life of the pipeline, according the Synapse report.

“This report confirms what we’ve been saying all along- these pipelines aren’t needed, would raise costs on consumers, contribute to climate change, and put us in non-compliance with Massachusetts’ energy and environmental laws.”  said Emily Norton of the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Sierra Club.  “Massachusetts has a proud legacy of being a leader in the fight for our environment, but this would be a giant step backwards, toward increased reliance on fossil fuels. We deserve real solutions that look to the future, not more fracked gas pipelines that contribute to global warming, harm our environment and pick our pockets.”

“This study provides a reality check on the costs of Access Northeast to consumers and demonstrates that forging ahead with massive gas infrastructure expansion is incompatible with legal mandates throughout the region, said Kathryn R. Eiseman, President, Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, Inc.  “We know that to comply with the law and sound climate policy, we must reject this gas infrastructure overbuild and double down on renewables, energy storage, and demand-side solutions — and this study shows that.”

The use of gas-fired electricity will decline dramatically, according to the Synapse report, because electricity demand is expected to be flat for the foreseeable future and state laws require the use of more renewable resources which will force gas out of the system.

» Read full article

» Read the Synapse Study

Departure awakening of Norman Bay

Among his many early acts as President, Donald Trump re-appointed Cheryl LaFluer as acting chair for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, resulting in current chair, Norman Bay’s resignation. Leading up to his last day on February 3, FERC approved many projects before dropping to only two of five positions, losing their quorum. Added on to the very last project approval was this last-minute epiphany by Norman Bay:

BAY, Commissioner, Separate Statement
(Issued February 3, 2017)

The shale revolution has upended U.S. energy markets. Only a decade ago, the United States was thought to be running out of oil and gas, and imports of both were growing. Today, we are the world’s leading producer of oil and gas, with new production coming from shale formations across the United States.1 To serve the new production areas and to satisfy increasing demand, the interstate pipeline industry has built and is planning to build a large amount of infrastructure. In 2016, daily gas production in the United States stood at 72.4 billion cubic feet per day (Bcfd).2 That same year, the Commission certificated 17.6 Bcfd of pipeline capacity. This infrastructure expansion, coupled with growing production, has resulted in declining natural gas prices and a significant reduction in basis differentials – the difference in prices between Henry Hub and other gas trading hubs – across most of the United States.

This week the Commission has issued a series of orders that certificate, in aggregate, more than several billion cubic feet of new gas pipeline capacity. This infrastructure can provide significant economic, reliability, and resiliency benefits. Gas is the marginal fuel in most wholesale power markets, and the wholesale price of electricity has dropped by double-digit amounts in 20153 and 2016 across the United States.4 It is also true that carbon emissions from the power sector have dropped 24 percent from 2005 levels.5 For comparison purposes, the Clean Power Plan targets a 32 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, so the United States is three-quarters of the way there with 13 years to go.6 While the increased use of renewable energy has helped, fuel switching from coal to gas has driven much of the reduction since gas emits about half the carbon as coal. In 2016, for the first time ever, more electricity was produced from gas than from coal.7 Natural gas-fired generators, because of their fast- ramping characteristics, also complement renewable resources and can support a higher penetration of renewables. 8
Nevertheless, it is also true that the development of natural gas pipeline infrastructure has become increasingly controversial.9 While FERC does not regulate the production of natural gas, methane emissions, or the use of fracking, many commenters have raised environmental concerns in our certificate proceedings. Moreover, because our certificate authority under the Natural Gas Act carries with it the ability to invoke eminent domain, property rights advocates have also objected to pipeline projects, alleging that private property is not being taken for a public use. As a result, the public interest in our work on energy projects is considerable. In order to respond to this interest, I write separately to encourage the Commission to build on the progress that has been made to date and, in particular, to explore two other issues.
One is how the Commission establishes need in doing its certificate reviews under section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act. The certificate policy statement, which was issued in 1999, lists a litany of factors for the Commission to consider in evaluating need.10 Yet, in practice, the Commission has largely relied on the extent to which potential shippers have signed precedent agreements for capacity on the proposed pipeline. This is a useful proxy for need, because presumably shippers would not sign up for capacity unless it was needed. But focusing on precedent agreements may not take into account a variety of other considerations, including, among others: whether the capacity is needed to ensure deliverability to new or existing natural gas-fired generators, whether there is a significant reliability or resiliency benefit; whether the additional capacity promotes competitive markets; whether the precedent agreements are largely signed by affiliates; or whether there is any concern that anticipated markets may fail to materialize. As an example of the latter consideration, LNG import terminals that were built during the early 2000 time period became stranded as shale gas increasingly substituted for LNG imports from overseas.

There are other long-term issues that weigh in favor of examining whether other evidence, in addition to precedent agreements, can help the Commission evaluate project need. It is in the public interest to foster competition for pipeline capacity but also to ensure that the industry remains a healthy one, not subject to costly boom-and-bust cycles. Pipelines are capital intensive and long-lived assets. It is inefficient to build pipelines that may not be needed over the long term and that become stranded assets. Overbuilding may subject ratepayers to increased costs of shipping gas on legacy systems. If a new pipeline takes customers from a legacy system, the remaining captive customers on the system may pay higher rates. Under such circumstances, a cost-benefit analysis may not support building the pipeline.

Adding to the uncertainty, there is fluidity in where gas is being produced in the United States. Some of the first-producing shale plays have already seen output decline as lower-cost basins, like the Marcellus and Utica, gained prominence.11 Major new production areas are being discovered that may impact gas flows on existing and proposed pipelines.12 For decades, pipeline flows generally went from south to north and west to east. Production in the Marcellus and Utica led to flow reversals, with gas being transported from east to west and north to south. What happens to infrastructure developed to ship Marcellus and Utica gas west, if gas is cheaper to produce in Texas and Oklahoma? To the extent that producer-shippers are driving the development of new infrastructure, pipeline developers may now be exposed to market risk not present with shippers that are local distribution companies with a reliable rate base and predictable revenue stream. Similarly, it is important to ask what happens if basis differentials largely disappear at major gas trading hubs across the United States. A shipper would not need to transport gas from a more distant hub if it can be readily obtained for the same price from a closer one. This, too, might reduce the revenues of large interstate gas pipelines.

The other issue the Commission should address is how we conduct our environmental reviews of pipeline projects. With respect to upstream impacts, the Commission has concluded in many cases that the pipelines do not cause the production of gas. Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), in my view, the strongest legal argument against causation is based on Department of Transportation v. Public Citizen.13 Public Citizen holds that “where an agency has no ability to prevent a certain effect due to its limited statutory authority over the relevant actions, the agency cannot be considered a legally relevant ‘cause’ of the effect.”14 Here, of course, FERC has no authority to regulate the production of natural gas; unless federal lands are involved, in general, that authority resides with the states.

Despite the growing importance of Marcellus and Utica gas production – it was 22.5 Bcfd in 2016 and is projected to surpass 44 Bcfd by 2050 – the Commission has never conducted a comprehensive study of the environmental consequences of increased production from that region.15 Nor has the Commission performed a programmatic review of gas production in the different shale formations. This review is not required unless there is a proposed federal plan or program to develop the resources at issue.16 FERC does not have such a plan or program with respect to shale gas. Thus, there is no legal requirement for the Commission to do such a review of gas production from shale formations.

Even if not required by NEPA, in light of the heightened public interest and in the interests of good government, I believe the Commission should analyze the environmental effects of increased regional gas production from the Marcellus and Utica. The Department of Energy has conducted a similar study in connection with the exercise of their obligations under Section 3(a) of the Natural Gas Act.17 Where it is possible to do so, the Commission should also be open to analyzing the downstream impacts of the use of natural gas and to performing a life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions study, both of which DOE has conducted in issuing permits for LNG exports. This information may be of use to the Commission, the public, and industry in examining the broader issues raised in certification proceedings.

Beyond the two issues I have highlighted, there may well be other issues that could usefully be examined by the Commission. Such an examination would be consistent with the best traditions of FERC, where, time and again, the Commission has sought the views of a diverse range of stakeholders when exploring important issues. Indeed, a recent example of such outreach occurred after the EPA issued its proposed rulemaking on the Clean Power Plan; FERC held a series of technical conferences to examine the implications of the Clean Power Plan for the electric industry. As important as infrastructure development is, it must also occur through processes that continue to promote public participation, transparency, and confidence.

For all those reasons, I respectfully offer this separate statement.

1 – United States remains largest producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons, U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION: TODAY IN ENERGY (May 23, 2016), http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=26352.
2 – Short-Term Energy Outlook: Natural Gas, U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION: ANALYSIS AND PROJECTIONS (Jan. 10, 2017), https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/natgas.cfm.
3 – Wholesale power prices decrease across the country in 2015, U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION: TODAY IN ENERGY (Jan. 11, 2016), https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=24492.
4 – Wholesale power prices in 2016 fell, reflecting lower natural gas prices, U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION: TODAY IN ENERGY (Jan. 11, 2017), http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=29512.
5 – U.S. Energy Information Administration, January 2017 Monthly Energy Review 185 (2017), https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/mer.pdf.
6 – Fact Sheet: Overview of the Clean Power Plan, U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: THE CLEAN POWER PLAN (Aug. 3, 2015), https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/fs-cpp-overview.pdf.
7 – Natural Gas Expected to Surpass Coal in Mix of Fuel Used for U.S. Power Generation in 2016, U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION: TODAY IN ENERGY (Mar. 11, 2016), http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=25392.
8 – Pathways to Decarbonization: Natural Gas and Renewable Energy, JOINT INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC ENERGY ANALYSIS (Apr. 2015), http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy15osti/63904.pdf.
9 See, e.g., Sierra Club, The Gas Rush: Locking America into Another Fossil Fuel for Decades 1 (2017) (noting concern over methane emissions and the “gas rush”), http://content.sierraclub.org/sites/content.sierraclub.org.coal/files/1466-Gas-Rush- Report%2004_web.pdf.
10 – Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Facilities, 88 FERC ¶ 61,227, at 61,748 (1999) (“The types of public benefits that might be shown are quite diverse but could include meeting unserved demand, eliminating bottlenecks, access to new supplies, lower costs to consumers, providing new interconnects that improve the interstate grid, providing competitive alternatives, increasing electric reliability, or advancing clean air objectives.”), clarified, 90 FERC ¶ 61,128, further clarified, 92 FERC ¶ 61,094 (2000).
11 – U.S. Energy Information Administration, Drilling Productivity Report 2 (2017), http://www.eia.gov/petroleum/drilling/pdf/dpr-full.pdf.
12 – USGS Estimates 20 Billion Barrels of Oil in Texas’ Wolfcamp Shale Formation, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (Nov. 15, 2016), https://www.usgs.gov/news/usgs-estimates- 20-billion-barrels-oil-texas-wolfcamp-shale-formation. In addition, the SCOOP-STACK play in Oklahoma is another major recent find. Information on the Oklahoma Liquids Plays, NATURAL GAS INTEL: SHALE DAILY, http://www.naturalgasintel.com/oklahomaliqinfo.
13 – 541 U.S. 752 (2004).
14 – Id. at 770. See also EarthReports v. FERC, 828 F.3d 949, 956 (2016) (following Public Citizen); Sierra Club v. FERC, 827 F.3d 59, 68 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (same); Sierra Club v. FERC, 827 F.3d 36, 46 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (same).
15 – U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2017 with Projections to 2050 53 (2017), http://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/0383 (2017).pdf.
16 – Kleppe v. Sierra Club, 427 U.S. 390, 400-01 (1976).
17 – See U.S. Department of Energy, Addendum to Environmental Review Documents Concerning Exports of Natural Gas from the United States 19 (Aug. 2014), http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/08/f18/Addendum.pdf.

DAPL easement approved

Video dispatches from Linda Black Elk of the Standing Rock Medic Council and Chase Iron Eyes of the Lakota People’s Law Project, announcing that the easement has been granted, regardless of the call for the EIS. Official announcement expected soon and . Confirmation posted below.

Linda Black Elk video announcement – 3:20 EST, 2/7/17

Chase Iron Eyes’ 2/7/2017 statement on the easement approval

Dallas Goldtooth – Indigenous Environmental Network

Call to action. Actions at Army Corp offices on 2/8/17, and ongoing from wherever you are. 140,000 comments on the EIS are being disregarded.
» EveryDayOfAction.org to see what’s on the slate for actions in coming weeks / months

» Dept of Army Announces Intent to Grant DAPL Easement!
Posted by IndigenousRising.org
Feb 7, 2017

Today, the Department of Army send a notice of intent to grant the final easement to Dakota Access pipeline to cross Lake Oahe, also known as the Missouri River.

The letter also states the Department of Army has waived its policy to wait 14 days after Congressional notification before granting an easement. It states an actual easement will be granted no sooner than 24 hours of the letter’s delivery.

» You can read the letter here.

 

Governors can wield influence over pipelines

Natural gas infrastructure is not just federal issue

It’s true that gas pipelines are regulated under the federal Natural Gas Act, but that is not the whole story. There are key areas where states have decision-making power and influence with respect to the permitting, financing, and siting of interstate pipelines. In other words, the pipelines are not strictly a federal matter;  “it’s a federal matteris just a line used by the pipeline companies, and by state officials seeking to obscure their role and responsibility in the buildout of natural gas infrastructure.

In fact, New England governors have in recent years, and to varying degrees, invited in pipeline companies to build more interstate gas infrastructure.

The primary role that the states play in green-lighting these projects is by approving contracts that allow the new infrastructure to be financed by ratepayers. Gov. Charlie Baker’s appointment of utility insiders has led to the predictable result of a Department of Public Utilities (DPU) that rubber-stamps every pipeline capacity contract that comes its way. The DPU (not just under the current administration) has also taken the view that the agency can authorize pipeline companies to survey private land against landowners’ wishes, even before federal authorization (and the eminent domain power that follows) has been granted for a project.

On the environment side of the Energy & Environmental Affairs umbrella agency, there are also several areas in which the administrative agencies can change the trajectory of a pipeline proposal. For example, the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) reviews water quality permit applications, pursuant to the authority vested in the states under the federal Clean Water Act. In New York, the state agency analogous to MassDEP has denied such a permit for a pipeline proposed to cross that state. MassDEP has, to date, approved all water quality permit applications that have come before the agency for recent pipeline projects, without requiring a thorough analysis of impacts and alternatives.

It also appears that MassDEP went out of its way to help clear the path for Spectra’s compressor station slated for Weymouth, overriding the Weymouth Conservation Commission’s denial of a wetlands permit for the Atlantic Bridge project.

We may never know the degree to which such superseding orders and permitting decisions stem from political directives higher up, rather than as result of MassDEP being de-funded and under-staffed as part of Baker’s approach to the environmental agencies. Let it not be forgotten that one of the governor’s early executive orders (based on the Associated Industries of Massachusetts’ “Blueprint for the Next Century”) sought to eliminate regulations that “exceed federal requirements” – apparently in a race to be on par with Alabama rather than California in terms of environmental stewardship.

» Read full article

MA Legislation overview from Mass Power Forward

Call your Massachusetts State Legislators today and let them know you support these bills.

Suggested script:
“I support the Mass Power Forward Legislative agenda and urge you to cosponsor bills to advance clean energy, push back on fossil fuels, ensure all communities have equal protection under the law and fair access to renewable power, and safe decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant. Please cosponsor the bills listed below, and stay vigilant to advance our clean energy future.”

• Accelerating Renewable Energy: Mass Power Forward supports increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standard by 3% each year, driving demand for renewable power and growing our local clean energy industries. We also support a statewide solar target of 25% solar by 2030 and eliminating the solar net metering caps. Additionally, we support a proposal by Rep. Khan to accelerate the RPS by 2% per year while incorporating municipal light plants into the state’s clean energy goals.

HD2157/SD1632 An act relative to solar power and the green economy – Rep. Mark / Sen. Eldridge

HD2103/SD1372 An Act to Increase the RPS and Ensure Compliance with the GWSA – Rep. Khan / Sen. Pacheco

• Solar Access for All:  Mass Power Forward urges the legislature to ensure all communities can benefit from solar energy. This legislation ensures fair compensation to low-income solar and to community shared solar net metering with a minimum threshold of low-moderate income customers, incentivizes projects that expand access to communities facing barriers, and directs the Department of Energy Resources to address barriers like income, housing type and language in their program design.

HD3418/SD841 An Act relative to solar power in environmental justice and urban communities Rep. Holmes / Sen. Chang-Diaz

• Keep Ramping Down on Fossil Fuels: We cheered the August ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court that pipeline taxes are illegal, but we know the fight against new gas pipelines is not over. We support legislation filed by Rep. Kulik and Senator Eldridge to ensure the public’s ability to intervene at the DPU and hold local distribution gas contracts to high standards regarding the capacity they are allowed to buy.  We also support legislation filed by Sen. Jehlen and Rep. Gordon to ensure that electric and gas consumers can never be forced to subsidize new interstate gas pipelines.

HD3204/SD1727 An act clarifying authority and responsibilities of the department of public utilities – Rep. Kulik / Sen. Eldridge

HD2527/SD1674 An Act protecting ratepayers from gas pipeline expansion costs – Sen. Jehlen / Rep. Gordon

• Environmental Justice (EJ): EJ is based on the principle that all people have a right to be protected from environmental pollution and to live in and enjoy a clean and healthful environment. EJ is the equal protection and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws. We support codifying environmental justice definitions and protections into law as this law would do, and altering the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act to incorporate environmental justice concerns into its reviews.

HD3117/SD1956 An Act relative to environmental justice and toxics reduction in the Commonwealth – Rep. Dubois / Sen. Eldridge

• Just Transition at Pilgrim Nuclear: We support efforts by legislators on the Cape and South Shore to (a.) require the owner/operators of any existing or future nuclear reactor in the Commonwealth to pay into a post-closure trust fund until decommissioning is complete so these activities will not end up being paid for by Massachusetts taxpayers, (b.) expanding the Emergency Planning Zone beyond the current 10 mile radius,, and (c.) requiring licensee to maintain offsite emergency management until removal of all spent fuel from cooling pool.

SD1222 An Act relative to the prompt decommissioning of nuclear power stations – Sen. deMacedo – Plymouth

HD149    An Act increasing nuclear power plant protections to a twenty mile radius – Rep. Cantwell – Marshfield

• Other Supported Legislation:

Comprehensive Energy Legislation: SD2049, Sen. Pacheco – Expands RPS, solar, offshore wind, storage, grid modernization, climate adaptation, and sets binding 2030 and 2040 climate targets

Community Empowerment: HD74/SD1294, Rep. Haddad/Sen. Cyr – Enable municipalities to contract directly with renewable energy projects. Bill endorsed by former Chair of Department of Public Utilities.

Modernize the Electric Grid, HD1497/SD.1371, Rep. Benson/Sen. Pacheco – Modernize electric grid, prioritize local clean energy over expensive transmission, & enact new consumer protections

Stop Charging Customers for Lost Gas:
HD2253/SD1113, Rep. Barber/Sen. Eldridge – Minimize or eliminate consumer charges for lost and unaccounted for gas, as has been done in Texas, Pennsylvania and numerous other states.

Energy Facilities Siting Board reform: HD3239, Rep. Coppinger – Mandates EFSB consider public health impact

» More information

Trump Picks LaFleur as Chairman of U.S. Energy Regulator, Sources Say

by Jonathan Crawford and Jennifer A Dlouhy
January 19, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump plans to name Cheryl LaFleur chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an agency charged with overseeing the nation’s power grid and deciding on multibillion-dollar energy projects, two people familiar with the situation said.

The decision to name LaFleur may be announced during Trump’s first days in office, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. LaFleur has been a member of the commission since 2010 when she was first nominated by President Barack Obama.

LaFleur’s appointment could signal the end of current chairman Norman Bay’s efforts to more heavily regulate power and gas trading in the U.S. Under his leadership, the commission has gone after energy giants including BP Plc and Total SA for alleged market manipulation. The change also comes as the agency is facing increasing scrutiny over its approvals of natural gas pipelines being built to carry supplies from booming shale formations to market.

“From a consumer protection standpoint we have significant concerns,” Tyson Slocum, Washington-based director of energy at consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said by phone Thursday. “She’s definitely on the side of the generators and the transmission owners instead of consumers.”

» Read full article

An act clarifying authority and responsibilities of the Department of Public Utilities

Last Friday, Rep. Kulik and Senator Eldridge filed House and Senate bills HD3204 and SD1727, aimed primarily at strengthening our ability to prevent the overbuild of natural gas infrastructure.  Co-sponsors are critical to give the bill traction.  The deadline for co-sponsors on the House side is February 3rd (senators can sign on later, but the sooner the better for momentum’s sake).

Please reach out to ask your legislators to co-sign
(and feel free to send along the summary below).
For those of you in Minority Leader Jones’ district, please also thank him for co-sponsoring last week’s State House briefing on gas infrastructure (together with Rep. Kulik – who of course, like Senator Eldridge, can be thanked for filing the bill! Rep. Howitt co-sponsored on Friday).  Please also spread this message among others who may be interested.  Thank you!

Summary:

HD3204/SD1727, An act clarifying authority and responsibilities of the Department of Public Utilities, seeks to enhance the review of pipeline capacity contracts and address other needed reforms identified over the course of previous and ongoing proceedings related to gas infrastructure projects.

This bill would accomplish the following:

-Allow for more involvement from impacted communities and ratepayers in DPU proceedings, by strengthening intervention rights;

– Protect ratepayers against self-dealing by energy conglomerates;

– Require review of siting impacts and detailed alternative analysis in contract approval cases, including protections to conservation lands;

– Prohibit a “pipeline tax” on electric ratepayers, codifying the  August 2016 ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court;

– Allow state agencies to require a hearing to evaluate demand for gas in intrastate gas infrastructure siting cases; and

– Protect landowners from intrusion by pipeline companies, preventing the DPU from granting a pipeline company access to property (over landowner denial of access) before the company has obtained a certificate of necessity for the project.

Trump signs executive actions to advance Keystone, Dakota Access pipelines

Keystone XL has been at the center of one of the largest opposition campaigns in the history of the environmental movement.

By Andrew Restuccia and Josh Dawsey

January 24, 2017

President Donald Trump signed executive actions on Tuesday to advance the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, reversing decisions made by the Obama administration and setting off a clash with Democrats and environmental activists who vehemently oppose the projects.

Trump said that approving the cross-border oil line would be “subject to a renegotiation of terms by us,” and though his administration did not make the text of the orders immediately available, his comments suggest that he plans to revive his campaign-trail bid to claim “a piece of the profits” from the pipeline for U.S. taxpayers — a legally and politically risky proposal.

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to approve Keystone XL, which would carry Canadian oil sands crude from Alberta to Texas, and he said he wants the U.S. government to get 25 percent of the pipeline’s profits.

Another of the executive actions signed on Tuesday was aimed at speeding the required environmental reviews that Trump blamed for slowing construction of important infrastructure projects.

“The regulatory process in this country has become a tangled up mess. And very unfair to people,” Trump told reporters gathered in the Oval Office.

» Read full article and see video of signing and statement

Indiscriminate FERC postings …

A lobbying entity called Industrial Energy Consumers of America has been posting nearly identical letters over the last few days (Jan. 9 & 10, 2017) . It stresses the need of industrial producers to have increasing access to gas supply, and decrying the efforts of environmentalists to force conversion to clean energy sources.

These posts were made to nearly every pipeline project listed for Massachusetts and others in the Northeast, including the former pre-filing docket for the now withdrawn Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline proposal from Kinder Morgan (#PF14-22), causing widespread concern.

We believe submitting to the docket from this now withdrawn project is a clerical oversight on the part of the lobbying organization, not any indication of renewed activity on the project. Of course, we will remain vigilant in looking for any other indications of a revived effort.

Letters filed:

» Northeast Energy Direct – PF14-22
» AIM – CP14-96
» CT Expansion – CP14-529
» Atlantic Bridge – CP16-9
» Susquehanna West – CP15-148
» New York Bay Express – CP15-527
» Atlantic Coast – CP15-554
» Mountain Valley – CP16-10

CT Expansion: Tennessee Gas pipeline may ‘bulldoze’ sacred Native American sites

By Heather Bellow, the Berkshire Edge
January 5, 2017

Harris says while FERC’s letter does concede that, pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act, the company’s Connecticut Expansion Project will have an “adverse effect on historic properties (multiple ceremonial landscape features in Berkshire County, MA)” but “avoids the destructive truth of desecration and the lack of Tribal participation in the resolution…”

FERC sent a December letter to Nelson asking him to weigh in on the situation since “the Massachusetts State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has chosen not to…” Harris told the Edge he thinks he knows why Massachusetts is staying out of it. “The SHPO has a problem,” he said, acknowledging ceremonial stones.

Harris said 73 ceremonial stone landscape features had been identified along the 3.8-mile section of pipeline path through Otis State Forest. Tribal preservationists from different nations spent three weeks “in the woods, hills and swamps…within an extended ceremonial region where, pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act, ‘Indian Tribes…possess special expertise in assessing the eligibility of historic properties that may possess religious and cultural significance to them.’”
“We’ve located 73 but that’s not to say that’s all that’s there,” Harris said by phone.
But on Dec. 5, 2016, Kinder Morgan said it would not avoid the destruction of one-third of the 73 features, Harris wrote in his letter.

» Read full article

» Read the Notification of Adverse Effect
» Read Narragansett Deputy THPO statement
» Read Nolumbeka Project’s statement

» Instructions on how to comment on the FERC  docket
(CT Expansion Docket #14-1529)

 

Liberty Utilities plans new natural gas plant in Keene

By Meghan Foley, Keene Sentinel
January 2, 2017

Liberty Utilities is moving forward with plans to build a natural gas plant in Keene to replace its decades-old propane-air distribution system in the city.

The company intends to locate the compressed and liquefied natural gas facility on property it owns on Production Avenue, spokesman John Shore said in an email.

It will be filing for local and environmental permits for the project soon, he said.

The move could allow Liberty Utilities to upgrade its service in the city, and expand to deliver natural gas to communities beyond Keene. It would also change a system that’s malfunctioned twice in the past year, most notably in December 2015 when it caused a large, city-wide emergency that brought in crews from dozens of other towns.

The company’s system is fed by a facility on Emerald Street, which branches out to places including the Monadnock Marketplace. Liberty has already built a connector under Route 9 between Production Avenue and the marketplace across the way. It would house a gas main so the new natural gas plant could be hooked into the existing system, Shore said.

Having that work done now will allow Liberty Utilities to meet its target of converting the first group of customers to the new plant by the beginning of the next heating season, he said.

That group would include commercial customers that have the highest usage, he said.

Shore was unavailable for further comment by press time this morning regarding more details about the project, how natural gas will be provided to the new facility, in what ways the facility will affect natural gas distribution in Keene, and if it will allow the company to expand natural gas service to surrounding towns.
In addition, Liberty has filed an application with the city for a temporary compressed natural gas plant behind Price Chopper at the Monadnock Marketplace. It’s unclear if and how that proposal would play into the project for the natural gas plant on nearby Production Avenue.

» Read the full article

$1.2 million settlement clears a hurdle for Tennesee Gas’ Sandisfield pipeline

By Clarence Fanto, Special to The Eagle
December 29, 2016

A legal settlement has removed one of the remaining obstacles blocking an expanded natural gas pipeline through Otis State Forest in Sandisfield.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a subsidiary of the energy giant Kinder Morgan, has agreed to pay $640,000 to settle its lawsuit against the state for an easement through the state forest as part of its $87 million Connecticut Expansion Project.

But the agreement also requires Tennessee Gas to pay a similar amount for environmental monitors and remedies.

That brings the total value of the settlement to more than $1.2 million, according to a joint announcement on Thursday by Attorney General Maura Healey and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.

Tennessee Gas had taken the site, including 400-year-old woodlands, by eminent domain. The settlement also includes recreational upgrades and replacement land for state conservation.

“While we like to think of the attorney general as ‘the people’s lawyer,’ her office made clear to us early on that they considered DCR to be their client in this case,” said Kathryn R. Eiseman, director of the Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network.

“DCR’s marching orders from [Gov.] Charlie Baker seem to be that his energy combo platter is more important than our constitution and the natural treasures of our Commonwealth,” she added.

Eiseman, who’s also president of the Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, noted that the group’s appeal of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s water quality permit for the project is slated for a hearing on Jan. 10 at the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. Another hearing on the appeal is set for Jan. 18 at the DEP. No construction can begin until the appeals are resolved, she said.

Also, the Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue a permit under the U.S. Clean Water Act, and federal regulators have raised concerns involving historical preservation of ancient stone monuments and potential issues involving the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, who may not have been sufficiently included in other tribal consultations.

» Read the full article

» Read the Attorney General’s announcement

Energy remains big issue in Franklin County’s future

By RICHIE DAVIS,  Greenfield  Recorder Staff
December 28, 2016

Wind. Solar. Hydro. Natural gas. Nuclear.
Anywhere you look, a major story that’s sure to remain very much with us in the coming year is energy — and its implications for the environment. To be sure, a continuation of an ongoing struggle over bringing safe, reliable and cost-effective energy solutions closer to fruition for more people will continue to foment discussion and debate.

The most significant energy question in the coming year, in terms of potential long-range environmental impact on the region, is relicensing of the hydroelectric facilities along the Connecticut River — including the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, the Turners Falls, Vernon, Vt., and (Montague City) Cabot stations.

Among the issues to be decided as part of the process before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of relicensing the projects for up to 50 years is riverbank erosion, fish habitat in the river’s “dry stretches” in Turners Falls, and recreational river access.
FERC, which began its relicensing process in early 2013, is expected to issue new licenses in 2018.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Public Utilities is continuing its review of Berkshire Gas Co.’s four-year forecast and resource plan to address future needs through 2021. Evidentiary hearings are set for April 4 and 5 for the plans into how Berkshire Gas will provide incremental capacity and lift its nearly 3-year-old moratorium on expansion in its eastern service area, including Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately in Franklin County.

The company has proposed either building a new liquefied natural gas storage facility somewhere in that area or expansion of its distribution main system between Greenfield and its supply interconnection in Southwick.

Also ahead
Entergy Nuclear Corp. will continue to pursue its sale to NorthStar Group Services Inc., with the hope of getting federal and Vermont approval by the end of 2018 to close a deal that would decommission the Vernon, Vt., reactor site by 2030, instead of taking 30 years longer. (All that would remain on the site where Vermont Yankee’s reactor shut down two years ago would be storage of nuclear waste.)

The Vermont Public Service Board, which is being asked to approve the transfer to NorthStar by March 31, 2018, must first adopt site restoration standards, and is expected to conduct public hearings in the year ahead.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts legislators are poised to revisit the omnibus energy legislation that took much of the last session and called for procurement of 1,600 megawatts of both offshore wind and hydro power from Canada or upstate New York but failed to increase the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard requiring utilities to obtain a minimum amount of their electricity from solar and wind.
“We made a step forward; we needed a leap forward,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg of Amherst when a compromise was reached in August. “We will have to revisit this next session.”

Without dealing with the ongoing need to lift the cap on home solar hookups on the grid, to create incentives to boost home energy efficiency or to encourage utilities to increase their renewable energy procurements, legislators like newly elected Sen. Adam Hinds of Pittsfield say there is more work for the Legislature to do.
“We need to revisit solar metering again because we have hit the cap in certain regions,” Rosenberg said recently. “We don’t want to slow down the growth and installation of solar power in the commonwealth.”

Rep. Peter Kocot of Northampton also says he will push to put the state on a path to be 100 percent reliant on clean energy by 2050, adding “Moving to a green energy system creates jobs.”
Gas and wind issues

Also looming in the months ahead are hearings that could untangle development of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s Connecticut Expansion Project, which has been slated to cut 2.3 miles through Otis State Forest in Sandisfield.

The project, which would deliver natural gas into Connecticut, despite Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution prohibiting the taking of public conservation land, has been delayed in a court appeals and lawsuits, despite Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval of the $86 million project in the Albany suburb of Bethlehem, N.Y., in Sandisfield and Agawam Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast has appealed a clean-water certification by the state Department of Environmental Protection, and a Berkshire Superior Court ruling that the U.S. Natural Gas Act overrides Massachusetts Article 97 is on hold as the court reviews citizen demands for compensation for land that would be taken by eminent domain.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which abandoned plans earlier this year for a pipeline that would have cut through eight Franklin County towns, has also sued DEP and environmental officials and citizens and is calling for a hearing by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston to overrule the citizens’ appeal.

Hearings on the two appeals are scheduled at DEP and the federal appeals court in January.

Last, but not least, a 12.5-megawatt Minuteman Wind project proposed for a high ridge in Savoy has raised concerns in neighboring Hawley, where the five turbines would be seen rising 425 feet on a 293-acre site less than 1,000 feet from the Hawley line, and some residents say they worry about noise.

Hawley has its own Wind Facility Bylaw that restricts the height of wind turbine towers to 200 feet, but that does not affect projects just across the border. Residents have also expressed concern over heavy trucks carrying wind turbine components, gravel and concrete traveling over town roads.

The turbines are projected to produce about 30,000 megawatt hours of electricity a year to feed the region’s electric grid.

» Read in the Greenfield Recorder site

Massachusetts issues draft of clean air regs; hearings scheduled

By Michael P. Norton, State House News Service
Reprinted in Worcester Telegraph
December 16, 2016

BOSTON – With Gov. Charlie Baker describing climate change as a “serious threat,” the state’s clean air agency unveiled draft regulations Friday aimed at securing greenhouse gas emission reductions from the natural gas, transportation and electricity generation industries.

The regulations, which will be vetted during a series of public hearings scheduled for February, were assembled after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in May that the state must seek emissions reductions across economic sectors to meet the requirements of the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act.

That 2008 law requires the state to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 25 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2020. As of 2013, the state had reduced emissions by 19.7 percent from 1990s levels, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. The package of new regulations aims to achieve an additional 7.2 percent reduction by 2020.

The law requires a reduction of at least 80 percent by 2050.
The Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling vacated a Superior Court ruling and concluded that DEP regulations do not fulfill the specific requirements of the GWSA.

The high court ruling required the department to promulgate rules “that address multiple sources of categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released, limit the aggregate emissions released from each group of regulated sources or categories of sources, set emission limits for each year, and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”

The regulations also stem from an “integrated climate change strategy” executive order Gov. Charlie Baker issued in September. That order directed the DEP to propose draft regulations by Friday and to finalize the regulations by Aug. 11, 2017.

» Read full article

The DEP on Friday announced the following public hearing schedule:

Monday, Feb. 6, 2017
9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
and at 6 p.m.
MassDEP’s Boston Office
1 Winter Street
Boston, MA

Monday, Feb. 6, 2017
9 a.m.
MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office
20 Riverside Drive
Lakeville, MA

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017
2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
MassDEP’s Central Regional Office
8 New Bond Street
Worcester, MA

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017
2 p.m.
Springfield Central Library
220 State Street
Springfield, MA

DEP Documents of Draft Legislation

Reducing GHG Emissions under Section 3(d) of the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA)

310 CMR 7.75: Proposed Regulations
(Download DOC)

310 CMR 7.00 and 60.00: Background Document on Proposed Regulations and Amendments
See specifically Section II. C., Page 24 (Download DOC)

Notice of Public Comment Period and Hearings
February 24, 2017, is the deadline for public comment

Trump, Putin and the Pipelines to Nowhere

You can’t understand what Trump’s doing to America without understanding the “Carbon Bubble”

by Alex Steffen, Medium.com
December 16, 2017

Climate action will trigger an enormous shift in the way we value things.

If we can’t burn oil, it’s not worth very much. If we can’t defend coastal real estate from rising seas (or even insure it, for that matter), it’s not worth very much. If the industrial process a company owns exposes them to future climate litigation, it’s not worth very much. The value of those assets is going to plummet, inevitably… and likely, soon.

Currently, though, these assets are valued very highly. Oil is seen as hugely valuable, coastal real estate is seen as hugely valuable, industrial patents are seen as hugely valuable.

When there’s a large difference between how markets think assets should be valued and what they are (or will) actually be worth, we call it a “bubble.”

Experts now call the differences between valuations and worth in fossil fuel corporations, climate-harmful industries and vulnerable physical assets the “Carbon Bubble.” It is still growing.
And here’s the thing about bubbles: they always pop.

» Read the full article

Senate President Stan Rosenberg says energy and climate change to remain on Beacon Hill front burner

By Mary Serreze, MassLIVE / Springfield Republican
December 14, 2016

NORTHAMPTON — Energy will remain a top priority in the upcoming legislative session in Massachusetts, and any bill should “push the envelope” on climate change and push back against the influence of lobbyists, state Senate President Stan Rosenberg told a roomful of civic leaders gathered at a middle school cafeteria here.

“We should be focusing our efforts on a robust energy debate, as early in the new term as possible,” Rosenberg said at a Dec. 3 Western Massachusetts Legislative Summit sponsored by the Hampshire Council of Governments.

As for climate change, “we can’t afford to wait,” he said. “I anticipate a robust discussion in the Legislature.”

Rosenberg said the “hook” for assembling a comprehensive energy and climate bill would be the nearly immediate need to lift the cap on solar net metering.

“The solar net metering cap is going to be reached, and that will give us the opportunity we need to get everybody pushing harder for a much more aggressive approach,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg: Lobbyists had ‘undue influence’ over energy policy

However, in response to an audience question referencing “the undue influence of Associated Industries of Massachusetts” in shaping state energy policy, Rosenberg did not hold back.

“I think Associated Industries of Massachusetts is having an undue influence on the conversation around energy, in part because among their biggest supporters and members are the utilities,” he said. Registered lobbyists represent the the trade group’s interests on Beacon Hill.

» Read full story

Sununu Says He Will Push For The Right Energy Projects

, NHPR
Dec 8, 2016
Speaking at a Business and Industry Association energy symposium, Chris Sununu said New England needs more natural gas and anyone who disagrees is wrong. He said the pipeline proposed for NH and scuttled by the Kinder Morgan company earlier this year would have been wrong for the state. But Sununu added he hopes Kinder Morgan and other companies will look to build here in the future, and said if the project is designed with local input, and he’s persuaded it works for New Hampshire, he’ll fight for it.

» Read full story

Sen. Warren wants pipeline halt

Wicked Local – Westwood
December 13, 2016

In a letter sent today (Dec. 13), U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to suspend approval of Spectra Energy’s West Roxbury Lateral pipeline until safety concerns are addressed, according to a press release.

“As you are aware, the West Roxbury Lateral pipeline segment will carry highly pressurized natural gas in close proximity to an active quarry where dynamite is regularly exploded,” Warren wrote. “This choice of path has left many residents concerned about the hazard of potential leaks – or worse – occurring in their densely populated neighborhoods.”

Warren noted repeated requests to Spectra Energy Corp. from local authorities – including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Police Commissioner William B. Evans, and Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn – to make public safety information available.

“Pipelines can pose serious threats to the safety and well-being of our communities – which is why safety concerns must be fully heard and transparently evaluated,” the senator wrote.

» Read full story

» Read Senator Warren’s letter here

Trump pick for Energy secretary sits on Dakota Access Pipeline company’s board

by Tom DiChristopher, CNBC
December 14, 2016

Donald Trump’s pick for Energy secretary, Rick Perry, sits on the board of directors of Energy Transfer Partners, the company whose Dakota Access Pipeline has been fiercely opposed by Native American tribes and their allies.

Dallas-based Energy Transfer’s top executive and other employees also contributed millions of dollars to support the former Texas governor’s short-lived 2015 bid for the White House. Perry joined the board of Energy Transfer Partners in February 2015 after serving as Texas governor for 14 years. Energy Transfer Partners said it selected him “because of his vast experience as an executive in the highest office of state government” and his familiarity with “finance and budget planning processes throughout his career.”

Energy Transfer Partners Chairman and CEO Kelcy Warren donated $5 million to Opportunity and Freedom, a political action committee that backed Perry’s candidacy, according to a Federal Election Commission filing. The PAC reimbursed Warren for $3.99 million of that amount in September 2015, shortly after Perry dropped out of the race, records show.

For the 2016 election, Energy Transfer Partners employees donated a total of $1,518,500 to Perry’s campaign and outside groups supporting him, according to a list compiled by Open Secrets.

» Read full story

Energy Dept refuses to name staffers who worked on climate for Trump transition

Hilltowns selected for Solarize Mass

, Hampshire Gazette
June 24, 2016

 Cummington, Goshen, Worthington and Windsor are among the 12 Massachusetts communities that have been selected to participate in the state-sponsored solar energy program Solarize Mass 2016.

The program has the potential to help homeowners in those communities realize considerable savings on their electric bills, while also providing a clean source of sustainable energy.

“The people that I have talked with about the Solarize program have seemed very interested,” said Bill Adams, the Cummington solar coach and Select Board member. “I think people are very excited about this, and we certainly have a need for renewable energy.”

Solarize Mass is a partnership between the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Green Communities Division of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

The program allows homeowners and business owners to purchase or lease a photovoltaic system at reduced cost through a group purchasing model. The more owners that sign on for solar panel installation, the more the cost goes down.

State Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, said that he applauds the Baker-Polito Administration for once again selecting a group of small, rural communities to participate in the Solarize Mass program.

“People in these towns have a lot of enthusiasm for solar energy and reducing their dependence on fossil fuels,” Kulik said. “I know that being in the Solarize Mass program will help many people install solar energy systems and help to advance our state’s green energy goals.”

Other Hilltowns that already have participated in the program include Ashfield, Buckland, Chesterfield, Plainfield, and Williamsburg.

To date, 2,700 residents and business owners in a total of 51 communities have signed up to participate in the program, resulting in 17 megawatts of contracted solar capacity through Solarize Mass.

Separately, none of the towns would have been eligible for the program, which requires the community to have a minimum of 1,000 owner-occupied homes.

So, the four towns teamed up to ensure they would meet the requirement.

“I think that it is normal for three smaller towns to do this together. We thought it would be advantageous to do it with four,” Adams said.

Once a community, or group of towns, has been selected to participate in the program, local volunteers mobilize to inform residents of the Solarize Mass benefits and how they can enroll in the program.

Solar coaches in each of the four Hilltowns are now working on setting up local informational forums.

“I am already meeting with my team of volunteers and hope to have two or three forums this summer, perhaps starting in July, Adams said. “Hopefully by fall we will have a pile of contracts signed.”

Adams said that in advance of the public forums, there have already been a total of 170 inquiries from residents of the four towns and 90 households have agreed to have a free assessment to see if their property is a good fit for a solar installation, either on a roof  or as a ground-level solar array.

The four-town consortium is hoping for a total of 150 signed contracts which will enable them to reach Tier 5, which is the highest level for which the solar installations can be provided at the lowest cost.

Solarize Mass began in 2011 as part of former Gov. Deval Patrick’s solar power initiative to install 250 megawatts of solar power in Massachusetts by 2017.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2015, Massachusetts had installed a total of 340 megawatts of solar electric capacity, ranking it fourth in the nation for solar capacity.

Gov. Charlie Baker said that his administration is committed to working with all stakeholders to increase access to affordable solar energy in the state.

Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson called communities participating in the Solarize Mass program “a linchpin in ensuring that Massachusetts continues our progress towards greater solar electricity integration.”

Judson added, “By joining Solarize Mass, our partner communities reinforce their commitment to helping the Commonwealth continue to lead the way on clean energy, while saving homeowners money on their monthly energy bills.”

The eight other communities  selected to participate in Solarize Mass this year are Bolton, Medfield, Natick, Somerville, Upton and the partnership of Shelburne-Colrain-Conway.

There is still time to get a site evaluation and sign up!
Residents seeking more information on this program should contact the solar coach in their town:
Cummington, Bill Adams
634-5342
solarizecummington@gmail.com

Goshen, Barbara Christopolis
268-7093
SolarizeGoshen@gmail.com

Worthington, Kevin O’Connor
238-0841
SolarizeWorthington@gmail.com

Windsor, Jan Bradley
684-3732
or Patti Hackett-Hunter
344-6186
solarizeworthington@gmail.com

» Learn more

Medical group targets health concerns of West Roxbury Lateral gas pipeline

Concerned about the health and safety of their families and the community, a group of medical professionals recently formed Massachusetts Health Care Providers Against Fracked Gas in order to advocate for a moratorium on gas infrastructure in the state.

“As health-care providers, we have a unique responsibility to speak up,” said Dr. Michael Cocchi, a critical care and emergency medicine physician at a Boston teaching hospital.

The Dedham resident said one of the main reasons he decided to become involved with the fight against Spectra Energy’s West Roxbury Lateral gas pipeline is that he’s the father of two small children.

“Becoming a parent changes your perspective on a lot of things,” said Cocchi.

He recalled learning about the pipeline that runs under Dedham’s Gonzalez Field after town Selectman Michael Butler was arrested last year protesting its construction.

“I was flabbergasted they were going to put a high-pressure pipeline under a kids’ soccer field,” he said.

Cocchi co-founded MHCPAFG with Dr. Curt Nordgaard, a pediatrician who practices at DotHouse Health in Dorchester.

Both doctors said that their organization is working to make a Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (CHIA) a requirement for all energy infrastructure projects at the state level.

» Read full article

Statement of Weymouth Mayor on Calpine sale

We had anticipated Algonquin’s purchase of a portion of the North Parcel at some point . What surprised us however was the timing and that the natural gas company would do so without complying with laws every other landowner must follow.

Calpine sold Algonquin a portion of their land without getting local approval to divide or subdivide their land. If Algonquin cannot comply with laws that every landowner must follow—this example only being the latest, what faith do we have in Algonquin’s abilities to comply with laws unique to natural gas companies?

After consultation with the Town’s legal representatives, I have instructed the Towns legal counsel to file an action in Norfolk Superior Court on behalf of the town against Algonquin for its failure to comply with the state’s subdivision control laws. The Town will file that lawsuit in the next few days.

Calpine’s sale to Algonquin is likely to be in breach of several agreements and obligations Calpine has to the town. We will pursue all legal options against Calpine for their failure to live up to those obligations. To begin with, we will notify Calpine in writing that the Town believes Calpine is in breach of their obligations under its license to operate and its 1999 tax break. This is the first step in holding Calpine responsible for its failure to cooperate with us on the development of the North parcel.

MA South Coast Today – Our View: Solidarity with Sioux yields right outcome

Editorial, South Coast Today
December 7, 2016

More than a dozen members of Cape Cod’s Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe made the nearly 2,000-mile journey in solidarity. … What happened in North Dakota, however, represents an important moment in the lives of many indigenous peoples, with members of different tribes coming together to take a principled stand of conscience. It could mark the beginning of a new period of collaboration, where tribes with distinct traditions stand together in unity, reminding those who might otherwise dismiss them that they have been protecting this land long before the rest of us arrived.

» Read full editorial

DAPL Easement Denied, But The Fight’s Not Over

Sacred Stone Camp
December 5, 2016

Today at 4pm, the Obama Administration announced that the US Army Corps would not grant Dakota Access LLC the last remaining easement it needs to drill under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe and complete construction of the pipeline.  The US Army Corps statement implies they will conduct a limited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the river crossing and explore possibilities for alternative routes.

The Obama Administration’s decision comes as thousands of veterans are arriving from across the country to stand with the water protectors and join the frontlines of resistance in the face of extreme and escalating violence at the hands of law enforcement.

While this is clearly a victory, the battle is not “over”. A response statement from Energy Transfer Partners  and Sunoco Logistics said the corporations remain “fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”

The Trump administration could easily approve the project early next year. The Obama Administration has never guaranteed the water protectors or the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that they would use force to stop Dakota Access from drilling under the river without a permit, if necessary. The Army Corps has not yet agreed to pursue a full EIS for the entire length of the pipeline.

» Read full article, including statements from many #NoDAPL leaders

Elizabeth Warren comments on Standing Rock

Elizabeth Warren released this statement on December 4, 2016, before the announcement that the Army Corps of Engineers denied permission to cross under Lake Oahe:

“I don’t know how anyone could watch the news and not be horrified by what’s happening at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

For months, the Standing Rock Sioux and thousands of others have opposed a pipeline that many believe risks contaminating the tribe’s water supply. What have they faced in response? Attack dogs. Rubber bullets. Tear gas. Water hoses in freezing temperatures. A 21-year-old graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts had her arm nearly destroyed. And last week, the governor directed state and local agencies to refuse emergency assistance as a way to expel the tribe and their “water protector” supporters.

The Standing Rock Sioux are not animals to be corralled – they are human beings. Good, passionate human beings who have stood together in the middle of a North Dakota blizzard this past week, and stood together for many weeks before, to fight for what they believe in. They should be treated with respect and basic human decency.

The construction workers and laborers at Standing Rock are also human beings – and they weren’t the ones to decide where to build this pipeline. They are good, hard-working people who are just trying to do their jobs. They also should be treated with respect and basic human decency.

The fact is, we need a country where all of our children can safely drink the water and where we move away from dirty fossil fuels and build more sustainable green energy solutions. We also need good jobs and respect for our workers. All of these things are true. It is both/and, not either/or.

Time is running out. Patience has worn thin. Nerves have frayed. Every day brings a chance for escalation of the violence and more injuries. The Obama Administration should step up now and work with the Army Corps of Engineers to find an alternate route to this pipeline and ways to address the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux. Yes, there may be more work to do and it may take more money, but we need to act in good faith, deescalate this violence, and find a solution.”

DAPL denied crossing under Lake Oahe: Standing Rock spared

Federal Officials to Explore Different Route for Dakota Pipeline

Federal officials announced on Sunday that they would not approve permits for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a dammed section of the Missouri River that tribes say sits near sacred burial sites.

The decision is a victory for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protesters camped near the construction site who have opposed the project because they said would it threaten a water source and cultural sites. Federal officials had given the protesters until tomorrow to leave a campsite near the construction site.

In a statement on Sunday, the Department of the Army’s assistant secretary for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, said that the decision was based on a need to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Ms. Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

» Read full article


Army will not grant easement for Dakota Access Pipeline crossing

By U.S. Army
December 4, 2016

The Department of the Army will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, the Army’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Works announced today.

Jo-Ellen Darcy said she based her decision on a need to explore alternate routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing. Her office had announced on November 14, 2016 that it was delaying the decision on the easement to allow for discussions with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies 0.5 miles south of the proposed crossing. Tribal officials have expressed repeated concerns over the risk that a pipeline rupture or spill could pose to its water supply and treaty rights.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

» Read the rest of the Army Corps of Engineers statement


Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Statement on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Decision to Not Grant Easement

“Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes. We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision.

We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent, and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water. We especially thank all of the other tribal nations and jurisdictions who stood in solidarity with us, and we stand ready to stand with you if and when your people are in need.”

» Read full statement


» Live report from Indigenous Environmental Network
on Facebook


Of course, with the vast majority of the pipeline already completed, many questions remain. Honor the Earth gathered some of the most common ones into one Facebook post:

Today the US Army Corps announced that it will not grant the last remaining easement needed for Dakota Access to cross the Mni Sose (Missouri River). Their statement says they intend to “explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing” and that a consideration of alternative routes “would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis.” This is all the information provided.

This is an enormous victory for our movement to protect the water! It shows what is possible when we come together and take action.

However, many questions remain.

Here are the 10 questions we need to be asking in the days and weeks ahead:

1. Will the Army Corps actually conduct an Environmental Impact Statement? If so, on what portion of the project – just the river crossing, or the whole pipeline?
2. What issues will the EIS take into account? (for example, will it include an analysis of spill risk? how about sacred sites? will it reassess the economic need for the pipeline now that the bakken is busting?)
3. Which alternative routes will be considered? Will a “no-build” option also be considered?
4. How long will the EIS take?
5. What input will the tribe have? What will the public participation process look like?
6. In what way(s) was the original Environmental Assessment prepared by the Army Corps deemed inadequate?
7. What was the result of the tribal consultation process exploring possible changes to the regulatory process for pipelines in general? have any changes been proposed?
8. How easily will these decisions be reversed by a Trump administration?
9. How will these decisions be affected by the outcomes of DAPL’s lawsuit against the Army Corps, scheduled to be heard on Friday?
10. Is the US government prepared to use force to stop the company from drilling under the river without a permit, if necessary?

 


Standing Rock Protestors Celebrate as Dakota Pipeline Easement Denied:  Army Corps of Engineers recommends pipeline “explore alternate routes,” denies construction permits


By Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone
December 4, 2016

In a decision celebrated by the thousands of protestors gathered at the Standing Rock site, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday that they would not grant an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline and would instead “explore alternate routes.”

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works Darcy said Sunday. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

The announcement was celebrated by those gathered at the protest sites, including 2,000 U.S. military veterans that joined the protests on December 2nd to protect them from the authorities; in recent weeks, altercations between protestors and law enforcement have escalated.

» Real full article


The victory at Standing Rock could mark a turning point
by Bill McKibben, the Guardian
December 4, 2016

The defeat of an energy company by indigenous activists shows what nonviolent unity can accomplish. There are lessons here as we enter a challenging new age. For five hundred years, half a millennia, the same grim story has repeated itself over and over again. Today’s news is a break in that long-running story, a new chapter.

» Read full article

 

West Roxbury Pipeline Protester Injured at Standing Rock: at risk of losing her arm

By Alison Bauter, West Roxbury Patch
November 22, 2016
screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-3-32-24-pmA New York woman who has demonstrated as part of West Roxbury’s pipeline protest was severely injured while protesting a pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota, and could lose her arm, according to accounts from fellow activists.

Sophia Wilansky is part of the so-called “Mass Grave Six” and demonstrated alongside Vice President Al Gore’s daughter, Karenna, against the Spectra pipeline here this June, as Boston Magazine first reported.

Activists claim Wilansky was injured at Standing Rock when she was “shot with a concussion grenade” in the course of a confrontation between police and protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which crosses near tribal lands. Gory Facebook photos shared by supporters appear to show Wilansky’s arm, bloody and badly disfigured.

» Read the full story

» Father of Activist Injured at Standing Rock Calls on Obama to Stop Dakota Access Pipeline Drilling
Democracy Now, November 23, 2016


Editor’s Note:
Sophia Wilansky is a friend and acquaintance to many who have been protesting Spectra’s West Roxbury Lateral and others in the Massachusetts pipeline fight.  She is just one of many from our region here in the Northeast who have gone to North Dakota to assist in the #NoDAPL fight.  While many of the same lax regulations and laws surrounding pipeline permitting and eminent domain for corporate gain make for many parallels between our pipeline fights and Dakota Access, the violent mistreatment of Native the communities standing up for their rights sets it apart in both violent treatment of non-violent protestors and continuation of centuries of cultural and environmental injustice.

No Fracked Gas in Mass extends our concerns for all who take part in the front lines at this crucial fight and all our best wishes for Sophia’s full recovery, as well as the hundreds of other Protectors who have been harmed.

If you’re looking to help the #NoDAPL fight, please visit our Ways to Help  page.

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Veterans called to stand with Standing Rock

Veterans to deploy for Standing Rock

By Sophie Lewis, CNN
November 23, 2016

On December 4, hundreds of veterans plan to “deploy” to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota to join in protest against the planned Dakota Access Pipeline.
The event, Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, is a call for veterans to “assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia” to “defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security.” The organizers hope to prevent progress on the construction of the pipeline as well as draw national attention to the cause.

Wesley Clark Jr., a veteran, screenwriter and activist, created the event along with Michael Wood Jr., a retired Baltimore police officer and Marine Corps veteran who advocates for police reform. Clark decided to take action after an elder from Standing Rock called him about the protests. “When she described what was going on, it brought tears to my eyes,” he said. “People are concerned about the way the elders who are praying are being brutalized, and what we are doing to the planet.”

» Read the full story


Facebook post by Navy veteran Sam Deering:

Three years ago I took off my Navy uniform and told myself that I would never put it back on. I decided I wanted to live peacefully, and do what I could to allow the same for those around me. But now the day has come to put that kit back on, and head to Cannonball, North Dakota, and stand between the water protectors and the police, working illegally to protect the Energy Transfer Partners drilling of the Missouri River. Watching events unfold around the Dakota Access Pipeline has been mortifying and humiliating, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.

If it sounds like I’m looking for public approval, or an ego boost, or just a bunch of likes and comments; I am. The notion of putting my uniform back on, just to face off with other uniformed Americans looking to do me harm is honestly terrifying. The actions of the police from around the country who have answered the call of ETP, and other private interests like them, to stop the people from demonstrating or disturbing progress is terrible. But the media and public silence on the gross violation of human rights, treaty rights, and our environment is what truly disturbs me.

I’m going to Cannonball with the group, Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, from December 4-7, and expect to be one of hundreds if not over a thousand veterans coming from all over the country to stand up to these storm trooper cowards. If you’re a veteran, please join us, I don’t have to remind you of the oath we took, and what it means to face a foreign and a domestic enemy. If you’re not a vet, you’re still welcome. Either way, our communities need to be sending more people to North Dakota to resist this blatant insult to a modern world.

If you can’t make it, donate! Veterans Stand for Standing Rock has a gofundme link for those of us vets who are broke but want to help. Also, http://sacredstonecamp.org, the camp itself housing a huge group of Native American tribes and other humans from the US and abroad, is in serious need of financial and material assets. You can help.

Please help.

“In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Dr. King

Spectra requests to put W. Roxbury lateral and M&R in service

“Algonquin hereby requests authorization from the Director of the Office of Energy Projects (“OEP”) by November 28, 2016 to place into service the AIM Project facilities for the West Roxbury Lateral and associated new meter station, including approximately 4.1 miles and 0.8 miles of 16-inch-diameter and 24-inch-diameter pipeline, respectively, in Norfolk and Suffolk Counties, MA, the West Roxbury Meter Station in Suffolk County, MA and other appurtenant facilities.”

» See letter submitted to FERC

Spectra Not Giving Up on Access Northeast, Now Turning to LDCs

Joe Fisher, Natural Gas Intelligencer
November 2, 2016

Spectra Energy Partners LP management is rethinking the Access Northeast project, with plans to add local distribution companies (LDC) to its customer mix after some New England states have effectively nixed contracts with electric distribution companies (EDC). The company also might pursue a legislative fix in at least one state.

Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut have all prevented EDCs from contracting for natural gas pipeline capacity and passing costs on to ratepayers (see Daily GPI, Oct. 27). Spectra said Wednesday that it and its Access Northeast partners — Eversource Energy and National Grid — “…are extremely disappointed by some of the recent actions by certain New England states.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also recently rejected a blanket capacity release waiver sought by Spectra’s Algonquin Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC as part of a plan to allow EDCs owned by Eversource Energy and National Grid to contract for firm capacity on Access Northeast and then release that capacity directly to New England generators through state-regulated electric reliability programs (see Daily GPI, Sept. 1).

Access Northeast, which would expand the Algonquin system, has been seeking EDC contracts to underwrite the project.

“We have shifted our focus a bit and said, ‘OK, so there are some electric distribution companies that will still stick with us and can legally stick with us, but at the same time there is a lot of unmet local distribution company load…’ This is a project that can be morphed into something that meets both electric and LDC needs,” Spectra’s Bill Yardley, president of the U.S. transmission business, said Wednesday.

The company is going back to the drawing board to add LDC contracts into the mix, Yardley said, adding that the additional time needed for that “probably makes this into a 2019 effort when we reformulate it.” Previously, Access Northeast in-service was planned for late 2018 (see Daily GPI, May 4).

“There’s one other avenue, probably a couple other avenues, but the other logical one is to do something legislatively,” Yardley said during an earnings conference call. “The Massachusetts legislature does reconvene early next year, and we may contemplate trying to throw something in there because overall…the governors in the region are supportive of [Access Northeast]; there have just been some adverse rulings that have set us back a bit.”

As the company brings LDCs into the Access Northeast fold, Yardley said care would be taken to ensure that the New England states involved will feel that they are sharing the cost of the project equally. “That’s important to the governors…It’s going to take a little time to work our way through that,” he said.

An announcement about contracting details for Access Northeast could come later this year or early next, he said.

Spectra Energy Partners reported third quarter net income from controlling interests of $275 million (64 cents/unit) compared with $321 million (85 cents) in the prior-year quarter. Spectra Energy Corp. reported third quarter net income from controlling interests of $195 million (28 cents/share), compared with $174 million (26 cents/share) in third quarter 2015.

2 Police Officers Turn In Badges In Support Of Standing Rock Water Protectors

By M. David for Counter Current News
November 4, 2016

Redhawk writes. “You can see it in some of them, that they do not support the police actions,” water protector RedHawk writers. “We must keep reminding them they are welcome to put down their weapons and badge and take a stand against this pipeline as well. Some are waking up.”

While most of the police officers at the scene of the DAPL protests have been brutal, violent, and unconstitutionally-militarized, it is clear from this recent act of solidarity that some of their hearts can be turned to the cause of justice.

» Read full article

Access Northeast gas pipeline delayed to 2019

Argus Media
November 2, 2016

Houston — Spectra Energy will likely have to delay its Access Northeast natural gas pipeline project expansion until 2019 or later, executives said during an earnings call today.

The midstream company originally expected the 894mn cf/d (25mn m³/d) project to come on line in the fourth quarter of 2018, providing fuel to powerplants throughout New England. But recent rulings by states in New England have put a roadblock in place for the project, Spectra chief executive Gregory Ebel said during a third quarter earnings call today.

A top court in Massachusetts found in August that a plan that would allow local electric utilities to sign contracts for pipeline capacity conflicted with a law that deregulated the state’s electric market. New Hampshire utility regulators last month reached a similar ruling, and a Connecticut state agency in October cancelled a request for proposals it issued for the project. Without those local utility contracts, the project might not be financially viable.

The rulings lead Spectra to shift its focus, president of US transmission Bill Yardley said. Some electric distribution companies that are legally permitted to have stuck by the project, “but at the same time there’s a lot of unmet local distribution company load,” he said.

» Read full article

Kathryn Eiseman: Berkshire Gas must widen supply options


November 02, 2016

Questionable business decisions led to the Berkshire Gas Co.’s moratorium on new and expanded service in the Pioneer Valley.

The company then put on blinders against any way to end the moratorium other than Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline. Our communities would be wise not to accept Berkshire Gas’ latest vision of the paths forward to end the moratorium: the company’s tunnel vision leaves too many options unexplored and too many questions unanswered.

The two options to lift the moratorium that Berkshire Gas now puts on the table are in fact intended to allow the company to more than double the amount of gas it sells in the Pioneer Valley.

One proposal — a new pipeline down to Kinder Morgan’s mainline in southern Massachusetts — would cost about $60 million, and the other — a massive new liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility in Franklin County — would cost about twice that. Ratepayers would fund whatever new infrastructure is built.

The new pipeline option that Berkshire envisions would be 19 miles long and 12 inches in diameter, running through unspecified Hampshire and Hampden County communities to make a new connection between the existing systems of Berkshire Gas and Kinder Morgan. The hypothetical new LNG facility would have a capacity of half a billion cubic feet; this size tank is typically more than 10 stories high.

Either of these options floated by Berkshire Gas at the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) would also require the construction of 16 miles of additional pipeline parallel to the company’s existing lines in the upper Pioneer Valley.

Other options exist. Berkshire has rejected, out of hand, targeted infrastructure modifications to end the moratorium that were recommended by a gas market expert hired by the town of Montague in a previous proceeding concerning the NED project. He recommended immediate upgrades to approximately two miles of Berkshire’s pipeline in Franklin County and, if necessary, adding a much smaller LNG tank to the company’s Whately LNG facility, at an estimated total cost (tank and upgrades) of around $10 million.

Demand-reduction opportunities also must not be overlooked. Massachusetts law mandates that “natural gas resource needs shall first be met through all available energy efficiency and demand reduction resources that are cost effective or less expensive than supply.” Gas saved through improved demand management would be available for new customers.

Are community members — gas customers and others — taking full advantage of energy efficiency programs offered through MassSave? Is Berkshire Gas doing all it should to promote its energy efficiency programs? Experts in energy efficiency and demand management dispute Berkshire’s claims that significant cost-effective energy savings are no longer available to the company.

Certainly the region will be better off if more of us reduce our consumption of oil and gas by harnessing efficiency and sustainably sited renewables, rather than perpetuating the fossil fuel shell game. Data regarding the amount of methane released in shale gas extraction and transportation suggest that climate benefits of natural gas over other fossil fuels is minimal or nonexistent.

On an individual level: if you are going to go through the expense of installing a new heating system, might you be better off with high-efficiency heat pumps or upgrading your oil furnace rather than switching to another fossil fuel?

Do ratepayers really want to pay for massive gas infrastructure expansions designed to last for generations, when cleaner alternatives are increasingly available?

This year, Northeast Biodiesel in Greenfield started producing biodiesel, made from recycled cooking oil from area restaurants, yielding a life-cycle greenhouse gas emission profile 86 percent lower than diesel and gasoline emissions. This clean-sourced biodiesel can not only power vehicles, but heat your home.

Farms in Hampshire and Franklin Counties are installing anaerobic digesters to heat and power their farms with farm and food waste, and selling electricity to the grid. Ongoing efforts toward more energy self-sufficiency at UMass could reduce the university’s reliance on Berkshire Gas.

It’s ultimately up to stakeholders engaged at the DPU to make sure that Berkshire Gas does not stake out a plan that locks in an oversized role for fracked gas in our communities. It’s also up to community members to engage on this issue now with our elected officials. Economic development tied to greatly increased fossil fuel combustion does not reflect the vision and innovation we are capable of here in the Knowledge Corridor. Nor is it a viable model for complying with the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act.

Berkshire Gas should take a serious look at updating its business model if it wants to provide services that align with the goals and needs of our region. Otherwise, the company may ultimately be left behind, while trailblazers lead the way to more sustainable, thriving communities in the Pioneer Valley

Kathryn R. Eiseman, of Cummington, is director of the Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network, and president of the Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast Inc.

Lynch Calls on FERC to Halt Pipeline Projects in West Roxbury and Weymouth Following Pipeline Explosions

Nov 2, 2016

BOSTON, MA – In the wake of the recent fatal pipeline explosion in Alabama, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-Boston) called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to halt the permitting process and construction for the proposed Spectra pipelines in West Roxbury and Weymouth, Massachusetts. In a letter to FERC Chairman Norman Bay, Congressman Lynch highlighted the serious public safety risks of placing a natural gas pipeline in densely populated areas such as West Roxbury and Weymouth.

“I am deeply concerned about this week’s tragic pipeline explosion in Alabama and I believe that FERC needs to take action to ensure that proper safety measures are in place to protect local communities from the dangers of these pipelines. We are witnessing significant damage from pipeline incidents in more remote areas across the country. In the wake of these accidents, it is unimaginable that FERC would proceed with approval for pipelines in more densely populated areas,” said Congressman Lynch.

According to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), there have been more than 220 pipeline incidents in 2016. On Monday, a fatal gasoline pipeline explosion in Shelby County, Alabama killed one pipeline worker and injured five others, igniting two wildfires that burned over 30 acres of land. This is the second incident in two months for the Colonial Pipeline, which had a significant gas leak in September. In April, a natural gas pipeline in Salem, Pennsylvania, operated by Spectra Energy, exploded injuring one person and damaging two homes.

“We have told FERC repeatedly that placing a natural gas pipeline in an active quarry blast zone, like West Roxbury, or in an industrial area with densely populated neighborhoods nearby, as is the case in Weymouth, are serious public safety risks.  If a similar explosion took place in West Roxbury or Weymouth, we could expect mass casualties and I strongly oppose taking those risks,” Congressman Lynch added.

Congressman Lynch’s letter highlights the dangerous and costly damage that pipeline explosions have inflicted on communities in 2016 alone. Congressman Lynch is calling on FERC and PHMSA to fully investigate these incidents to determine whether further safety measures need to be adopted prior to approving construction of high pressure natural gas lines in West Roxbury and Weymouth.

The text of Congressman Lynch’s letter is available here.

Going to North Dakota: locals to join demonstrations against pipeline

By CHRIS LINDAHL, Greenfield Recorder
November 01, 2016

HOLYOKE – Shortly after the sun rose over the Holyoke Mall parking lot, Paki Wieland hopped out of her borrowed camper to greet an old friend, fellow activist Brian Kavanagh.

“The last time I saw Brian, he was behind me in court in New York,” Wieland, of Northampton, said. Neither could remember exactly which act of resistance brought them in front of a judge, but Kavanagh, of Hartford, Connecticut, figured it was “something worthwhile.”

And on Tuesday, Weiland and Kavanagh, both 73, embarked on a journey to their next fight. They were among a group of area residents who set off on a 27-hour trip across the United States to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, where they’ll join the hundreds of others protesting the planned Dakota Access pipeline.

For months now, opponents of the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline have been camping in the area about 50 miles south of Bismarck. They worry the pipeline will disturb cultural artifacts and threaten drinking water sources on the Standing Rock Sioux’s nearby reservation and downstream.

The pipeline’s operator, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, insists the project is safe. The tribe is fighting the pipeline’s permitting process in federal court.

“How many generations of exploitation, of genocide, the natives have survived,” Weiland said. “Maybe this is one small way we can tip the balance toward justice.”

Earlier that morning at Weiland’s Northampton home (which is owned by peace activist Frances Crowe) Weiland another friend, Tighe Barry, finished packing up the camper with blankets, woolen clothes, pots and pans and other necessities they’ll need for the trip, which Weiland said has an “open-ended” duration.

Many of the goods were donated by local well-wishers, including those at First Churches. Parishioners there also helped with cash contributions. And the 22-foot-long camper came from a friend in Vermont, Weiland said.

Barry, 55, of Washington, D.C., characterized the recent clashes between police and pipeline protestors as “brutalization” on the part of the officers.

Last week over 140 people were arrested after some 200 law enforcement officers in riot gear forced hundreds of protestors off an encampment on private property. In response, some demonstrators torched three vehicles on a bridge, creating a blockade that effectively cut off easy access to the pipeline construction zone and made it far harder for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and nearby residents to get to Bismarck for errands and medical appointments.

But Barry said other demonstrators were arrested while acting in a peaceful manner, such as a woman he said was shown being taken into custody while filming police. “When you’re not doing anything, you’re just standing there watching, that’s not cause for arrest,” he said.

Barry said he’s protested in the Gaza Strip, Yemen and in Bahrain, where he was deported for protesting the royal family’s rule.
“In Bahrain the way they (police) do it, is they at least give you a chance to run away” before arresting demonstrators, he said.
In Holyoke, Barry and Weiland met Kavanagh and Jackie Allen-Doucot, also of Hartford, Connecticut. There, they run the Catholic Worker House, which serves the homeless and supports other social justice initiatives.

They plan to make the drive to North Dakota in shifts and will make one stop in Syracuse, New York, to pick up two more protestors.
Once they arrive at one of the four encampment sites, Weiland said they’ll see how and where they are needed.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettenet.com

New England says no to natural gas, yes to renewables

So, there were two good decisions Tuesday: No gas for Connecticut AND yes to wind & solar for MA/CT/RI’s Clean Energy RFP (with no Northern Pass):

“In Connecticut, the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection called off its procurement of more natural gas, a move that could spell the end of Spectra Energy Corp.’s Access Northeast project and efforts by regional leaders to increase the amount of natural-gas-fired electric generation capacity.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island on Tuesday selected seven solar and wind projects totaling 460 megawatts in response to the three states’ New England Clean Energy Request for Proposals announced last year. The next step is to negotiate contracts by mid-January for the power from each project.

“The decisions and the timing of the decisions aptly reflects what ought to be New England’s priorities and indicate that our states can proceed with clean renewable energy projects that are domestically sourced and cost-effective for ratepayers,” said Greg Cunningham, director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s clean energy and climate change program.

The six-state region has been growing more dependent on natural gas for power generation, the result of coal plants closing and the shuttering of two nuclear plants. The risks of that reliance were exposed during the winter of 2013-14, when persistently low temperatures taxed energy infrastructure and resulted in record levels of electricity demand and high prices.

The Connecticut decision to cancel its review of seven proposals was triggered by the state’s conclusion that its ratepayers would “disproportionately” bear the cost of natural gas infrastructure.

The New England states had settled on a first-of-its-kind funding system for new natural gas pipelines that would have electricity customers pay a charge for their construction.

But that consensus was upended when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission ruled the system unlawful and “materially reduced the ability for the costs of projects to be shared among a substantial portion of the region’s ratepayers,” the Connecticut decision said.

Rhode Island has been considering a similar charge, but that proceeding has been put on hold.

“We didn’t like the financing scheme to begin with,” said Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association.

In Dolan’s view, the funding mechanism “undermines the economics of non-gas plants at a time when we’re seeing the lowest energy prices in New England’s history.”

Moreover, “it picks winners and losers just among the gas plants in New England,” he said, citing in particular the $3 billion Access Northeast project. “While it had a lot of gas plants connected to that pipeline, it by no means had all of them.

“You’re subsidizing fuel for those plants that have the dumb luck of being located on that pipeline,” and then for any other gas plant, “you’re getting undercut by your competitors simply on the basis of the states deciding to subsidize one particular pipeline,” Dolan said.

“I cannot foresee a path forward for that project,” the Conservation Law Foundation’s Cunningham said, unless Spectra uses traditional pipeline funding practices where the buyers of the gas pay. But that path has been a nonstarter for years, which is why the states developed their alternative funding system.

“This entire effort in New England to overbuild the pipeline purportedly for price and reliability purposes has been premised on an anomalous winter in 2013-14. It was a winter in which the management of pipeline was particularly poor, coordination between electric and gas markers was particularly poor, and weather conditions were unusually bad,” he said.

“The urgency to the extent that it ever existed has dissipated. We question whether it ever existed, frankly,” he said.

Spectra spokesman Creighton Welch said the company is “disappointed” because “the regional pipelines are running full and demand is growing which exacerbates the possibility of electric blackouts and shortages of natural gas for home heating.”

He noted that ISO New England, the region’s grid operator, said New England’s precarious power generation during the winter may become unsustainable in 2019 during extreme cold conditions without immediate action to solidify the region’s energy infrastructure.

States pass on Northern Pass

In announcing the results of its clean energy RFP, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island did not select the Northern Pass project, a 192-mile transmission line from Hydro-Québec’s hydroelectric plants in Canada to New Hampshire and the rest of New England. The project is being developed by Eversource Energy, formerly Northeast Utilities.

“They weren’t cheap enough and weren’t selected,” Dolan said.

Cunningham said the transmission line was also handicapped by a “hefty price tag and significant permitting and political uncertainty.”

Eversource issued a statement saying it will focus its attention on an upcoming request for proposals in Massachusetts for up to 9.45 gigawatt-hours of clean energy resources mandated by recent legislation that must be issued by April 1, 2017.

The winners of the Clean Energy RFP were Ameresco’s 20 MW of photovoltaic solar in New Milford, Conn.; the 28.8-MW Antrim wind project in Antrim, N.H.; the 126-MW Cassadaga wind project in Chautauqua County, N.Y.; Deepwater Wind’s 26.4-MW solar project in Simsbury, Conn.; Ranger Solar’s 220 MW of projects in Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire; and RES Americas’ two 20-MW solar projects in Connecticut and Rhode Island.”

DEEP Announces Action on Energy Procurement RFPs: Natural Gas RFP Canceled Clean Energy Projects Selected to Move to Next Stage

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) today announced a series of actions related to three Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the procurement of energy resources that can help to reduce our dependence on natural gas generation, and keep the state on track to meet our commitments to reduce carbon emissions and support renewable generation.

The actions include:

· Natural Gas RFP –  DEEP is canceling an RFP that sought proposals for natural gas resources, including liquefied natural gas, natural gas pipeline capacity and natural gas storage.

· Three State Clean Energy RFP – DEEP has selected projects submitted in response to an RFP issued jointly by Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island for large-scale hydropower, Class I renewables above 20 megawatts (MW) in size, and associated transmission. The selected projects will now advance to negotiate power purchase contracts with Connecticut’s two electric distribution companies – Eversource and United illuminating (UI), and will be subject to regulatory approval by Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA).

·  Small Resources Clean Energy RFP – This week, DEEP expects to select projects submitted in response to an RFP issued for small-scale clean energy projects, including Class I renewables 2-20 MW in size, energy efficiency, and energy storage.  Once selected, the projects will advance to power purchase contract negotiations with Eversource and UI, and will be subject to regulatory approval by PURA.

“Our actions on the three energy procurement RFPs will protect the interests of Connecticut’s ratepayers while moving our state forward to best address the energy challenges that we face,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee.  “While we are not selecting projects under the natural gas RFP at this time, we are taking steps to secure additional clean energy resources that address gaps in our energy infrastructure.  Bringing these projects online will also play a real part in helping us achieve this state’s carbon reduction targets for 2020 and beyond, which will continue Connecticut’s leadership in efforts to address Climate Change.”

Cancellation of Natural Gas RFP

As authorized by Public Act 15-107, DEEP issued an RFP for natural gas resources on June 2, 2016, seeking to procure natural gas resources to be utilized by natural gas generators in the New England region to improve the affordability and reliability of regional electric supply.  The RFP was open to incremental natural gas pipeline capacity, LNG, and natural gas storage.  Seven bids were submitted into this RFP.

While the evaluation of bids was underway at DEEP, administrative decisions and a court ruling in other New England states limited the likelihood that the costs of projects would be shared among a substantial portion of the region’s ratepayers. DEEP has consistently asserted that the problem of inadequate gas infrastructure is greater than one state can solve alone. Regional investment is necessary to ensure that no one state disproportionately bears the costs of addressing what is a problem endemic to our regional electric system.  As a result, DEEP moved to cancel this RFP.

DEEP does, however, retain its authority to issue future RFPs to procure natural gas resources as needed to provide more reliable electric service for the benefit of the state’s electric ratepayers and to meet Connecticut’s energy and environmental goals and policies. DEEP will monitor conditions in the ISO New England market and proceedings of other New England states to determine whether to reissue this gas RFP.

Clean Energy RFPs

This week, Connecticut DEEP is making selection decisions on two RFPs for clean energy projects that can help to reduce our dependence on natural gas generation, and keep the state on track to meet our commitments to reduce carbon emissions and support renewable generation.

·  Connecticut DEEP joined with Massachusetts and Rhode Island in requesting bids for long-term contracts for large-scale hydropower, Class I renewables projects greater than 20 megawatts in size, and transmission projects needed to deliver those resources to the New England grid.  Projects with co-located energy storage and renewables balanced with existing hydropower were also eligible to respond to the so-called Three State RFP.  More than 50 bids were submitted into the Three State RFP in January 2016 including six transmission projects to deliver clean energy from Maine, Canada and New York.

·  Connecticut DEEP issued a companion “small resources” clean energy RFP for long term contracts for Class I renewables under 20 MW and energy efficiency and energy storage projects of any size.  More than 100 bids were submitted into the Small Resources Clean Energy RFP on May 4, 2016, including 82 bids for projects located in Connecticut.

After an extensive evaluation process, which took into account both quantitative (price) and qualitative factors as directed by statute, DEEP is completing its selection of the projects in both RFPs that will be allowed to advance to contract negotiations with the two Connecticut electric distribution companies.  All bidders in the Three State RFP have been contacted as of October 24, 2016 regarding their proposals.  All bidders in the Small Resources RFP will be contacted no later than October 28, 2016 regarding their proposals.

A final decision, reflecting the basis for DEEP’s selection as well as the results of the two clean-energy RFPs (including pricing, quantity, and identity of contracted projects) will be submitted to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority after the conclusion of contract negotiations, expected in early 2017.

Background on the RFPs

The RFPs are authorized under Public Act 15-107, which, together with an earlier statute, Public Act 13-303, authorizes the Department to seek proposals from a broad range of resources to help address energy infrastructure constraints in New England.  Collectively, under these two Public Acts, DEEP has the authority to select clean energy projects to meet up to 15% of the state’s electric demand, and natural gas resources of at most 375,000 mmcf/day.

Dennis Schain
Communications Director
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street, Hartford, CT 06106-5127
P: 860.424.3110
C: 860.462.3468
E: dennis.schain@ct.gov

Berkshire Gas sees 2 ways to end moratorium

by RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Thursday, October 20, 2016

Berkshire Gas Co. has narrowed its options to two on ways to lift its self-imposed moratorium on new and expanded service in its Franklin-Hampshire service area.

The company’s filing with the state Department of Public Utilities on its Forecast and Supply Plan for 2016-17 through 2020-21, recommends either a new liquefied natural gas storage facility somewhere in its Franklin County service area, as well as an expansion of its distribution main between Greenfield and Tennessee Gas Pipeline interconnection in Southwick.

The filing provides few details, but rather points to further analysis that would be required, along with the need for the company to proceed with either project.

Berkshire also dismissed half a dozen alternative solutions to lifting the moratorium it imposed in 2014 that was originally contingent on completion of TGP’s now-discontinued Northeast Energy Direct interstate gas pipeline project through eight Franklin County towns.

Among those alternatives are contracting with TGP to upgrade or reconstruct the existing “Northampton Lateral” line, seen as at least three times as costly as the distribution main alternative, and expanding the Whately LNG terminal built in 1999. That alternative was not serving the company’s needs and not being cost effective, Berkshire Gas said.

Other rejected alternatives include installing additional propane injection capabilities into the distribution system, expansion of Berkshire’s “load management,” energy efficiency and leak repair, or taking “no action.” The filing says the company already “pursues all energy-efficiency opportunities” and aggressively complies with mandated leak inspection and repair requirements, and that expanding these programs would not provide a long-term solution to the reliable capacity issues that led to imposing the moratorium.

The new large LNG facility, which the company plans to analyze further as an option despite relatively high capital costs estimated at about $120 million, would include a tank of roughly 500,000 cubic feet, much larger than the two 70,000-gallon tanks at Berkshire’s existing Whately site.

“The larger size tank would increase LNG storage on site resulting in more substantial trucking requirements, but mostly during off-peak periods,” the filing says. “Liquefaction could be considered as an operational benefit if the supply of LNG were interrupted.”

The location would be somewhere in the company’s Franklin County service area, which now includes Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately, and might even include the Long Plain Road site in Whately where five 70,000-gallon tanks had originally been planned. (Berkshire Gas also serves Amherst, Hadley and Hatfield in Hampshire County.)

“In any of the cases, the new, larger LNG facility would be filled during the summer months and, therefore, would be a more reliable solution than any Whately facility expansion.

“A serious concern” with siting a larger storage facility at the Whately site would be the need to remove the existing equipment, which it depends on for a portion of the winter heating season.

Another is the cost of the project, described as at least twice as costly as the alternative of expanding the distribution main — a 19-mile extension of the 12-inch distribution pipe that now serves Franklin County southward to a new interconnection with TGP’s east-west pipeline, at an estimated $58 million cost.

The filing points to possible sharing of costs with other gas distribution companies or large users for such an expanded line, described as the “most attractive alternative … It provides the volumes the Company needs for the near term, and will allow for growth well into the future.”

Berkshire Gas spokesman Christopher Farrell told The Recorder, “With each alternative, gas main enhancements will be needed within the Eastern Division to be able to move gas supply at reliable and safe operating pressure.”

The company is continuing to analyze which would be the most viable option, he said.

“Either option would entail significant work ranging from siting, local and state permitting, financing and construction. It isn’t possible at this point to provide a specific timeline for lifting the moratorium. Once our analysis is narrowed down to what appears to be the most viable option, which is anticipated by year’s end, we will be in a better position to assess a potential timeline.”

But there will be no lifting of a moratorium until a solution “has been identified and moved far enough along in the process to be confident it will proceed,” Farrell added. “Berkshire must have a high degree of confidence that the selected alternative will be constructed and placed into service,” in light of cancellation last spring of TGP’s Northeast Energy Direct project, which Berkshire said it was relying on to ensure adequate supply.

Kathryn Eiseman, president of Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, said in response to the filing, “It appears that the only options that Berkshire Gas considers viable are large scale capacity expansions that would allow for unfettered growth. This is not a time for unfettered expansion of natural gas consumption. Limited, targeted expansions to accommodate peak demand may be unavoidable in the short term, but we need to embark on a concerted effort to displace energy sources that exacerbate climate change, rather than allowing natural gas infrastructure to metastasize.”

MassPLAN is a limited intervenor in the company’s filing with the DPU.

Online: bit.ly/2eluwAM

FERC sees lower natgas prices in New England

Argus, Oct. 21  2016

New pipeline infrastructure should lower natural gas prices in the northeast US in winter 2016-17, federal energy regulators project.

But the trend will prove short-lived as reliance on natural gas for power generation grows in New England at the same time as public opposition and economic challenges block construction of new pipelines.

The new infrastructure is noteworthy as many other major pipeline expansions in New England have been shelved or cancelled in the face of local opposition. US midstream company Kinder Morgan said it would focus on incremental capacity additions amid local opposition. Projects in New York state face equally strong opposition.

6GW of non-gas resources, about 20pc of the regional total, is at risk of early retirement, he said.

FERC member Cheryl LaFleur called the statement “ominous” and asked New England grid operator vice president Peter Brandien if the grid operator has plans to boost spare capacity in light of growing reliance on natural gas. “I wish I had a good answer that gave me comfort,” Brandien said. “As these resources retire, the region does not seem to be motivated to go down a path of expanding the gas infrastructure.”

“The environmental community and the keep-it-in-the ground folks really have struck a chord with the public, and it makes it really hard to build infrastructure” in New England, US Energy Information Administration chief Adam Sieminski said today.

» Read full article

 

Kinder Morgan’s Q3 Earnings Call Transcript (Excerpt)

Craig Shere:
And then last question from me, it’s kind of a bigger picture, but — but the — the [industry don’t] want to call it industry, the activism out there that’s made it difficult to put on new projects has also started impacting existing projects and that is called into question, what kind of ongoing cost there are for surveillance and security, can you comment on those trends and any issues impacting the industry?

Steve Kean:
Okay. A lot loaded in there, but basically I think our view is it is very hard to get big new builds done into New England or into the northeast, and we have seen that not only with [any deal], which we talked about in the first quarter and discontinued, but also with recent rulings that verified that decision. It is making it harder to get things done on kind of a megascale. Now we have continued to engage with our customers on smaller scale projects and will continue to pursue those.

But I think from the perspective of right now today it is hard to get new significant gas infrastructure built into New England and now with the intent to increase the basis differentials between what is already the lowest priced gas, dominion south, call it, and the New England market which is the highest priced in North America and just a few hundred miles away. So barring some improvement in that overall permitting environment I think it is difficult to do those, but we will keep looking for the smaller projects to do. The other thing I think New England is a perfect example of what Rich said at the very beginning, which is that, it does tend to make the existing network more valuable.

The other thing I would add and let Tom throw in whatever he wants, but the TGP system is a system that is continuing to produce project opportunities for us. A lot of our backlog on TGP – a lot of our backlog in gas is on TGP. I mean it is the biggest home for it outside of the Elba project right now, and what a lot of that project capital is directed at now is getting the gas as you know Darren, South from the Marcellus and Utica to the new market, the new market area, which is now the Gulf Coast of the United States.

And we are proceeding along very well with those. We are building on our existing footprint that again goes to the need to make distinctions between projects out there and infrastructure projects, building off of our existing footprint, adding compression, maybe laying some parallel pipe, things like that that created different – that is a different – in a federally certificated process that is a different context in which to be doing your project expansions. So I think you will see bases widen to New England to the northeast, and I think we will find plenty of things to invest in [Indiscernible] plenty of things to invest in on TGP to get that gas someplace else.

» Read the article

(Never wonder if we’re making a difference.)

Eversource Pipeline Tax Petition in NH Dismissed

DE 16-241, Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy – Order Issued – Petition Dismissed

“The proposal before us would have Eversource purchase long-term gas pipeline capacity to be used by gas-fired electric generators, and include the net costs of its purchases and sales in its electric distribution rates. That proposal, however, goes against the overriding principle of restructuring, which is to harness the power of competitive markets to reduce costs to consumers by separating unregulated generation from fully regulated distribution. It would allow Eversource to reenter the generation market for an extended period, placing the risk of that decision on its customers. We cannot approve such an arrangement under existing laws. Accordingly, we dismiss Eversource’s petition.

We acknowledge that the increased dependence on natural gas-fueled generation plants within the region and the constraints on gas capacity during peak periods of demand have resulted in electric price volatility. Eversource’s proposal is an interesting one, with the potential to reduce that volatility; but it is an approach that, in practice, would violate New Hampshire law following the restructuring of the electric industry. If the General Court believes EDCs should be allowed to make long-term commitments to purchase gas capacity and include the costs in distribution rates, the statutes can be amended to permit such activities.

Because that concludes this proceeding, we deny the motion to designate Staff Advocates as moot. We will address the joint motion for confidential treatment in a separate order.”

» Read the PUC’s order dismissing Eversource’s petition

Thanks to the work of opponents ENGIE, NextEra, CLF, NH Office of Consumer Advocate, Exxon, PLAN-NE,  NH Municipal Pipeline Coalition and individuals who voiced opposition in this case.

MA Healthcare Providers to call for a moratorium on new gas pipeline infrastructure

MA HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS to call for a moratorium on new gas pipeline infrastructure pending comprehensive health impact study.

What:
On Tuesday, October 11th, 2016 at 9:30 AM Press Conference to introduce Mass Health Care Providers Against Fracked Gas, and issue a call for an immediate moratorium on all new and future “natural gas” (or “fracked gas”) projects in the state such as major pipelines, pipeline stations, and LNG facilities until health concerns are addressed.

PLEASE JOIN US!!!  Signs most welcome! Signs from your group and signs about pipeline projects and health!

Where:
In front of Spectra Energy’s Metering and Regulating Station in West Roxbury, corner of Grove St. and Centre St., W. Roxbury, MA (approximately 1 Grove St, West Roxbury MA). In case of rain: Theodore Parker Unitarian Church, 1859 Centre Street, W. Roxbury.

Who:   
Mass Health Care Providers Against Fracked Gas, an organization of providers that spans various healthcare disciplines

• Dr. Curtis Nordgaard, pediatrician and educator/activist on the public health risks of fracked gas pipelines and infrastructure.

• Dr. Michael Cocchi, Critical Care and Emergency Medicine physician and member of the Steering Committee for Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline (SWRL)

• Seamus Whelan, RN,  Mass Nurses Association member and a member of the Steering Committee for Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline (SWRL)

• Kelly Erskine, resident and mother in Rehoboth, MA – proposed site of one of Spectra Energy’s compressor stations for its Access Northeast pipeline project.

Why:
Massachusetts communities are facing several new and expanding interstate “natural gas” (or “fracked gas”) pipeline projects. Human health has only been a secondary consideration for these projects, at best: Pipeline environmental reviews do not include formal health impact assessments to determine how the toxic, carcinogenic, and radioactive pollutants associated with gas pipelines might affect our health. Our organization is working to protect the patients, families, and communities we serve by calling for an immediate Moratorium on current pipeline construction and the approval of new pipeline projects in Massachusetts until Comprehensive Health Impact Assessments (CHIA) become a part of the interstate gas pipeline review process.

Contact:  Susan Lees, lees.susan7@gmail.com

Regional planners seek changes in gas pipeline approval process

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
September 29, 2016

The Franklin Regional Council of Governments is pressing for the region’s congressional delegation to seek improvements in the way natural gas pipeline applications are reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In a letter to Congressmen Jim McGovern and Richard Neal as well as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey (all Democrats), COG Executive Committee Chairman Bill Perlman and Planning Board Chairman Jerry Lund call for changes in the process FERC used in its review of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s Northeast Energy Direct project.

“The FERC process was unfair and unresponsive to community and regional concerns related to environmental impacts and public health and safety,” they wrote in the letter. It points to more than $50,000 the COG spent on legal services and staff time to help Franklin County communities on a project “that should not have proceeded to the ‘application’ stage given insufficient demand for the NED pipeline capacity.”

They described the “significant financial hardship” on the COG and Franklin County communities for a project that would have cut across eight Franklin County towns but was abandoned by the company in April after more than two years because there was not sufficient customer demand.

The letter makes a dozen suggestions to the federal lawmakers for changes in FERC’s process. Among them:

• Require FERC to take into account state energy and climate-change action plans as well as federal policies on global warming and energy when it considers infrastructure that would increase fossil fuel use.

• Require FERC to consider the capacity of all existing or proposed competing gas pipelines that would serve the same or overlapping markets when determining need, and setting priorities for pre-existing pipeline routes rather than new routes when considering alternatives.

• Require FERC and applicants to conduct more rigorous analysis of climate change and alternatives that include energy efficiency and renewable sources, and consider underutilized existing pipelines and storage facilities.

• Probibit FERC from granting eminent domain authority for pipelines that will export any gas.

• Prohibit FERC from granting any pipeline approvals until all required federal and state permits have been approved for a project.

• Require a public health impact assessment for any pipeline or related facilities as part of the application process, and require that environmental impact statements for projects be prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency or other independent agency.

• Overhaul the public participation process to require that applicants notify municipalities before contacting landowners, and provide “clear, factual, detailed and timely information” about routes and impacts, with at least 45 days allowed for public comment after submission of information.

Other suggestions included prohibiting FERC from overriding any state constitutional provision, requiring it to provide technical assistance grants to regional planning agencies and communities, mandating that pipeline safety requirements be uniform for rural and urban areas and making FERC more accountable “to an appropriate body,” as well as requiring it to update its regulations to address climate change and cut dependence on fossil fuels.

Planning Director Margaret Sloan said she has been in contact with aides to the legislators about setting up meetings with the COG and other regional planning agencies around the state about changes they are willing to pursue.

The letter also expresses support for federal legislation to fund an Office of Public Participation and Consumer Aadvocacy under provisions of the Federal Power Act to help citizen participation in permitting natural gas storage and infrastructure.

During review of the NED project, which would have crossed Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield and Warwick, and initially Orange as well, the COG and many of the affected towns criticized the process for not allowing the public sufficient information and time for input on issues they felt were not being addressed by project proponents.

“In my opinion, the concerns raised by FRCOG about gas pipeline regulations are genuine and reasonable,” Neal said. “The federal regulatory process is extraordinarily complex and any recommendations to improve these measures should be given serious consideration. I welcome this discussion about how FERC’s rulemaking can be more fair and transparent to local communities, and look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to make these legitimate proposals heard.”

McGovern said he was looking forward to working with the COG “to make sure that our communities’ voices are heard and that Massachusetts families always have a say in our state’s energy future.”

He added, “Massachusetts has a proud tradition as a leader in clean and renewable energy and that wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of grassroots activists in Franklin County and across the state. We need a forward-looking energy policy and that can only happen if we have a fair and open approval process on new energy projects.”

State Senate President Stan Rosenberg of Amherst, who met last fall with FERC officials in Washington, D.C., to register concerns about the process for reviewing pipeline applications, could not be reached for comment about the letter.

But following these talks, Rosenberg commented on a “pretty universal” tension that states are starting to wrestle with between energy regulations rooted in the past and emerging, forward-looking energy policies.

“Very few states have made very real progress in how to align the two,” he said at the time. “The left foot and the right foot are often heading in opposite directions … which is not a good idea if you want to succeed in creating a green energy future.”

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

NATURAL GAS: Dems express interest in permitting reform, export scrutiny

Hannah Northey, E&E reporter
Monday, September 26, 2016

Activists and angry landowners have been advised in the past to take their complaints about the spread of natural gas pipelines, compressor stations and export terminals to the halls of Congress.

Last week, more than 180 environmental groups followed that advice, and their call for oversight hearings appears to be gaining traction, at least among House Democrats. And in the Senate, a dozen lawmakers questioned whether regulators are being too quick in approving exports of domestic natural gas.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats signaled interest in taking a closer look at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s handling of project proposals under the Natural Gas Act following a letterfrom Maya van Rossum, the Delaware riverkeeper, and more than 150 groups outraged by what they call the agency’s “bias and abuse.”

Most of Congress’ efforts have been focused on streamlining the siting process for pipelines and liquefied natural gas export terminals “for the benefit of the industry with little regard for the rights of private property owners, communities’ concerns, or the views of state and local officials,” said a spokesman for E&C Committee Democrats.

“At a minimum, it is time for us to take a serious and comprehensive look at this 1930s statute to see whether it is truly serving the public interest in its current form,” the spokesman said.

FERC recently drew the ire of landowners by changing its public input process by collecting comments in private rooms. The agency said doing so would ensure everyone’s voice is heard, but landowners and community members said it denies people a chance to be heard on stage (EnergyWire, Aug. 18).

Separately, 11 Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), in a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Wednesday, questioned whether the agency was moving too quickly in approving exports of LNG to foreign countries, noting DOE has already approved 18 export applications.

The senators questioned whether the administration considers climate change in export reviews and how sending natural gas abroad is affecting domestic industries and energy bills.

“The DOE has approved a substantial volume of LNG exports and continues to do so at an alarming rate,” the senators wrote.

Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Al Franken of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Barbara Boxer of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire signed the letter.

Democrats have for years been stuck in a tricky balancing act, torn between calls for more natural gas exports and risking the shale boom’s domestic benefits (E&E Daily, Jan. 15, 2014).
Adding to their complex dance is a growing, national anti-fossil-fuel movement that has claimed success with the Obama administration freezing construction on a portion of the Dakota Access pipeline.

And as projects spread across the country, so too does the pressure from national environmental groups and landowners for regulators, Congress and lawmakers to step in.

Many of those concerns have cropped up on a regional basis along pipelines routes, compressor stations and other projects.

New York Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, for example, recently sent letters to FERC with concerns about an underground gas storage facility in the town of Reading.

Nationally, activists pressured Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to clarify her position on Dakota Access. They pushed her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), to clarify his position on the Atlantic Coast pipeline.

Groups that signed onto the van Rossum letter called for reforms at FERC and asked the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to take a closer look at the agency’s operation under the Natural Gas Act.

The law, the groups argue, gives too much power to the agency and too little power to landowners in the path of new gas infrastructure developers with eminent domain on their side.

“The number of frack gas pipelines is exploding and the feds are not only not applying appropriate oversight, but are in fact also enabling the trampling of people’s property rights, public health standards, and environmental protection,” David Pringle, Clean Water Action’s New Jersey campaign director, said in a statement.

This article came out shortly after Delaware Riverkeeper’s letter to Congress regarding FERC reform. Delaware Riverkeeper also recently sent a citizens’ monitoring report to FERC showing sloppy construction practices on Spectra’s AIM pipeline.

Opponents to Natural Gas Pipeline Rally to Grow Public Interest

A planned natural gas pipeline in Connecticut and neighboring states brought protesters out in Suffield and East Granby, calling attention to potential adverse environmental impacts. Kinder Morgan’s natural gas project, Connecticut Expansion, is scheduled to begin construction in Suffield and East Granby shortly, according to the Connecticut Sierra Club, which organized the protest and has been conducting a public education initiative opposing the plans.

The People Over Pipelines March, held Saturday, mirrors similar efforts held in Massachusetts, aimed at drawing attention the ratepayer subsidized gas pipeline expansion.  Participants followed the Kinder Morgan pipeline route in Suffield and East Granby.  Co-sponosrs of the effort included 350 CT, Toxics Action Center, Bethlehem Ecodefense and Berkshire Environmental Action Team.protest

 

 

 

At  an accompanying rally, Sierra Club’s Martha Klein said, “We’re here today to fight for the future of our planet, but the real reason to oppose this new pipeline is that it’s expensive, unneeded and what’s worse we’re paying for it!” The high pressure, large diameter fracked gas pipeline is being built in three states Sierra Club officials point out, noting that methane (natural gas) causes global heating that is 100 times worse than carbon dioxide in the near term.

» Read the full article

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Native American Protests Against A Pipeline Highlight Environmental Inequality

Erik Sherman, Contributor, Forbes Magazine
September 19, 2016

Flags of Native American tribes from across the US and Canada line the entrance to a protest encampment near Cannon Ball, North Dakota where members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters have gather to voice their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), September 3, 2016.

We recently had another example of the main problem with pipelines; they break. That’s part of the beast’s nature, whether the tubes carry water, oil, or gas. Even cracks result in waste.

When the carried substance is water, leaks can be messy and costly in the loss of an important resource. The same is true for gas and oil pipeline breakage, in addition to real costs in damages to the environment and human health.

The country has seen an average of almost 284 significant pipeline incidents a year. The 20-year result is 347 people killed, 1,347 seriously injured, and a cost, in current dollars, of $17.3 billion, or $860 million a year.

The figures may understate the problem if you include issues created by the contamination of water. Concerns about crops, livestock, and people if ground or surface water was no longer safe to use was a major reason why so many communities in western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania opposed, and eventually stopped, a major pipeline pushed by Kinder Morgan.

» Read more

A Pipeline By A Different Name: Algonquin

by Christine MacPherson,

As most know by now, an unprecedented number of Native Americas, representing 280 tribes, came together in North Dakota over the last several weeks. This beautiful group was successful in protecting their land and water from the Dakota Access Pipeline (at least seemingly, for the time being). Their plight garnered international attention and support, as it should have. The New York Times published individual protector’s stories on September 11—why did they come, what does it mean to them? It was great to read: http://nyti.ms/2cBE5f7. Ironically, the Times has not reported much on a pipeline of a different name much closer to their neighborhood. It’s one that many New Yorkers have been resisting for years. Those who are aware of the project are deeply concerned about its risks and struggle to understand why it’s not big news.

Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Pipeline (AIM)—notice that Native American name—is a 42-inch, high-pressure line that will carry fracked gas from the shale fields in Pennsylvania, through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, ending at the intersection of Boston and the Atlantic Ocean. Scheduled to go into operation this November, it will run under our beautiful and weary Hudson, a tidal river prone to swells and extreme temperature shifts, 35 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, at the intersection of two seismic zones, within 105 feet of our oft-cited-for-disaster Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, and through lovely residential neighborhoods where people live and work. Along with them, 20 million other people live within the critical 50-mile diameter evacuation zone of Indian Point. If you’ve any doubt that pipeline accidents and explosions happen regularly, just go ahead and Google it. Double down on your search and check for leaks, too. Or, if you’re busy, watch this recent, short interview from The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann for a crystal clear synopsis of the ludicrousness: https://youtu.be/IsAXcLTTVUo.

This past week, Spectra ran into trouble when they failed to get the pipe through the hole they drilled under the Hudson, tried to pull it out, and were unsuccessful. The pipe was stuck under the river for days, and the project “activities that are going on are considered critical,” according to a letter from Spectra to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). They went on to quickly violate wetland protection regulations in an effort to rectify the situation. What kind of shape will the pipeline be in when it finally gets pulled out? Once it is in there—you know, under the Hudson—how will it be inspected? If there are critical safety issues discovered, as many have been at Indian Point year after year, will those issues be dealt with, or ignored? Last year, two pipeline safety inspectors risked their careers to expose critical safety concerns at construction sites along the same line in Burrillville, RI. As these things go, nobody in power seemed to hear them.

» Read the full article

Erased By False Victory: Obama Hasn’t Stopped DAPL

by Kelly Hayes, Transformative Spaces
September 10, 2016

All Native struggles in the United States are a struggle against erasure. The poisoning of our land, the theft of our children, the state violence committed against us — we are forced to not only live in opposition to these ills, but also to live in opposition to the fact that they are often erased from public view and public discourse, outside of Indian Country. The truth of our history and our struggle does not match the myth of American exceptionalism, and thus, we are frequently boxed out of the narrative.

The struggle at Standing Rock, North Dakota, has been no exception, with Water Protectors fighting tooth and nail for visibility, ever since the Sacred Stone prayer encampment began on April 1.

For months, major news outlets have ignored what’s become the largest convergence of Native peoples in more than a century. But with growing social media amplification and independent news coverage, the corporate media had finally begun to take notice. National attention was paid. Solidarity protests were announced in cities around the country. The National Guard was activated in North Dakota.

The old chant, “The whole world is watching!” seemed on the verge of accuracy in Standing Rock.

And then came today’s ruling, with a federal judge finding against the Standing Rock Sioux, and declaring that construction of the pipeline could legally continue. It was the ruling I expected, but it still stung. I felt the sadness, anger and disappointment that rattled many of us as we received the news. But then something happened. Headlines like, “Obama administration orders ND pipeline construction to stop” and “The Obama Administration Steps In to Block the Dakota Access Pipeline” began to fill my newsfeed …

» Read full article

Towns, lawmakers to be intervenors in Berkshire Gas moratorium proceedings

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Friday, September 02, 2016

Area towns and state legislators will be able to play a full intervenor role in state proceedings involving Berkshire Gas Co.’s new customer moratorium.

The state Department of Public Utilities, acting one day after a Greenfield public hearing, has approved all intervenor requests but one.

The DPU rejected the proposed intervention by Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast in Berkshire Gas’ four-year forecast and resource plan, just as it rejected the pipeline opposition group’s proposed intervention along with that of Rep. Stephen Kulik of Worthington in May 2015.

DPU Hearing Officer Laurie Ellen Weisman on Wednesday approved interventions by the towns of Deerfield, Montague, Amherst and Hadley, as well as a joint intervention by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst, and Reps. Kulik, Ellen Story of Amherst, Peter Kocot of Northampton, John Scibak of South Hadley and Paul Mark of Peru.

Weisman’s ruling came after the hearing in which Rosenberg read joint testimony stating, “We believe that harm will occur if we are denied intervenor status. … We believe that there are many alternatives that need to be fully explored in this proceeding, in addition to the potential for increased gas supply.”

At the same hearing, Kathryn Eiseman, president of PLAN-NE, testified, “Berkshire Gas objects to our intervention in this proceeding. The company says that PLAN is not a ratepayer advocacy group, and that some of our members just happen to be ratepayers by ‘coincidence of location.’ In fact, the opposite is true: local residents are Berkshire’s customers by coincidence of location; they have no other option for gas service. Had Berkshire been more attentive to its customers, there would be no need for a ratepayer advocacy group such as PLAN to represent their interests. Despite what the company claims, our corporate purpose specifically includes protecting consumer interests in relation to proposed and existing gas infrastructure.”

Yet Weisman, who ran Tuesday night’s hearing in the Greenfield Middle School Auditorium, wrote in her decision the following day, “PLAN has not shown that it is substantially and specifically affected by this proceeding. PLAN states that it has significant interests in rate and cost implications, but those interests are not sufficient to establish that PLAN is substantially and specifically affected by this proceeding or that it has a right to intervene as a full participant. A ratepayer that alleges no peculiar damage to itself does not have a constitutional or statutory right to participate as an intervenor.”

She added that the attorney general, which is intervening in the case along with the state Department of Energy Resources, can adequately represent PLAN’s interests and that the organization can be a limited intervenor, but not allowed to present witnesses and formally question lawyers, Berkshire Gas, and expert witnesses in the case.

The company, in arguing why PLAN should not be allowed full intervention status, wrote on Aug. 22, “While there is adequate time to complete the review of the Company’s petition in this proceeding, the Company and its customers maintain a substantial interest in an orderly and efficient process. Simply put, the Company is devoting substantial effort to its ongoing resource plan update and extensive irrelevant and repetitive process in this proceeding will only frustrate the prompt completion of such task. PLAN’s petition for intervention is based on its allegations that its members will be affected by any rate or cost impact associated with the implementation of Berkshire’s resource plan and, presumably, any later proceedings seeking specific implementation of such plan … The fact that some of PLAN’s members may coincidentally be customers of Berkshire is an insufficient basis for intervention. PLAN’s stated organizational purpose is not as a ratepayer advocacy group …. (and ) it is only the coincidence of location that some of PLAN’s members may be customers of the Company.”

Eiseman, reacting to the DPU decision, said, “A primary reason we formed PLAN was to create a vehicle to advocate — on behalf of a broad-based coalition — in regulatory proceedings relating to gas infrastructure. The DPU, perversely, continues to keep out the organization that would streamline proceedings by pulling together interested parties as a single group, and instead has allowed municipal and legislator members of PLAN to intervene on their own. … The Massachusetts DPU’s justifications for denying us full intervenor status do not hold up.”

Weisman also noted in her ruling that Boston attorney Richard Kanoff, who sought to represent PLAN as a formal intervenor also represents the legislators along with Deerfield, Hadley, and Montague as full intervenors.

“This representation of disparate interests, particularly where one of the parties is a limited participant, raises procedural, privilege, and confidentiality concerns,” she wrote, directing him to submit by Sept. 8 “his plans for addressing these concerns and minimizing any appearances of conflict, real or perceived.”

The 2015 rejection of the PLAN-Kulik intervention was appealed in Supreme Judicial Court but was later dismissed as moot, following Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s plans to discontinue the affected Northeast Energy Direct project.

You can reach Richie Davis at rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

Noise Nightmare as Algonquin Pipeline Woes Lead to 24-hour Work

Residents have been relocated as Spectra tries to get pipe out from under the Hudson after its first failed attempt to install it.

By September 2, 2016

CORTLANDT, NY — The failure to pull 42-inch diameter pipe through the hole it drilled under the Hudson River has left Spectra Energy working 24/7 to get the pieces of pipe out so it can try again.

And that’s led to extraordinary noise problems as crews mount, use, dismantle and remount pneumatic hammers they’re using to get out the pipeline stuck under the river.

So far, the company says it has compensated 18 households for relocation for three days and is considering relocating more.

“In light of what happened last evening in Verplanck I once again made an official complaint to FERC and Spectra,” said Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi in a press release.

She encouraged town residents to file complaints.

  • The Spectra Hotline Number for Homeowners is 1-866-873-2579.
  • The FERC Customer Service number is 1-866-208-3372 for FERC Document number CP-14-96
  • The FERC Landowner Hotline is 1-877-337-2237

She attached a copy of the schedule and noise contingency plan Spectra submitted Sept. 2 for dealing with the problems it has with pipe under the Hudson River. It includes day and night work all the way through Labor Day and beyond.

» Read full article

Plan B for a pipeline: Some say Baker’s new approach faces legal hurdles

by Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine
September 1, 2016

ONE OF THE BIG MYSTERIES on Beacon Hill is how Gov. Charlie Baker is going to accomplish one of his top remaining energy priorities – building a new natural gas pipeline into the region.

His original plan was dealt a mortal blow a couple weeks ago when the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that existing state law doesn’t allow an electric utility to charge its customers for the money to finance a natural gas pipeline.

Yet the governor is pushing ahead, and so are the companies behind the Access Northeast pipeline project – Spectra Energy, Eversource Energy, and National Grid. Both the governor and the firms argue that a new pipeline will bring in enough cheap natural gas during the winter months to reduce electricity prices and save ratepayers billions of dollars. In a letter to policymakers last week, officials from the three companies said “a do-nothing scenario is untenable” and “our path forward is clear.”
The problem is that the path forward is anything but clear, which is probably why they didn’t mention what path they will follow in their letter. Through a spokesman they turned down a request for an interview.

In the wake of the SJC decision, executing on Baker’s original plan now requires a change in state law, and that’s not going to be easy in a Legislature that went on record in opposition during the current session. The Senate voted 39-0 to block the plan, and close to 100 House members expressed a similar viewpoint in a letter to House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

Earlier this week, Baker’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, Matthew Beaton, raised the possibility of a pipeline Plan B. Under his Plan B, natural gas utilities instead of electric utilities would sign the long-term contracts for natural gas capacity that are needed to finance a new pipeline. Beaton’s approach avoids the legal problems cited by the SJC in its decision, but it raises others.

» Read full article

Is Natural Gas a Bridge Fuel?

The U.S. is rapidly switching from coal to natural gas for its electricity generation. Is that good news for the climate?

By Zeke Hausfather, Yale Climate Connections
August 23, 2016

For the past century, coal has been king, providing the majority of U.S. energy for electricity generation.

But a combination of new federal and state environmental policies and a glut of cheap natural gas (mostly from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking) have led to a dramatic shift during the past decade, with coal dropping from 50 percent to 32 percent of our electricity generation and gas increasing from 18 percent to 33 percent.

Just under a third of existing coal-based power generation in the United States has been shut down, and the Obama administration has aggressively embraced the replacement of coal with gas as a key part of meeting its 2030 climate targets. We are quickly traveling down a gas bridge away from coal. But will this shift actually be a good thing for the climate?

Slashing emissions at the plant
At first glance, replacing coal with natural gas seems like a good (though not great) step in combating climate change.

Overall, carbon dioxide emissions from new gas power plants are as much as 66 percent lower than those of existing coal power plants. About half of this reduction is due to differing carbon intensities of the fuels (natural gas emits 40 percent less carbon than coal per unit of heat). The other half is due to the higher generation efficiency of natural gas (new natural gas plants convert heat to power at upwards of 50 percent efficiency, while typical coal plants only operate at about 33 percent efficiency).

A way to reduce emissions by as much as two thirds while also saving money seems like a no-brainer for climate policy. But natural gas has an Achilles’ heel that makes the question much harder to answer.

Direct CO2 emissions from electricity generation in grams per kWh. Based on calculations from Hausfather 2015.

Leaking Gas
Natural gas is predominately composed of methane. When methane is burned to produce electricity or heat, it releases carbon dioxide and water vapor.

But not all natural gas produced is burned. Some of it is leaked at gas wells, in compressor stations, from pipelines, or in storage. Methane is a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas. While it is in the atmosphere, it is around 120 times more powerful than carbon dioxide per ton, but it quickly decomposes through chemical reactions and only about 20 percent of the methane emitted today will remain after 20 years.

» Read full report

Berkshire Gas: No room for service expansion

By RICHIE DAVIS, Recorder Staff
Tuesday, August 30, 2016


The state Department of Public Utilities returned to Greenfield Middle School auditorium Tuesday night, this time for a hearing on Berkshire Gas Co.’s four-year forecast and resource plan.

Unlike a packed June 2015 hearing in the same overheated location, this session drew about 60 people to discuss the plan filed with the DPU in July after cancellation of Tennessee Gas Co.’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline through the region. Details of the plan, for the years 2016-2017 through 2020-2021, haven’t been filed yet, however, leaving some of those who testified to rail against building additional infrastructure for fossil fuels and instead call for better conservation and leak-detection.

Most of the dozen or so people who testified on its proposed analysis of supply alternatives to increase capacity in its system called on the company to lift a 2014-imposed moratorium imposed in its eastern service area. That area includes Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately in Franklin County, and Amherst, Hadley and Hatfield in Hampshire County.

Berkshire Gas President Karen Zink began the session with a statement explaining, “Reality is the cornerstone of our business and has always been so … and is the primary reason Berkshire declared the moratorium. While we recognize customers are disappointed that new natural gas is unavailable, it pales in comparison to how customers of the company would feel if natural gas service was lost on the system.”
But, she added, “There is congestion on the main line and, quite simply, there is no more space in the lateral pipe” that feeds northward from the main line and was expanded in 2012. “We cannot deliver any more natural gas to our service area based upon the existing system.”

Among the eight alternatives being considered in a forthcoming analysis is expansion of the company’s Whately LNG facility, built in 1999 with two 70,000-gallon tanks to be used for winter peak demand, or expansion of pipeline delivery capability to the Franklin-Hampshire region, installation of a new, larger LNG storage and vaporization facility “in the northern portion” of that region, displacing service from another Tennessee Gas Co. lateral line.

“Continuing the moratorium is unacceptable,” said Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, attending with Reps. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington and John Scibek, D-South Hadley.

Together, they presented testimony from the region’s legislative delegation — including Reps. Peter V. Kocot, Paul W. Mark and Ellen Story — about the negative effects on communities impacted by the moratorium, as well as why the DPU should grant them full intervenor status in the case.

“We join with our residents, businesses and local officials in being extremely concerned about the ongoing moratorium and its impact on the ability of our communities to have a reliable and cost-effective gas supply to meet demand,” Rosenberg said. “This moratorium, which is unprecedented in its scope and duration, is having, and will continue to have, a negative impact on the economy in our area both now and into the future.”

Pointing to the delegation’s ongoing conversations with Berkshire Gas officials, the legislators noted, “We have also expressed our disappointment that Berkshire Gas relied almost exclusively on NED to meet future gas supply needs, and did not aggressively explore alternatives such as increased energy efficiency and conservation initiatives as an alternative to simply relying on additional gas supply through the proposed NED project. We view this proceeding before the DPU as a golden opportunity to correct that oversight, and to help the company and our communities reach sensible and cost-effective solutions to meeting the natural gas needs of the future and to utilize that supply opportunities in the most efficient manner possible.”
Based on a Berkshire Gas study last year looking at alternative supply sources if the NED project was curtailed, they pointed to “the potential for several shorter-term solutions,” including enhanced efficiency and conservation, more aggressive leak detection, and additional LNG storage capacity.

“These and other options are now being examined in greater depth by the company, and we believe they hold promise for ending the moratorium sooner, even as additional longer-term options are explored,” Rosenberg said. “Since the withdrawal of the NED Pipeline proposal, it has been abundantly clear that the company must make different choices, and we have been working with them to understand their process and listen to their options.”

Peter Vickery of Amherst, chairman of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee, told DPU Chairwoman Angela O’Connor and other members of the panel that if the department approves Berkshire’s plan, it should do so on the condition that the moratorium be ended within six months.

Kathryn Eiseman, director of Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast, whose intervention application has been recommended against by the company, told the DPU hearing, “The suddenness with which the company imposed its moratorium … caught businesses and municipalities by surprise. Yet modest infrastructure modifications could have been implemented by Berkshire Gas years ago to prevent the moratorium, had the company not built its business plans around a proposed interstate pipeline project. We urge the company and all parties involved to develop a resource plan that will resolve the moratorium while minimizing the build-out of infrastructure, evaluating previously identified modest system changes as well as improved demand management and energy-efficiency measures.”

She rejected Zink’s description of Berkshire Gas’ commitment to energy efficiency, claiming that those programs have not been emphasized by the company.

Amherst Economic Development Director Geoff Kravitz testified, “The moratorium coincides with a particularly critical time in Amherst’s history when we are seeing a renewed interest in private development. … (It) has hampered Amherst’s revitalization efforts by forcing developers and business owners to turn to alternative fuel sources, which are less convenient, cause development delays, increasing the financial cost of construction, and, discourages business opportunities and development projects.”

In addition to citing the difficulty for prospective town businesses — particularly restaurants — in turning to propane as an alternative fuel or being limited to existing gas hookups under an “untenable” moratorium, Kravitz pointed to problems with the forecast and use study before the DPU, saying, “We need a ‘permanent solution’ now.”
Representatives of the towns of Deerfield, Hadley and Montague also emphasized the impact the moratorium has had on their economies.
Ariel Elan, reading testimony submitted by the Montague Board of Selectmen, said, “Montague maintains that Berkshire’s moratorium was never necessary, because Berkshire always had options to modify its local infrastructure to solve its peak-demand problems — both for existing customers and projected new business.

“We anticipate that Montague and other intervenor towns … will examine critically Berkshire’s evidence of need for more supply, and will call for the most modest and incremental changes to Berkshire’s infrastructure that can be implemented to meet those needs.”

In her testimony, Rosemary Wessel, founder of the group No Fracked Gas in Mass, urged the company to repair its distribution system leaks, better help its customers weatherize and insulate, make off-peak use more attractive through discounts and other approaches to shift demand.
“By being required to adopt these measures first, Berkshire Gas should not only free up enough of their currently subscribed capacity to lift the moratorium, but should be able to satisfy stockholders by maximizing delivery of product while avoiding costs of purchasing more capacity or building out new infrastructure such as LNG storage,” said the Cummington resident, adding that addressing peak demand by using the approved Whately LNG storage facility “should only be considered as a last resort. Berkshire Gas should not be granted any additional pipeline capacity or system expansion until these conservation methods are fully addressed.”

Vincent DeVito, an attorney representing Northeast Energy Solutions, a research organization representing a coalition of environmental organizations and land trusts, said “Berkshire has yet to fully identify how much incremental capacity would be required to lift the current moratorium on new customers,” and noted that the company’s estimates of increased demand do not take into account the decreasing population of Berkshire County.

» GCTV full coverage of hearing (scroll forward to 1:29:00)

» WWLP Coverage
» WGGB Coverage

Spectra committed to pipeline project, utilities withdraw DPU filings

Eversource, National Grid withdraw filings; pipeline co. vows to continue

By Michael P. Norton, State House News Service
08/23/2016

BOSTON >> The company leading the push for a major natural gas pipeline project that would serve New England appeared undeterred Tuesday by news that both Eversource and National Grid this week withdrew related applications for approval of natural gas transportation and storage contracts.

In filings on Monday to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), Eversource and National Grid cited last week’s Supreme Judicial Court decision barring ratepayer financing of pipeline projects, such as the proposed Access Northeast project.

In response to a News Service inquiry, Arthur Diestel, stakeholder outreach director at Spectra Energy, said Tuesday, “We are committed to assuring that Access Northeast remains on track to meet strong demand in Massachusetts and New England to bring to the region the energy that is so desperately needed.”

The SJC decision “provides no solution to the energy cost, reliability, and environmental challenges that the New England region faces today,” Diestel said. He said in an email that “our work to obtain contract approval will continue throughout the New England states. As we evaluate our path forward in Massachusetts, we remain confident that the Access Northeast project will ultimately provide substantial benefits to consumers across the New England region.”

The SJC ruling represented a blow to Gov. Charlie Baker’s efforts to increase the flow of natural gas to the region, and arrived as the administration prepares to implement a new law authorizing the purchase of large-scale hydropower and offshore wind resources.

» Read full article

Downeast LNG terminal proposal in Maine dismissed

Proposal that was initiated 10 years ago dismissed by U.S. regulator due to lack of progress

By Jericho Knopp, CBC News
Aug 18, 2016

Downeast LNG had been trying to develop a liquefied natural gas export terminal at Robbinston, Maine, for the last 10 years but it was recently dismissed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the United States. The application to build a LNG terminal in Robbinston, Maine, opposite St. Andrews, has been dismissed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the United States.

This proposal was the last of three separate Maine LNG plans to be dismissed and marks the end of 10 years of preparations by Downeast LNG, the group responsible for the proposal.

The order stated “There has been essentially no progress at all toward completion of an application in the past nine months, and Downeast has presented nothing to persuade us that its situation is likely to change in the immediate future.”

» Read full article

Solidarity Rally

Activists who, in April, stopped a fracked gas pipeline that would have crossed the Valley, held a solidarity rally August 21 in Plainfield, Massachusetts. Plainfield is near Greenfield and Northampton. The rally was in solidarity with Native Americans in North Dakota who are trying to stop a proposed oil pipeline. In recent weeks, 24 people were arrested for non-violent civil disobedience along the route of the North Dakota pipeline.

About 25 people attended the Plainfield rally. A photo of one of them is below. The Plainfield rally organizers have a web site at www.NoFrackedGasInMass.org.

» Read the full report at ValleyPost

More photos from the event (by Jennie Markens & Rose Wessel):

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Cell phone video on available on Twitter

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Eversource withdraws request to charge electric customers for pipeline costs

8/22/16 — After last week’s MA Supreme Judicial Court ruling that charging electric ratepayers for purchase of pipeline capacity is against Massachusetts law, Eversource today filed a Motion to Withdraw DPU Application #15-181 that would have sought compensation for capacity on Spectra’s Access Northeast pipeline from electric ratepayers.  If National Grid follows suit soon, it would remove the two key customers for Access Northeast.

Note in the next to last paragraph of this Motion to Withdraw that they reserve the right to place this request again if the legality of the plan changes. We’ll be watching in the future for attempts to change the law that currently makes this request illegal in Massachusetts.

Editorial: Pipeline ratepayer rip-off nixed

Greenfield Recorder
Thursday, August 18, 2016

A decision Wednesday by the state’s highest court halts one of the most outrageous business boondoggles in recent memory — the notion that people who buy electricity should pay for a private company’s natural gas pipeline.

Believe it or not, that was the funding mechanism the state Department of Public Utilities accepted last October. The Conservation Law Foundation and a competing energy company challenged the DPU’s approval. And in an unanimous ruling Wednesday, the state Supreme Judicial Court said such an arrangement is prohibited by a 1997 state law.

The deal between electric utilities and pipeline builders represented the worst sort of corporate welfare. Writing for the court, Justice Robert Cordy said it was “unreasonable” for electricity customers to shoulder the financial risk of constructing pipelines.

Allowing the tariff, Cordy wrote, would “re-expose ratepayers to the very types of risks that the Legislature sought to protect them from” when it updated a 1930s-era law two decades ago.

The biggest loser is Spectra Energy, which had partnered with Eversource and National Grid in a project to construct the Access Northeast pipeline in central and eastern Massachusetts. Filings related to that project were immediately suspended.

A Spectra spokesman said the SJC’s decision leaves electricity customers at risk in another way — vulnerable to higher energy costs during times of peak demand, when electricity generators buy gas on the spot market rather than through long-term contracts.

But the decision halts what might have been a monumental ratepayer rip-off. Critics of the now-dead Northeast Energy Direct pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Co. built a credible case that natural gas brought to Massachusetts through lines financed by electricity ratepayers might have moved right on through the state to export overseas.

Under the tariff plan the SJC struck down, that would have been like compelling taxpayers to build a highway for drivers in another country.

The region’s legislative delegation tracked this issue closely and had reason to celebrate Wednesday’s ruling. Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg hailed it as a big win for consumers, protecting them from being stuck with pipeline construction costs even before such a system began to deliver gas.

To make matters worse, Rosenberg noted in a statement Wednesday, ratepayers’ investment, through add-ons in their electricity bills, would have enriched a private company if a pipeline funded through tariffs were later sold.

In western Massachusetts, the issue may seem moot, given the collapse of Kinder Morgan’s project, but it is not.

If the court had upheld the DPU ruling allowing tariffs for pipeline construction, that could have spurred later interest in projects like the NED line. “Ratepayers deserve to have confidence that the matter is settled,” Rosenberg said, “and now they do.”

In late June, with this issue hanging fire before the court, Rosenberg led the Senate to a 39-0 vote on a bill that would have safeguarded electricity ratepayers from being saddled with pipeline costs. While 90 members of the House indicated support for a similar measure, no such bill was taken up in their chamber by Speaker Robert DeLeo.

The state does have some of the highest power costs in the country. Gov. Charlie Baker’s push to increase the use of electricity produced by wind and hydro generation will help answer the need for new energy sources. Baker supported the tariff, so this week’s decision is a setback for his administration. It is a win for environmentalists who rightly argue that we must do all we can to reduce the use of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.

Over the years of dispute that surrounded the NED project, people learned a few things.

One is that the state’s perceived energy shortage may be driven by fear more than facts. Attorney General Maura Healey’s independent study of energy needs found that the shortage comes only at peak times and that alternatives, including conservation, could address that.

Healey followed up on that by filing a brief in April before the SJC in support of the Conservation Law Foundation’s challenge of the DPU action. Usually, the AG’s office acts to support the legal positions of other state agencies. Not in this case. On the tariff issue, the office found that existing law didn’t allow it.

Investors, not ratepayers, should build pipelines. If the demand for natural gas is really there, they win. That’s how the private enterprise system works. If not, it should never be ratepayers who lose.

Massachusetts pipeline tax ruling threatens New England pipeline project

The decision against having electricity ratepayers subsidize the expansion of a natural gas pipeline is a victory for the region’s environmental groups.

A plan to have Maine electric consumers underwrite a contract to help pay for expanded natural gas capacity in New England suffered a major setback Wednesday when a court in Massachusetts ruled against a similar proposal in the Bay State.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled against the state’s Department of Public Utilities’ requirement that electricity customers help subsidize construction of private gas pipelines. The court said private companies should bear all the financial risks.

Reaction came swiftly in Maine, where the Public Utilities Commission last month gave conditional approval for a similar measure.   After two years of study, Maine regulators decided that subsidizing new supply would benefit residents overall by lowering natural gas and electricity rates.

The decision also is a blow to the priorities of Gov. Paul LePage, whose administration has promoted natural gas expansion as a key to lowering the state’s electricity costs.

The region’s environmental groups applauded Wednesday’s ruling, saying that propping up fossil fuels slows New England’s transition to an economy driven by renewable power and high efficiency.

This position led the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation to join the challenge in Massachusetts and the appeal to the state’s high court.

The Massachusetts court case specifically involved a $3 billion pipeline expansion project called Access Northeast. The developer, Spectra Energy Corp., is proposing to upgrade an existing pipeline system, add liquefied natural gas storage and bring more gas to the region’s power plants. Two utilities in Massachusetts are partners in the project.

Access Northeast was endorsed by two of Maine’s three PUC commissioners in the agency’s approval of pursuing pipeline capacity here.

Maine’s action was conditioned on four other New England states taking similar action, noted Ben Tettlebaum, a staff attorney in Portland. Massachusetts, which uses the most natural gas in the region, was the pivotal state in any plans for ratepayers underwriting pipeline expansion through their power rates.

“With that state out of the picture, prospects for a regional gas pipeline expansion are slim to none,” Tettlebaum said. “No other party is willing to take the significant risk of entering into a long-term contract for a gas pipeline, which is why Maine has tried to saddle electric ratepayers with this gamble.”

» Read full article

MASS POWER FORWARD COALITION CELEBRATES SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT’S DECISION TO STRIKE DOWN PIPELINE TAX

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts struck down the so-called “pipeline tax” (ENGIE Gas & LNG LLC v. Department of Public Utilities — SJC 12051), which would have forced electric ratepayers to subsidize new gas pipelines.

Electric distribution utilities like Eversource Energy and National Grid have sought approval for an unprecedented mechanism that would pass substantial new infrastructure costs onto ratepayers — an arrangement which would, in effect, help utilities finance new interstate natural gas pipelines planned by Kinder Morgan and Spectra. The Court determined that a recent Department of Public Utilities ruling allowing utilities to pass along these costs violated the 1997 electric restructuring act, which the legislature had enacted in part to shield ratepayers from bearing investment risks. In this case, Conservation Law Foundation and ENGIE Gas & LNG brought suit against the Department Public Utilities, and both the Attorney General and the court ultimately sided with CLF/ENGIE.

» See full decision here

Mass Power Forward, a statewide coalition of more than 150 environmental, social justice and community groups, businesses, and faith organizations, released the following statement in response:

“Today, the Supreme Court upheld critical laws shaped to protect consumers and combat climate change. The regressive “pipeline tax” approved  by Governor Baker’s Department of Public Utilities would have effectively transferred wealth from ratepayers to large pipeline and utility companies, forcing customers to promote expansion of fossil fuels against their will.

The state legislature came close to banning the “tax” with over 130 elected representatives and senators on record in opposition, and we’re encouraged to see the Supreme Judicial Court seal the deal.

Massachusetts can meet its power needs through use of conservation, clean power, and existing fossil fossil infrastructure while advancing a future powered by 100% renewable energy. In the short-term, doubling down on energy efficiency is the best tool to save money for consumers and reduce energy consumption. Recently signed legislation, An act to promote energy diversity, will bring online large-scale resources like offshore wind that provide power when we need it most and invalidate the need for future investments in fossil fuels.

Proposed pipelines such as the Access Northeast project would also violate our legally-mandated climate policies under the Global Warming Solutions Act. Mass Power Forward will continue to oppose new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, and will continue fighting to ensure that the safety of neighborhoods and communities is put ahead of fossil fuel industry profits.

No Fracked Gas in Mass and Berkshire Environmental Action Team are Mass Power Forward member organizations.

Legislators seek direct involvement in regulatory process over Berkshire gas moratorium

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Area lawmakers want to get legally involved in the regulatory process that could affect Berkshire Gas Co.’s now 2-year-old moratorium on new hookups.

Legislators from Franklin and Hampshire counties on Tuesday have applied to the state Department of Public Utilities to become formal intervenors in the Berkshire Gas Co.’s proposed four-year forecast and resource plan.

The 241-page filing is projected to prepare an analysis of supply alternatives to provide incremental capacity and lift the moratorium in an area that includes Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately in Franklin County, and Amherst, Hadley and Hatfield in Hampshire County.

The delegation, including Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst; Reps. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington; John Scibek, D-South Hadley; Ellen Story, D-Amherst; Paul Mark, D-Peru and Peter Kocot, D-Northampton, is filing on behalf of their constituents and communities that are subject to a 2014 moratorium on new or expanded service that was contingent on completion of the proposed Kinder-Morgan Northeast Energy Direct interstate gas pipeline project that was stopped earlier this year.

“We need to work with Berkshire Gas and the Department of Public Utilities to find a solution to the moratorium as quickly as possible,” Rosenberg said Tuesday. “By participating in the Berkshire Gas Forecast and Supply plan case, we will be able to better represent the needs of the district in the ongoing effort to find the right solution for lifting the moratorium on new gas customers.”

“It will give us a seat at the table directly,” Rosenberg said. “We’ll be able to participate at a level beyond what we can normally do. You can go to the hearing, you can ask questions, you can write letters. It goes to a higher level. We can ask rhetorical questions and hope they answer them. As intervenors, we can actually ask questions which they’re obligated” to answer. … “This is all on the record, it’s all public.”

Berkshire Gas last month filed its required plan for the years 2016-2017 through 2020-2021, saying it wanted to identify an action plan to address future needs in the wake of the pipeline project’s cancellation.

Rosenberg said legislators have been involved in weekly, and more recently, bi-weekly with Berkshire Gas officials “to have a conversation in hopes of ending the moratorium.”

If granted intervenor status, the legislators will gain access to the detailed information that the company submits to the DPU regulators.

In its previously approved Forecast and Supply Plan, Berkshire Gas stated that it planned to resolve its supply issues by purchasing gas and capacity on the NED Project.

“We know that many residents, businesses, and the region’s economic vitality are at stake, and we are committed to working closely with all interested parties to resolve this situation as quickly as possible,” Kulik said. “I am pleased that the entire legislative delegation for the eight towns negatively affected by the Berkshire Gas moratorium … is working together to give our constituents a stronger voice in DPU’s review.”

In a report commissioned by Berkshire Gas at the urging of Rosenberg, the authors, Woodard and Curran, offered several options the company could take to lift the moratorium. None of the options proposed were acceptable to the company.

Rosenberg has been meeting continually with Berkshire Gas to develop an alternate plan to the NED Project to serve the Eastern Division.

If their intervention is approved, he said, “We’ll see if that does something that’s more robust than would otherwise occur.”

The Town of Montague has said it also plans to file for intervenor status in the review of the proposed five-year supply plan in an attempt to bring about an end of the moratorium.

Kulik filed in the spring of 2015 for intervenor status in the DPU’s review of Berkshire Gas’s long-term supply agreement with the pipeline, but that intervention was rejected.

Rosenberg said he believes that the current proposed intervention, sought just before Tuesday’s deadline, should stand because members of the delegation represent potential customers and communities affected by the moratorium.

Utilities can’t force customers to pay for pipelines, says state’s high court

by Richie Davis, Greenfield Recorder
August 17, 2016

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday ruled against the state Department of Public Utilities requiring electricity customers to subsidize construction of private gas pipelines.

The court’s decision, in a case brought by the Conservation Law Foundation, would instead require electric utilities to shoulder the financial risks of those projects.

“This is an incredibly important and timely decision,” said the lead CLF attorney on the case, David Ismay. “Today our highest court affirmed Massachusetts’ commitment to an open energy future by rejecting the Baker Administration’s attempt to subsidize the dying fossil fuel industry.”

In his opinion, Justice Robert J. Cordy wrote that the DPU’s order is “invalid in light of the statutory language and purpose” on the state’s utility industry restructuring act, because it “would undermine the main objectives of the act and re-expose ratepayers to the types of financial risks from which the Legislature sought to protect them.”

State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, who represesnts much of Franklin County in the Legislature, said today “The SJC got it right. Existing law prohibits passing the cost of building new pipelines onto ratepayers. When the Massachusetts Senate debated the energy bill this session, the Senate voted 39-0 to prohibit utility companies from passing the cost of building new infrastructure on to ratepayers. To do otherwise would have been unprecedented and contrary to the best interests of the Commonwealth. Ratepayers deserve to have confidence that the matter is settled, and now they do.”

Attorney General Maura Healey said, “The court’s decision makes clear that if pipeline developers want to build new projects in this state, they will need to find a source of financing other than electric ratepayers’ wallets.”

Whether pipeline companies could pass their up-front development costs to electricity users through their power generating company customers was an issue in the recent controversial Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct pipeline through Franklin County.

First-ever State Mandate will More than Double Renewable Resources, Slash Carbon Emissions, Protect the Environment and Grow the Clean Energy Economy

NY State Pressroom, August 1, 2016

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the New York State Public Service Commission’s approval of New York’s Clean Energy Standard, the most comprehensive and ambitious clean energy mandate in the state’s history, to fight climate change, reduce harmful air pollution, and ensure a diverse and reliable energy supply.

The Clean Energy Standard will require 50 percent of New York’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030, with an aggressive phase in schedule over the next several years. In its initial phase, utilities and other energy suppliers will be required to procure and phase in new renewable power resources starting with 26.31 percent of the state’s total electricity load in 2017 and grow to 30.54 percent of the statewide total in 2021. The Clean Energy Standard will cost less than $2 a month to the average residential customer’s bill.

» Read full announcement

Peekskill residents file federal brief against Spectra pipeline

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Construction site of Spectra’s Algonquin Incremental Market pipeline in Peekskill (Photo courtesy of Courtney Williams)

Editor’s Note: The following information was provided by Linda Snider.

On Friday, July 29, a coalition of 21 plaintiffs including local groups Riverkeeper, Sierra Club Lower Hudson, Food & Water Watch NY, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE), and Reynolds Hill, Inc. filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seeking to overturn the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) March 2015 approval of Spectra Energy Partner’s Algonquin Incremental Markets (AIM) pipeline project. Although many state and local officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both New York Senators and Representatives Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel have come out against the pipeline, so far construction is still moving forward. 

“FERC has only rejected one pipeline project in its entire 40-year history,” said Nancy Vann, whose Peekskill property is being taken by eminent domain for the AIM project. “It’s shameful that the public must take a government agency to court in order to make it do its job. I’m so grateful for the determination of Riverkeeper, SAPE, Food & Water Watch and all of the other coalition members who have persisted in asserting these important issues and I’m looking forward to finally getting our day in court.”

» Read full article

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First NED, Now Constitution. Which Gas Pipeline Is Next?

by BTU Analytics
Posted on Seeking Alpha, Aug. 4, 2016

Summary
• Both Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct and Williams’ Constitution have been shuttered in the face of strong opposition.
• Other greenfield projects are at risk due to right-of-way, permitting, and construction challenges.
• Delays to other greenfield projects will severely limit the Northeast’s ability to grow production.

I don’t spend much time on Twitter, but a trending topic on the social network caught my eye last week: #NEDisDEAD. NED of course refers to Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s Northeast Energy Direct project and the DEAD to Kinder Morgan’s decision last week to shutter the project. On top of that, we heard the news late last Friday that the NY Department of Environmental Conservation denied

Constitution’s stream crossing permit. Limited takeaway capacity constrains the Marcellus and Utica’s ability to grow production, so obviously any cancellation or delay in projects would materially impact our production outlook, right? Not quite.

» Read full article

Too Much Pipe On My Hands? – Marcellus/Utica Takeaway Capacity to New England and the Mid-Atlantic States

by Sheetal Nasta, RBN Energy, 08/04/2016

The Northeast natural gas market in recent years has been defined by its lack of sufficient infrastructure for growing production in the region. Pipeline takeaway capacity constraints have restricted production growth and driven Northeast prices to the lowest in the country. But could that soon change? With drilling activity slowing and 18 Bcf/d of takeaway due in-service over the next few years, is it possible the Northeast takeaway capacity will get overbuilt? Today, we continue our look at how pipeline takeaway capacity will stack up against Northeast production.

The Northeast natural gas market is already unrecognizable from just five years ago, having transformed from a demand market to a full-fledged producing region with more supply than it can store or burn (see see End of the Displacement and One Step Closer). But as we’ve noted in the RBN blogosphere, the region’s transformation is far from complete. Takeaway capacity out of the Marcellus/Utica remains constrained and prices continue to reflect constrained (discounted) pricing, which indicates the region remains out of whack. But starting in 2017, takeaway capacity additions are expected to accelerate with 24 projects scheduled to add 18 Bcf/d of takeaway capacity that will ease the constraints. And, there is substantial demand growth expected downstream from gas-fired power generators, LNG export terminals along the Gulf Coast and still more exports to Mexico. Until now the question has been, will takeaway capacity keep up with production. But with these pipeline projects coming due, the central question has shifted to the opposite:  Will production keep up with the takeaway capacity?

To answer this question, we started in Part 1 of this series with an analysis of the production side of the equation and concluded that Northeast production remains relatively resilient, despite the dramatic slowdown in drilling activity across the U.S. in the past 18 months or so.

» Read the full article

State hearing on Berkshire Gas supply plan on Aug. 30

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
August 4, 2016

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Middle School Auditorium will again be the setting for a public hearing about natural gas, this time on Berkshire Gas Co.’s long-range supply plan.

The Aug. 30 hearing, scheduled for 7 p.m. by the state Department of Public Utilities, will be to review the company’s four-year forecast for supplying customers.

For now, the company’s 241-page Long-Range Forecast and Supply Plan, filed less than a month ago, simply calls for identifying “any and all practical or feasible resource alternatives” to meet its requirements, after which it will consider their feasibility to determine “which resources are appropriate for more comprehensive analysis.”

The company says it wants to identify a plan to end the current moratorium on new customers and expansion in its “eastern area,” which now includes Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately as well as Amherst, Hadley and Hatfield.

The plan, the first since 2012, is needed to address the area’s growing demand for natural gas in the wake of cancellation of the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline through the region.

A hearing in this area was specifically requested in a July 5 letter to the DPU from Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, along with Reps. Paul Mark, D-Peru, and Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington. The only other hearing scheduled by the DPU is to be in the department’s Boston headquarters on Aug. 23.

The filing discusses a range of options, from keeping in place the moratorium set in place in the winter of 2014 to increased conservation, storing more liquefied natural gas in Whately for peak winter demand, to using pipelines or other systems of natural gas distribution.

The state attorney general’s office has filed to intervene in the case, as is customary.

The middle school auditorium was nearly packed for a public hearing June 2015 on Berkshire Gas’ proposed long-term contract for Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s NED project. The following month, it was the setting for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hearing on the project, which has since been canceled.

The Berkshire Gas analysis is intended “to identify and evaluate potential resource alternatives that would effectively address the requirements of existing customers while also permitting the termination of the moratorium,” according to the July 8 filing.

On the Web: bit.ly/29tqRhg

You can reach Richie Davis at rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

Obama instructs FERC to review climate impacts of pipelines

A pipeline construction site in Northeast Pa.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A pipeline construction site in Northeast Pa.

The Obama Administration instructed federal agencies to factor climate change impacts into required environmental reviews of large projects. The White House Council on Environmental Quality released its guidance this week, six years after the original draft proposal. The move clarifies reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Under NEPA, projects such as interstate pipelines and LNG export terminals undergo environmental reviews known as environmental impact statements, before gaining federal approval.

“In many cases, Federal actions have the potential to contribute to climate change by producing greenhouse gas emissions or alternatively, be affected by many of the impacts of a changing climate, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather, drought and wildfires,” read a statement released by the White House.

The White House guidance on climate change is just that – guidance. It’s not a new law or regulation and does not require congressional approval. But environmentalists who oppose pipeline projects reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, for example, say it’s a step in the right direction.

» Read full article

MA Legislature passes energy bill shortly before end of session deadline

by Eugenia T. Gibbons, MassEnergy.org
August 01, 2016

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Late Sunday (July 31) night the Massachusetts Legislature passed H.4568, paving the way for the country’s largest offshore wind procurement ever. We want to thank the nearly 200 members who reached out to members of the Energy Conference Committee urging them to act to make the bill as comprehensive as possible. Although the final version does not include all the provisions we wanted, it is a step forward for renewable energy in Massachusetts. Here’s what you need to know about what passed.

Steps in the right direction

Gas Leaks: The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is required to move forward with a process to identify and repair “environmentally significant” Class 3 gas leaks. This was a priority of Mass Energy’s and should help accelerate gas leak identification and repair.

Energy Storage: Requires the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to evaluate energy storage procurement targets for electric utilities. The provision has the potential to help accelerate deployment of storage in Massachusetts and may have a positive impact on clean energy consumption in our state. We would rather meet peak demand with stored energy than by building new gas pipelines carrying fracked methane.

Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (CPACE): Allows for owners of commercial properties to finance energy efficiency upgrades and on-site renewable energy measures and installations as an adder to their property tax bill.

» Read full article

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From now on, every government agency will have to consider climate change

By Chris Mooney, Washington Post, August 2, 2016

In the past several weeks alone, the Obama administration has made multiple new moves to fight climate change. The administration announced new steps to help fill U.S. roadways with electric vehicles. It ruled that greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft endanger human health and welfare. And on the international stage, it moved the world closer to a deal to phase out super-polluting HFCs, chemicals in refrigerants and other industrial substances that warm the climate.

But as Obama’s term dwindles, the act isn’t over — on Tuesday the White House released yet another policy to fight climate change, one with potentially far-reaching consequences. The White House’s chief environmental office, the Council on Environmental Quality, finalized a six-year process of shaping how the government’s agencies, across the board, will factor climate change into their decisions.

The council’s new guidance involves what activists and environmental lawyers know as “NEPA” — one of those exceedingly wonky policies that is nevertheless critical to how the modern federal government functions. NEPA is short for a foundational 1969 environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, that required federal agencies to consider environmental consequences of their actions — all kinds of actions, ranging from granting a permit to drill on public lands to building a new road or bridge.

» Read full article

RGGI Riding Clean Energy to a Low Carbon Future

Acadia Center Blog, July 29, 2016

“Energy efficiency programs are reducing demand for electricity across the region, while electricity is increasingly being supplied by renewable energy sources. Both of these trends help to displace electricity generation from aging, inefficient, carbon-intensive sources like coal and oil, while deferring the need to invest in costly natural gas infrastructure. All together, these factors are helping to make electricity in the region cleaner and more affordable.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has now produced enough data to make certain trends abundantly clear: the electric sector is becoming cleaner while the regional economy grows. The nine participating RGGI states, which held their first allowance auction nearly eight years ago, have delivered on their promise of cutting carbon emissions from the region’s power plants. As Acadia Center’s most recent report details, these emissions reductions have been driven, in part, by the steady growth of renewable energy generation and energy efficiency programs. Not only has this transition to a clean energy system helped to curb harmful pollution, it has produced substantial benefits for the regional economy.

Slashing emissions
Emissions in 2015 continued the downward trend of recent years. Carbon emissions from the power plants covered by RGGI totaled 83.2 million tons in 2015, which was 6.3% below the 2015 emissions cap of 88.7 tons and 37% below emissions levels in 2008, the year before RGGI started. RGGI’s experience continues to show that power sector emissions can be reduced much more quickly and cost effectively than expected.

» Read the full article

Berkshire gas pipeline stay order to expire; Tennessee Gas Co. expected to begin clearing trees

By RICHIE DAVIS, Recorder Staff
Thursday, July 28, 2016

SANDISFIELD — With a court order hold ready to expire after today, a gas pipeline project is raising concerns again in this Berkshire County town, as well as in Franklin County.

The May 8 Berkshire Superior Court decision by Judge John A. Agostini included a “stay” order until July 29 for Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s Connecticut Expansion Project through 2.3 miles of Otis State Forest, after which the company is expected to begin taking steps toward clearing trees.

In anticipation, members of Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast (PLAN-NE) and Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) have notified the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that because of its members’ appeal of a water-quality certification for the project granted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, federal and state laws prohibit “authorization of tree-cutting or other activity that will result in the discharge of dredged or fill material” into any water body.

The company would need a FERC  “Notice to Proceed” with tree-cutting, said PLAN-NE’s president, Kathryn Eiseman. “Otis State Forest has become a flashpoint for a lot of people. We all want to make sure that the natural resources here are protected, and that DEP and Kinder Morgan follow the letter of the law.”

BEAT, like Eiseman, have expressed concerns about potential impacts on the wetlands and on Spectacle Pond, where Agostioni’s May 8 order would allow TGP access to the 4-mile pipeline looping route, including the section through the forest .

“I feel like the government is turning a blind eye to the environmental damage you can see from TGP’s existing pipelines here,” said Sandisfield resident Jean Atwater-Williams, who is part of the group appealing the certificate. “On our property alone, their poor maintenance practices have led to invasive species spreading across wetlands. Once they get the go-ahead, I think they do the minimum they can get away with.”

Surveyors for TGP were seen at Otis State Forest earlier this week, flagging the route and marking boundaries on land that is under protection of the Massachusetts Constitution’s Article 97 before access is given to the company.

“It appears they are pushing the limits,” said Eiseman, who contends that even though the court order is due to take effect after midnight passing control of the property over to TGP, “it doesn’t allow them to do anything” because the Department of Conservation and Recreation hasn’t yet issued a construction permit, the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t issued a National Pollution Discharge Elimination Permit System permit and there are unmet conditions of the Sandisfield Conservation Commission.

TGP, which received FERC certification in March for its 13.42-mile-long Connecticut Expansion Project, has said it needs to begin work on the project as soon as possible to meet its contract obligation with customers to have its pipeline in service this November.

To prevent further delays, the company on Monday called on Berkshire Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini to order that as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday, the company “shall have immediate right of entry” on the affected right of way and temporary work space approved by FERC “under, upon, across and through the property” for all certificated purposes.

Franklin County residents

Even though the Berkshire County conservation property is miles from Franklin County, where a related TGP natural gas project had been proposed to run through eight towns on its route from New York State to Middlesex County but has been canceled, Franklin County residents have played a big role in opposing the project here, at a July 16 vigil, through support of PLAN-NE and by training for upcoming civil disobedience actions, say Eiseman and other project opponents.

“We’re still charged up from experiencing the threat and the horrendous effect the pipeline would have had here, so we feel sympathetic,” said Will Elwell of Ashfield, who oversaw construction of a Thoreau-inspired cabin along the pipeline route that he tried to have moved to Sandisfield. “It’s an attack on our heritage of old-growth trees and conservation land.”

Jim Cutler of Ashfield, a former board of PLAN-NE, explained, “Article 97 really is a core issue that has an impact on our future down the line.”

While the court decision, which cited federal preemption authority in usurping the Massachusetts Legislature’s exclusive authority to release Article 97-protected state conservation land, may not have formally set a legal precedent, Cutler said, “It’s very hard to know where the decision will judicial or political impact down the road. Pipelines are ubiquitous: if not here, there; if not now, tomorrow.”

Cate Woolner of Northfield, representing the Sugar Shack Alliance, which has trained more than 250 Franklin, Hampshire and Berkshire County residents in nonviolent protest, along with potential protesters from southern Vermont and New Hampshire, said, “The folks in Sandisfield and surrounding towns are facing the same kind of situation we were here. We’re not concerned not just about that one pipeline here but about fracking, about fossil fuel use, the fact that we have gas leaks all over the place that aren’t being plugged up.”

When opponents walked in March from Windsor to Northfield, “There were folks who showed up and walked with us from Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, eastern Massachusetts, and a number from out of state. We don’t want to be seen, or be, all about NIMBY (Not in My Backyard). And that’s why many of us also are showing up in Boston,” where Spectra’s Access Northeast gas pipeline project is under construction.

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

Eminent Domain is Becoming a Crucial, Controversial Part of the Gas Pipeline Boom

By Julie Grant (The Allegheny Front) • Jul 24, 2016
WYSO – Ohio

If you’ve seen the movie The Graduate, you no doubt remember the classic scene where a businessman friend of Benjamin’s parents—anxious to talk about the kid’s future— approaches Dustin Hoffman’s character with “just one word” of advice.

That one word, of course, was “plastics.”

There was a “bright future” in plastics according to Mr. McGuire. And while The Graduate came out nearly 50 years ago, some parents in Pennsylvania today might also see a future for their kids in plastics.

Thus far, the region’s natural gas deposits have mostly fueled a boom in the drilling industry. But those same resources could also soon be feeding a spinoff industry in chemicals—like the ones used to make plastics—that are made from natural gas. Case in point: The 600 permanent jobs Shell says it will create when it opens its new “ethane cracker” in western Pennsylvania. It will use super-high temperatures to turn ethane—a liquid natural gas product—into the building blocks of plastics. And more of these facilities are in the works for this region.

That’s because ethane and other so-called “natural gas liquids,” like propane and butane, are abundant in the region. And because there’s already a demand for these fuels in places like Canada and Europe, companies are now scrambling to expand the network of pipelines that carry them for export.

Mick Luber has had a front row seat for this most recent phase the industry’s expansion. His small organic farm in the quiet hills of eastern Ohio has recently become a popular spot. The land where he grows things like tomatoes, greens and fava beans now sits next to a new compressor station and multiple well sites. They’re so close, they often wake him up at night.

“For the first year that they were fracking, it was hard for me to go outside,” Luber says. “I felt so bad hearing the roar of all this stuff. It’s nice to have the cicadas that drown them out.”

And Luber expects what he’s seen so far may be just the beginning. Now, pipeline companies, like Kinder Morgan, have come knocking at his door, asking to build a line through the middle of his farm.


“All of these are operated, not by government entities, but by companies doing public business, in the sense that everybody that’s listening to your radio station uses gas to drive a car [or] heat their homes,” says Allen Fore, a spokesperson for Kinder Morgan. “So there absolutely is a public good for that.”


» Read full article / listen to broadcast

New Report Highlights Pittsfield Renewable Energy Push, Urges More To Follow Lead

By Andy McKeever

Sarah Gardner of William College’s environmental studies program said the biggest challenge is not capacity but the political dispute over renewable projects.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A new report being released in two weeks will highlight the city’s efforts toward energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

The Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center is releasing the report that will urge municipalities to boost their efforts in moving toward more renewable energies and the Legislature to pass aggressive energy policies to move the entire state to 100 percent renewable.
“Across Massachusetts, cities and towns are leading the way toward 100 percent renewables and as state officials consider major changes to our energy policy, we urge them to follow the lead of communities like Pittsfield and charge full speed ahead,” the organization’s state director Ben Hellerstein said.
The report highlights more than a dozen communities that have taken aggressive steps toward clean energy with Pittsfield being one of those.
“We’ve been very active over the past decade with our work to increase energy efficiency and seek opportunities for quality renewable projects in all areas of our municipal operations — from our vehicle fleet to our public buildings and beyond,” Parks and Open Space Manager Jim McGrath said.
McGrath said the city performed energy audits on all of the municipal buildings, leading to numerous heating and cooling system improvements and lighting projects to reduce energy. The city performed a gas conversion project at the Berkshire Athenaeum that saves taxpayers some $45,000 a year in energy costs and similar project was performed at City Hall. In 2011, through the Mass Save program, the city had audits done on a number of downtown buildings that led to clustered projects.
As for renewable sources themselves, in 2012, the city was part of the Clean Energy Center’s Solarize Massachusetts program that paved the way for 90 residential homes to have solar panels. At the municipal wastewater treatment plant, an entire heat and power system was replaced and a 2 megawatt solar array was installed.

» Read full article

UMass Amherst Installing More than 15,000 Solar Panels to Reduce Emissions, Cut Electricity Costs by $6.2 Million

AMHERST, Mass. ­– The University of Massachusetts Amherst has embarked on a major solar energy initiative that will cut its electric bills by $6.2 million over 20 years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 31,000 non-metric tons of carbon dioxide.

At no upfront cost to itself, the university is installing 15,576 photovoltaic panels across campus to provide 5.5 megawatts (MW DC) of clean renewable electrical power at heavily discounted rates. The total annual generation from the new installations is estimated to equal the annual electrical energy use of 900 Massachusetts homes.

The eight solar panel installations – six on rooftops and two above existing asphalt parking lots – will be engineered and constructed by Brightergy, a national energy company with offices in Charlestown, Mass. Brightergy, through its partnership with Sol Systems, arranged for project finance, ownership and ongoing maintenance of the solar installations with ConEdison Solutions for up to 20 years. The university will buy all of the electricity from the $16 million project for direct use on campus through a power purchasing agreement. The installations will be completed by the end of 2016.

“UMass Amherst prides itself on being a sustainability leader, serving as a model for campuses and communities across the country,” said Shane Conklin, associate vice chancellor for facilities and campus services. “We are very excited to be moving forward with what we view as an economic, environmental and educational win for our entire community.”

“We are thrilled to be involved with the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s forward-thinking decision to execute this watershed project,” said Brightergy CEO Adam Blake. “This is a partnership with multi-faceted benefits for many, not least of whom will be the students who will have a unique, real-world STEM learning opportunity on campus.”

» Read full article

ISO New England: Wholesale power prices, consumer demand at record lows

Electricity stock shot
Wholesale power prices in New England are at record lows, according to ISO New England. (Toby Talbot)

Decreased electricity demand and low natural gas prices led to historically low wholesale power prices in New England this spring, according to ISO New England, the independent operator of the six-state power grid.

The average real-time wholesale electricity price during May, at $21.29 per megawatt-hour, was the third-lowest since March 2003, and power consumption was the sixth-lowest in the last 16 years. Also in May, the wholesale price of natural gas in New England was the fifth lowest since 2003.

March saw the lowest prices of any month since 2003 at $17.20 per megawatt-hour.

The ISO, in a recent newswire update, attributes mild weather, increased energy-efficiency measures and behind-the-meter solar for the low consumption numbers. The low natural gas prices are attributable to high production at the wellhead, moderate demand and record-high storage levels.

Consumer demand and the cost of procuring fuel tend to drive wholesale electricity prices in New England, where about 49 percent of all power generated is from natural gas plants.

» Read the full article

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Maine utility regulators approve expansion of gas pipeline capacity

It’s not clear how much consumers would pay, and four other New England states would have to take similar steps before Maine could move forward.

By Tux Turkel, Portland Press Herald
July 19, 2016

HALLOWELL — Following more than two years of study, the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday gave conditional approval to a plan in which electric consumers would underwrite a contract through their power rates that would help pay for expanded natural gas capacity in New England.

The vote – which ran counter to a PUC staff recommendation – was unanimous. However, one of the three commissioners dissented on which of two eligible pipeline projects to endorse. And they all agreed that four other New England states that are considering similar plans would have to follow suit before Maine would participate.

That could be a tall order, in light of the lack of consensus over whether the region’s energy future should maintain a strong role for fossil fuels or make a quicker transition to renewable sources and high efficiency.

» Read full article

» Read view of Conservation Law Foundation

Update on the Connecticut Expansion Project

by Cathy Kristofferson

There are still multiple regulatory hurdles that Kinder Morgan needs to clear before the Federal  Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can allow the pipeline company to proceed with tree-cutting in Sandisfield.  Unfortunately, the Mass Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a 401 water quality certificate for the Massachusetts portion of the project on June 29th, 2016.  PLAN-NE is retaining an expert in Massachusetts environmental law to explore legal options at this juncture, and is working closely with people in Sandisfield and other organizations, including Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT).  Any appeal of this permit must be filed by July 20th.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is still watching to see what the MA Legislature does with respect to disposition legislation for the impacted public lands in Otis State Forest, and has not made a final determination about whether to appeal Judge Agostini’s order.

People Over Pipelines March / On Spectacle Pond – This Week!

The big People Over Pipelines march is just a couple of days away!

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From July 14 to 18, hundreds of people will walk 43 miles along the route of Spectra’s proposed gas pipelines and onward to the Massachusetts State House.

Not everyone can walk 43 miles over four days – which is why we’re asking you to join us for the home stretch!

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Join the People Over Pipelines march on the afternoon of Sunday, July 17 as we walk the final miles through downtown Boston to the State House! For details and to RSVP, click here.

Or, join us on the morning of Monday, July 18 as we bring our march into the building and make our voices heard! For details and to RSVP, click here.

ON SPECTACLE POND: RESISTING THE PIPELINE     A 2-town happening this Saturday, July 16, 2016

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On Saturday, July 16, 2016 a celebration of solidarity will take place in two locations in the Berkshires, with a focus on Kinder Morgan’s Connecticut Pipeline Expansion project, all the more important now that the 401 Water Quality Certificate has been issued by Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection, opening another door toward the approval of the CT. Expansion.

The one-hour kick-off rally begins at 12 noon at the Great Barrington Gazebo behind the Town Hall on Main Street.   Come see the amazing Beth Fairservis and “The World We Love, A Celebration of Interdependence” featuring the Pachamama Puppets Children’s Theatre troupe. Listen to great local musicians David Grover, Bonner McAlister, and Barbara & Graham Dean. Pipeline activist Jane Winn of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team and Conservationist Cathy Kristofferson, among others, will provide updated information on the CT. pipeline expansion.

The action then moves to Lower Spectacle Pond / Otis State Forest, in Sandisfield, on Cold Spring Road, with a Solidarity Celebration from 2:00-4:00. Western Mass. musicians Kate O’Connor, Steve Adams & Ben Grosscup will perform. Susan Theberge of Climate Action Now and Rose Wessel of No Fracked Gas in Mass are among the speakers. Learn about Will Elwell’s Thoreau Cabin Pipeline Barricade built in Ashfield.

A colorful flotilla will be featured on the pond. Canoeists and kayakers are welcome to arrive at Lower Spectacle Pond anytime after 12 noon. The formal launch & photo opportunity on the pond takes place at about 3:00 PM. Bring banners & signs, tee shirts & hats. Take a stand (float your boat) for this treasured gem threatened by Kinder Morgan.

The Great Barrington / Sandisfield actions draw attention to the interconnection of important environmental sites in the Berkshires and across the state.   A live telephone link will make a Berkshires-to-Boston connection with the “People Over Pipelines March” (July 14-18) in eastern Massachusetts.

The public is invited to these free family-friendly events. Where else could you find a giant dragon on Saturday afternoon but in Great Barrington, and maybe even at Lower Spectacle Pond?

 

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Senate Passes Energy Bill – Pick up the Phone for Clean Power!

From Mass Power Forward

We are so close to something truly historic. Recently, the Senate passed S2400, its version of the energy omnibus bill, setting the stage for conference committee negotiations with the House to send a final bill to the governor. Though the House Bill, H4385, was a solid starting point, the Senate bill significantly improves the House’s version in a few key ways:
•    It increases the amount of offshore wind energy that utility companies must purchase from 1200 megawatts to 2000 megawatts
•    It doubles the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), the rate at which utility companies must increasingly buy from renewable energy sources
•    It outright BANS the pipeline tax from being used against ratepayers by the Department of Public Utilities.
•    It provides for the decommissioning of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant.

We need these provisions. They are essential to securing the clean energy future for which we have been fighting for so long.

The House and Senate have named to a conference committee which will negotiate the two bills:
– Senator Ben Downing
– Senator Marc Pacheco
– Senator Bruce Tarr
– Representative Brian Dempsey
– Representative Tom Golden
– Representative Brad Jones

Can you call your representative and ask them to speak to Speaker Deleo and the conferees about standing up for these priorities, especially if your representative signed the Kulik-Jones letter? This is their last chance to push their leadership and stand up for what they believe in.

If our House delegation needs pushing, our Senate leaders need support to remain strong in negotiations. Can you call your senator and ask them to speak with Senator Downing and the other conferees about standing firm on the Senate’s hard-won priorities?

As we said, we are so close to something truly historic. But we need every last bit of effort we can muster to win.

Now is the time to stand up and make your voice heard. Please join us in doing so!

Below is a phone script you can use, distribute, or adapt to your own needs! There’s a linked version here.
CALL SCRIPT:
Dear Representative/Senator:
Thank you for working to advance comprehensive energy legislation, H4377 and S2400. I am calling to ask you to push for a strong final clean energy bill. Here are my priorities regarding the legislation:
1) I oppose the “pipeline tax,” and urge you to protect ratepayers and our environment by prohibiting subsidies for new gas pipelines, as the Senate has done.
2) I support provisions within the House energy bill which would require the repair of all gas leaks during road projects (including “grade 3” or non-hazardous leaks), and support provisions within the Senate energy bill related to collective bargaining for these repairs.
3) I support procurement of 2000 megawatts of offshore wind. I am pleased both chambers have chosen to support offshore wind, and urge you to go big!
4) I support decommissioning planning and financing for Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.
5) I support accelerating the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 2% per year to grow local, clean energy.

Please contact legislative leadership to ask them to include these policies in the final bill.
Senate President – Sen. Stan Rosenberg
Speaker of the House – Rep. Paul DeLeo
House Switchboard: (617) 722-2000
Senate Switchboard: (617) 722-1276

Committee member emails:
Brian.Dempsey@mahouse.gov
Marc.Pacheco@masenate.gov
Benjamin.Downing@masenate.gov
Bradley.Jones@mahouse.gov
Thomas.Golden@mahouse.gov
Bruce.Tarr@masenate.gov

~ Emily, Claire and Joel, Mass Power Forward

Berkshire Gas wants to find plan to end moratorium

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Monday, July 11, 2016

Berkshire Gas Co. has filed a four-year forecast with the state Department of Public Utilities, saying it wants to identify a plan to end the current moratorium on news customers and expansion in the Franklin County area.

The plan is needed to address the area’s growing demand for natural gas in the wake of cancellation of the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline through the region.

While the study is ongoing, the filing speaks to a range of options, from continuing the moratorium to increased conservation, storing more liquified natural gas in Whately for peak winter demand, to using pipelines or other systems of natural gas distribution.

The company’s 241-page filing, for the years 2016-2017 through 2020-2021, was made Friday, about a month ahead of schedule, “to facilitate … more comprehensive and potentially expedited review,” as it completes ongoing analysis of supply alternatives so it can lift a 2014 moratorium imposed in its eastern service area.

That area includes Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately in Franklin County, and Amherst, Hadley and Hatfield in Hampshire County.

Berkshire Gas, which last December became an indirectly and wholly owned subsidiary of the Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, is performing its comprehensive analysis “to identify and evaluate potential resource alternatives that would effectively address the requirements of existing customers while also permitting the termination of the moratorium,” the filing says.

Once it concludes identifying “any and all practical or feasible resource alternatives” to meet its requirements, it will consider their feasibility to determine “which resources are appropriate for more comprehensive analysis.”

Possibilities

The eight alternatives being weighed include a “no-build” baseline option that would require continuation of the moratorium on new customers and expanded service in Franklin and Hampshire counties.

Also being considered is expansion of the company’s Whately LNG facility, built in 1999 with two 70,000-gallon tanks to be used for the kind of winter peaks about which the company has raised concerns because of natural-gas pipeline supply system constraints. A concrete pad was built there to allow three more tanks to be added but they were never placed in service.

Other alternatives include expansion of pipeline delivery capability to the Franklin-Hampshire region, installation of a new, larger LNG storage and vaporization facility “in the northern portion” of that region, displacing service from another Tennessee Gas Co. lateral line.

Also being considered are negotiation of additional load-management arrangements, expansion of energy efficiency efforts and installation of “propane-air” equipment in the southern part of the Franklin-Hampshire region, which like a new LNG facility would require an upgrade of Berkshire’s infrastructure.

Propane-air systems create a synthetic natural gas with characteristics similar to those of natural gas, according to one provider of the technology.

Berkshire, which says it will provide updates or supplements to its analysis, says it expects its “ongoing comprehensive resource identification and screening process” by this fall and then begin detailed analyses to evaluate the most feasible alternatives.

Last week, state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg along with state Reps. Paul Mark and Stephen Kulik formally requested the DPU to conduct an area public hearing on the company’s proposed plan.

The legislators, who have been meeting with Berkshire Gas Co. officials to press them to lift the moratorium, said in their July 5 request to DPU Chairwoman Angela M. O’Connor that public input on the plan is important.

“The Berkshire Gas Company’s moratorium on new customers in its eastern division has a significant impact on many residents in Franklin and Hampshire Counties,” said their letter. “We are working with the company to ensure that all viable solutions are being examined and a key component of that is the biennial Forecast and Supply plan.”

Kathryn Eiseman, president of Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast, said the recent Berkshire filing is “a plan to come up with a plan,” and criticized the company for having pinned all of its hopes on the Kinder Morgan NED pipeline, which was canceled in May because of insufficient customer demand.

“They never had a backup plan,” said Eiseman. “My preference would be for them to get serious about energy efficiency programs,” including a robust initiative to replace inefficient gas furnaces, along with better integration with plans to fix system leaks.

On the Web: bit.ly/29tqRhg

You can reach Richie Davis at rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

Planned Natural Gas Pipeline Would Cut Straight Through County

By MIKE JACKSON, Montague Reporter
Vol.12 #14
January 23, 2014

MONTAGUE CENTER – Over the next four years, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, plans to build a new 250-mile main line from Wright, New York, through the Pittsfield area to Dracut – running straight through Franklin County, and quite possibly crossing the Connecticut River at Montague.

The company has begun contacting area landowners, including residents on Greenfield and Hatchery Roads, to secure surveying rights for the pipeline.

READ MORE IN THIS WEEK’S MONTAGUE REPORTER!
AVAILABLE AT AREA NEWSSTANDS.

*Our original link to this story was lost due to website glitches. Thanks to local broadcaster d.o. for finding an archive of this early-breaking news article!

Area legislators call for Berkshire Gas, DPU hearing on new customer moratorium to be held locally

By TOM RELIHAN, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Wednesday, July 06, 2016

GREENFIELD — The controversial Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline may be dead, but a moratorium on new hook-ups on Berkshire Gas Co.’s system is still in place.

Now, three local state legislators are calling for a local hearing on the company’s next biennial report to the state Department of Public Utilities on how the future looks for its natural gas supply and what’s being done to alleviate shortages.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and state Reps. Paul Mark and Stephen Kulik made the request Tuesday in a letter to the DPU, which will evaluate and approve the utility company’s report.

Berkshire Gas’s eastern service region includes Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately in Franklin County, and Amherst, Hadley and Hatfield in Hampshire County. The moratorium has been in place since the winter of 2014.

Company representatives have argued that the natural gas capacity constraints along the system of pipelines feeding the region that triggered the moratorium remain, and the company is unable to lift the restrictions.

Some have argued that the moratorium is not necessary, and the company’s system could be bolstered by expanding a liquefied natural gas facility in Whately. The company has said that would not be sufficient to maintain system reliability.

Rosenberg, Kulik and Mark noted public input on the plan is important, and holding the hearing here instead of Boston would ensure the area’s residents are adequately represented.

“The Berkshire Gas Company’s moratorium on new customers in its eastern division has a significant impact on many residents in Franklin and Hampshire Counties,” the letter read. “We are working with the company to ensure that all viable solutions are being examined and a key component of that is the biennial Forecast and Supply plan.”

At the legislators’ urging, the letter notes, the company has expedited the process of filing the report, which will include in-depth analysis of options and partnerships to alleviate the moratorium.

CT Expansion – One more step, but not the last

On June 29, 2016, the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) granted the 401 Water Quality Certificate for the CT Expansion pipeline.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) also issued a (somewhat counter-intuitive) ruling that, since bat populations are in decline, the project is not likely to impact migratory Indiana bats.
While these are disappointing steps forward for the CT Expansion, they are still not final steps allowing immediate tree-cutting and construction.


Per Judge Agostini (affirmed by the SJC), Kinder Morgan cannot take possession of the land before July 29th.  “Time of year” and other permitting restrictions are still in place.  Pipeline opposition, including No Fracked Gas in Mass, is reviewing the remaining regulatory hurdles and legal options that are available and will put out information as it becomes known.

MassDEP grants federal Clean Water Act permit to Kinder Morgan for pipeline through Otis State Forest

Otis State Forest Entrance
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was sued by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. after declining to grant an easement through the Otis State Forest for a natural gas pipeline that would serve Connecticut. (Mary Serreze photo)

SANDISFIELD — A controversial natural gas pipeline which would cross a state forest in Berkshire County to serve customers in Connecticut gained traction this week when the project gained a federal Clean Water Act certificate in Massachusetts.

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection issued the 401 Water Quality Certification — with 47 conditions — to Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. for its Connecticut Expansion project on Wednesday. The line would cross water bodies within the Otis State Forest, including the Clam River and Worthington Brook.

While Kinder Morgan still needs Clean Water Act permits from Connecticut and New York, the company is one step closer to cutting trees along the pipeline route in Massachusetts.

» Read more at MassLive.com

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Kinder Morgan can’t start clearing state forest just yet, appeals judge rules

By
Thursday, Jun 23

Boston — Kinder Morgan and subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company this week lost its appeal to remove a July 29 stay, a court -imposed waiting period that would prevent the natural gas corporation from clearing three miles of Otis State Forest in the town of Sandisfield until that date.

A map of the 3.8 mile 'Connecticut Expansion Project' (in red) through Otis State Forest.

A map of the 3.8 mile ‘Connecticut ExtensionExpansion Project’ (in red) through Otis State Forest.

According to the Massachusetts Appeals Court clerk’s office, Justice Joseph Trainor denied Tennessee Gas’ appeal of only the waiting period imposed by Berkshire Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini in his May 9 ruling. Agostini said while the company had the right to an easement, it could not begin work until July 29, after the Legislature had weighed in on the matter.

Chloe Gotsis, spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healey, told the Edge Healey’s office is happy with Justice Trainor’s ruling, and in an previous statement had said the office was initially “pleased the judge [Agostini] stayed his order ‪until July 29, recognizing the critical role of the Legislature in determining the status of conservation land and allowing time for the legislative process to run its course.”

The company has been in court since early spring to gain immediate access to clear 3.83 miles of land in Sandisfield for its Connecticut Expansion Project, a 13-mile storage loop to hold gas for distribution to Connecticut customers. The project requires cutting trees near an old growth forest to widen an existing pipeline corridor that is now owned by the state and protected by its Constitution under Article 97.

Narain Schroeder of Berkshire Natural Resources Council with a 300- to 400-year-old tree in the old growth area near the pipeline cutting zone. Photo: Heather Bellow

Narain Schroeder of Berkshire Natural Resources Council with a 300- to 400-year-old tree in the old growth area near the pipeline cutting zone. Photo: Heather Bellow

Healey’s office filed an opposition to Tennessee Gas’ appeal, and had earlier fought the company in court over its attempt to begin clearing land immediately, saying it must consider the state’s ownership of conservation land and damage to the forest ecosystem.

» Read full article

All Aboard the Energy Omnibus

Here it comes again – this time the Senate version of the Massachusetts Omnibus Energy Bill, S. 2372 – “Promote energy diversity”

Notable positives:
– 2,000 MW of offshore wind
– Renewable Portfolio Standard increase of 2%
– Energy Storage

Notable items missing:
– Ban on pipeline tax
– Repair of remaining gas leaks

The text of the bill is available here, but it’s wise to keep checking the MA Legislature page of S.2372 for the appearance of amendments as they become available.

State Senator Pat Jehlen (2nd Middlesex Dist.) is already proposing a ban on taxpayer support for pipelines:

Senator Pat Jehlen
Next Thursday, the Senate is voting on an energy bill that will make large investments in our clean energy future. The bill will spur the creation of large scale off-shore wind and hydro power, creating numerous clean energy jobs.

However, while most of the bill is wonderful for the Commonwealth, we must ensure that the taxpayers are protected from utility give-aways. The utilities want the taxpayers to pay for their new gas pipelines and this is unacceptable. I filed an amendment that will prevent taxpayers from paying for gas pipelines, and I am incredibly happy to have the support of Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM), Mass Sierra Club, and Clean Water Action Massachusetts. Please join me in supporting our clean energy future!

Now would be an ideal time to contact your state senator and demand amendments for a ban on pipeline taxes and for fixing all the gas leaks. Though we already know that Sen. Downing is all for both, it’s good to call or email in your support so he can provide numbers of constituents in favor.

If you’re not in Senator Downing’s district, let yours know this is what you want. Contact friends in other parts of the state and ask them to do the same!
» Legislator contact info – just punch in your zip code in the Find a Legislator box.

KM at Sandisfield Cons. Commission Meetings

ANTS IN THE PANTS

—SANDISFIELD – Kinder Morgan is now pushing for a repeal of the stay on tree cutting for the CT Expansion pipeline in Otis State Forest until end of July that came with the Berkshire Superior Court case. They want those trees cleared yesterday.

They want to be a “standing item” on the agenda at the Conservation Commission, and intend to be there for each one for the next eight months. Townspeople are unsure if they’ve hired an environmental monitor and have done other items they’ve said they would in the Order of Conditions from MA DEP.
» See Order of Conditions

We want to have a show of opposition.
Please come to the meeting and be counted! Bring a sign, or wear a pipeline opposition shirt. Let them see there is opposition to the taking of Otis State Forest for a pipeline.
» Facebook event page


» Kinder Morgan appeals order to postpone forest clearing for CT Expansion Pipeline

» A walk in the forest primeval, endangered by Tennessee Gas Pipeline

Running late on fossil fuels fight

By Christine Macpherson, Commentary
Times Union, Thursday, June 16, 2016

On Tuesday, I stood on the state Capitol’s Million Dollar Staircase again with many other New Yorkers from across the state to demand that our leaders in Albany take action on energy issues that are critical to our communities now and to our survival into the future. I stood as part of a newly formed coalition of groups called United Against Fossil Fuels. We are raising the bar on what is deemed acceptable when it comes to continued reliance on fracked gas and oil within our beloved state.

Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the DEC have made some great decisions recently, such as the fracking ban, rejecting the Constitution Pipeline permit, and vetoing Port Ambrose LNG, the problem of fracking infrastructure remains serious and deadly. There are too many projects being built in New York now or planned to come online in the next few years, and they not only put New Yorkers at risk, they make us unwitting supporters of the fracking of our neighbors in other states.

The contrast between accepting these new facilities as necessary “for now” and just not allowing them poses a very simple proposition: Do we want our planet to be inhabitable in the coming decades, or are we going to continue doing the same old thing over and over at grave risk to our species and every other species that lives here?

Will we accept as good enough the declaration that we will transition to 50 percent renewables by 2030 — with a great portion of that plan directly reliant on fracked gas — or will we respond appropriately to the unprecedented urgency of the climate crisis by putting great minds and all necessary capital into an immediate and uncompromisingly rapid switch to non-fossil fuel and non-nuclear energy sources?

The first step toward the latter approach — what I like to call the non-extinction proposition — is to immediately halt current construction of both the CPV Valley Fracked Gas Power Plant in Orange County, and the expansion of the AIM Pipeline in the lower Hudson Valley, both of which will ensure the reliance on fracked gas and the poisoning of our communities for decades to come. There are many steps to take right after that, with the scope of planned projects too long to list here.

To believe that we cannot accurately assess the magnitude of our current crisis and respond accordingly is to admit we are powerless against our own destructive habits. The Cuomo administration is fond of using slogans meant to remind the country and the world of how tough, determined, and innovative New Yorkers are. Let’s live up to those mottos. Actions speak louder than words. We are already running very late.

Christine Macpherson, of Albany, is a board member of Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline, and founder of Complete It Cuomo.

Submit your comment for the Quadrennial Energy Review by July 1

Help the Nation meet its objectives of reliable, affordable, and clean energy. Submit your comments to the second installment of the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) – An Integrated Study of the Electricity System.

Energy stakeholders from producers to consumers are key contributors in the QER process.  Your input will help shape federal actions and policies for strengthening the U.S. electricity system.

In January 2014, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum establishing a Quadrennial Energy Review to assess the changing energy landscape in the United States. The goal of the QER, carried out in a series of four installments, is to enable the Federal Government to translate policy goals into analysis-based, integrative actions.

President Obama directed the QER Task Force to gather ideas and advice from State and local governments, tribes, large and small businesses, universities, national laboratories, nongovernmental and labor organizations, consumers, and other stakeholders and interested parties. The second installment of the QER, an integrated study of the U.S. electricity system from generation to end use, is currently underway.

All seven of our public stakeholder meetings for 2016 are now complete. For information on the meetings, visit http://www.energy.gov/epsa/quadrennial-energy-review-stakeholder-engagement.

For more information regarding the QER, please visit http://energy.gov/epsa/quadrennial-energy-review-qer.

3 Clean Energy Ideas the Left and Right Agree On

6964013353_e7ec857740_oAmericans across the political spectrum support clean energy. They know it’s good for our economy, our environment and our health. And they know that for too long it’s been held back by partisan politics.

That’s the message from groups that announced the Clean Energy Commitment this week. The broad spectrum of groups – from Mom’s Clean Air Force to Young Conservatives for Energy Reform – rolled out a set of proposals to promote clean energy, give consumers more choices, save taxpayers money, and reduce carbon pollution.

While Washington sees nearly everything through the lens of partisanship, most Americans don’t.

It’s an agenda that can unite us in the cause of giving our kids a healthier future, and producing jobs today.

Bipartisan support for job growth

The clean energy industry is already creating jobs—and many clean energy jobs are in places you might not expect.

The Clean Energy Commitment proposals have the support of about 80% of the public, according to a recent YouGov poll – including 67% of Republicans, 95% of Democrats, and 75% of Independents.

Texas leads the country in wind energy and combined heat and power. A new report from the American Wind Energy Association shows the Lone Star State leading the nation with over 24,000 wind energy employees.

North Carolina is one of the top four states in installed solar capacity and second behind California in large, utility-scale solar projects. Clean energy added nearly $5 billion to the state’s economy in 2014, and today provides nearly 23,000 jobs (unfortunately, state lawmakers recently chose not to extend the tax credit, putting that progress in danger).

» Read full article

Warren, Markey allege conflict of interest in federal pipeline review

By Christian Schiavone, The Patriot Ledger
June 13, 2016

WEYMOUTH – Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey say a federal agency’s environmental review of a natural gas pipeline project that would impact North Weymouth may have been tainted by an apparent conflict of interest for an outside contractor that helped prepare the report.

In a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Norman Bay, Warren and Markey said it appears that Natural Resource Group assisted with vetting Spectra Energy’s Atlantic Bridge project while also working for proponents of another linked pipeline project, of which Spectra is a part-owner.

» Read more

Pipeline Tax fight continues

If you’re a No Fracked Gas in Mass newsletter subscriber, on pipeline-related social media or email lists, you got the call yesterday to contact legislators about Amendment #27 to the Massachusetts Omnibus Energy Bill as it went to a vote in the House.  Unfortunately, neither Amendment #27 or others moving to ban a tax on electric bills to fund pipeline capacity passed in the vote.

This means that it’s more important than ever for us to oppose the requests to the DPU from  electric companies Eversource and National Grid to charge a pipeline tax on their customers’ utility bills.

» Clearing the air on natural gas
Liz Stanton, Synapse Energy

PLEASE JOIN US THIS TUESDAY for the DPU Hearing on these dockets in Pittsfield and the stand-out rally preceding it.

TUESDAY — JUNE 14, 2016 — PITTSFIELD, MA
MA DPU Hearing Docket 16-05 & 15-181
The Department of Public Utilities will conduct a third public hearing on Docket #16-05 National Grid and #15-181 Eversource precedent agreements to contract for 20 years gas capacity on Spectra Access Northeast.
NoPipelineTax
Standout to Stop the Pipeline Tax
*People’s Open Mic Available
4:00 p.m.
Sidewalk in front of Berkshire Athenaeum
and around Park Square
Wendell Ave. and East Street
Pittsfield, MA
*Bring signs, but NO SIGN POSTS allowed
» Facebook Event Page

Hearing
5:00 p.m.
The Berkshire Athenaeum (Pittsfield’s Public Library)
One Wendell Avenue
Pittsfield, MA

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Massachusetts Senate OKs a ban on new pipelines within 1,000 feet of a school or senior center

By Gintautas Dumcius | gdumcius@masslive.com
May 26, 2016

BOSTON – The Massachusetts state Senate has approved a ban on building pipelines within 1,000 feet of a residential neighborhood, a school, or a senior center.

The ban was adopted as part of the Senate’s version of the fiscal 2017 state budget. Senate lawmakers have spent the week filling up the budget with amendments dealing with everything from rattlesnakes to the MBTA and high-speed rail between Boston and Springfield.

A six-member group of Massachusetts House and Senate lawmakers will be tasked with pulling together a compromise, which will be sent to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. Whether those amendments make it into the compromise budget bill will be up to that group.

The new fiscal year starts on July 1.

Sen. James Timilty, D-Walpole, proposed the pipeline ban, which was adopted by the Senate without a roll call on Wednesday evening.

Spectra Energy is attempting to build a natural gas pipeline, known as Access Northeast, which runs through Timilty’s district.

» Read full article

MA Attorney General’s Energy and Environment Public Listening Sessions

The Office of Attorney General Maura Healey will be hosting listening sessions devoted to hearing directly from residents. They want to hear from you about the environmental and energy issue that are important to you and your family.

This is a crucial time to attend and ask the AG’s office to APPEAL THE CT EXPANSION EMINENT DOMAIN CASE, where Berkshire Co. Court ruled in favor of Kinder Morgan being allowed to condemn the pipeline right of way through Otis State Forest and set a precedent on ARTICLE 97.
More info at http://tinyurl.com/OSFappeal

It’s best to register for the event of your choice by getting tickets on EventBrite, or RSVP to agocommunityengagement@state.ma.us

— PITTSFIELD
Thursday, May 26, 2016
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Ralph Froio Senior Center
330 North Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201

» FREE Tickets at EventBrite, or RSVP to agocommunityengagement@state.ma.us

— WORCESTER
Monday, June 13, 2016
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Mass Audubon’s Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center and Wildlife Sanctuary
414 Massasoit Road, Worcester, MA 01604

» FREE Tickets at EventBrite, or RSVP to agocommunityengagement@state.ma.us

— SPRINGFIELD
Thursday, June 16, 2016
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
UMass Center at Springfield, Tower Square
1500 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01115

» FREE Tickets at EventBrite, or RSVP to agocommunityengagement@state.ma.us

After Tennessee Gas Pipeline project’s demise, Mass. focus shifts to green energy

By Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle
05/24/2016

Energy giant Kinder Morgan’s final decision to terminate the 412-mile Tennessee Gas Co. pipeline is getting an enthusiastic reception from state Attorney General Maura Healey, and several Massachusetts lawmakers who opposed the $5 billion project.

“Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline was too big and too costly for Massachusetts ratepayers,” stated Healey spokeswoman Chloe Gotsis in an e-mail to The Eagle. “Our office continues to argue that electric ratepayers should not foot the bill for natural gas pipelines.”

In a reference to energy legislation on the front burner on Beacon Hill, the attorney general urged that “Massachusetts should continue to refocus its energy future on where it needs to be by investing in clean and cost-effective energy resources.”

Kinder Morgan, on behalf of its affiliate Tennessee Gas, notified federal regulators on Monday that it would withdraw its formal application to build the pipeline from Wright, N.Y., west of Schenectady, to the Dracut terminal near Lowell. The route affected seven central Berkshire towns before continuing through Plainfield, eight Pioneer Valley towns and 18 southern New Hampshire communities.

The death of the project “allows us to refocus our debate in the Legislature during the next 75 days or so on our green energy future, and replacing a little over 9,000 megawatts of energy coming offline from oil and coal-fired plants with as much renewable energy as possible,” said state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst in a statement.

State Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, described Kinder Morgan’s decision as “very good news for Western Massachusetts and the whole commonwealth. The project presented many environmental, public safety and financial challenges to the region.” He also credited “enormous public engagement and opposition” for contributing to the project’s demise.

Kulik remains concerned about a moratorium imposed on new hookups in Franklin and Hampshire counties by Berkshire Gas Co., which continues to service new and existing customers in Berkshire County.

» Read the full article

Interfaith Religious Leaders Call For Climate Justice

Posted on ClergyClimateAction.org

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

The times demand moral leadership for climate justice.

We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and likely the last to be able to do anything about it. The decisions the global community makes now about energy, extraction, transportation, food systems, and use of land will make or break the possibility of a livable climate on Earth. Climate change is an issue of human rights and justice.  It knows no national boundaries. The poor and most vulnerable are the first to suffer. Ultimately it affects us all.

As religious leaders, we have an essential role to play in the climate justice movement. We are called to lift up hope and faith as antidotes to despair and denial. We hold hope in the love that made this world, and hope that this crisis is an opportunity to incite the moral courage of our generation. We hold faith in the human spirit and faith in God to guide us to courageous and visionary action. We are not assured success. We only know we are called to play our part.

» Read full statement and signatures

Communities will bear all risk of pipeline expansion

The state Department of Environmental Conservation‘s denial of Water Quality Certification for the Constitution gas pipeline demonstrates New York’s resolve to ensure such projects won’t jeopardize public health and the environment. To bolster this commitment, the DEC should halt review of the proposed Pilgrim Pipelines until it has sufficient information about the project to conduct a robust critical environmental review.

The Times Union‘s editorial, “Fair share from pipelines” (April 28), gave the outlines of this proposal — to construct and operate two side-by-side petroleum pipelines between Albany and Linden, N.J., each capable of carrying up to 8.4 million gallons per day. Eighty percent of the lines’ proposed route lies within the Thruway’s right-of-way, with the remainder running through private and public properties. The lines would cross the Hudson River twice just south of Albany and reach the river’s edge twice in Orange County.

In addition to traversing or running alongside 19 prime destinations for outdoor recreation, including Catskill Park, they’d cross every major Hudson tributary west of the river as well as drinking water sources upon which millions of New Yorkers depend.

» Read full article

Concerned Individuals Move Reclaimed Shipping Container Home With Two People Inside Onto AIM Pipeline Construction Site

Small model of renewable energy and resilient living demonstrates the world we want to see while blocking fossil fuel project from moving forward

Peekskill, NY – Just four days after 21 people were arrested for peacefully blockading the entrance to a Spectra Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Pipeline work site, two people courageously locked themselves into a renewable-energy powered, 20-ft recycled shipping-container home at the work site, directly on the pipeline route. They plan to stay inside the container blockade for as long as possible.

The AIM Pipeline is a 42-inch, high pressure, fracked gas pipeline, which if completed will run through residential communities and within 105 feet of critical Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant safety facilities. The fully self-contained home is a strong symbol of both resilience and resistance: It is intended to halt construction of the dangerous AIM Pipeline and to represent the safe alternative living situation we need to move towards to fight climate change and to halt our dependence on fossil fuel, which drives the buildout of dangerous infrastructure like the AIM Pipeline. The container home was built using reclaimed and recycled materials, is powered by both photovoltaic solar panels and a bicycle generator, has a green roof growing succulents and herbs, has a solar-heated shower and a compost toilet, and comfortable living space and beds for two occupants. All of these measures are important, but without stopping fossil fuel infrastructure, we are still on a path to disaster – which is why this project is also designed to physically stop construction on the AIM Pipeline.

The sustainable home has two occupants, both of whom walked across the entire country to raise awareness about climate change as part of the Great March for Climate: Jane Kendall is a 65-year-old retired New York mother of two who would like to be spending more time with her family, but feels morally obligated as an elder to do her small part to stop Spectra and to fight for a renewable energy future; and Lee Stewart, a 29-year-old organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy, who has been working to stop FERC since they approved a fracked gas compressor station near his home as part of project that would feed Dominion’s Cove Point LNG export facility.

“I was inspired by the fierce, loving determination in the voices of 13 Resist AIM members who disrupted a FERC public meeting to call out the commissioners for their complicity in the destruction Spectra represents,” said Lee Stewart. “It is an honor to take up temporary residence in New York on the route of the AIM Pipeline.”

“Spectra has placed all of us on a destructive path and in harm’s way. Today this simple small house, built from reused and repurposed materials and powered by renewable energy, stands on the AIM Pipeline path to halt construction.” Said Jane Kendall.

This action comes after years of residents and grassroots groups actively engaging in the regulatory process, only to be ignored by FERC. The City of Boston and several grassroots groups have filed a lawsuit in Federal Court challenging FERC approval of the project. In February, Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote to FERC asking for an immediate halt to construction while New York State conducts an independent risk assessment of siting the massive, high-pressure pipeline next to Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. FERC denied the Governor’s request, and claimed that a risk assessment by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) showed that the plant was safe. Just five days ago, on May 20th, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand called for an immediate halt to construction. Spectra’s Director of Stakeholder Outreach, Marylee Hanley, responded that “Algonquin Gas Transmission resumed construction on the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project in April and will continue with its construction.”

“Now Spectra is rapidly proceeding with construction in our area despite opposition from thousands of New Yorkers and elected representatives.” Said Kendall. “We are at a critical stage in this struggle, with project completion scheduled for November. Each day more trees are cut, more blasting takes place, and more pipeline is laid. It is necessary for us to stop this project now.”

There is no more time to wait. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has shown that it will not protect us from the fossil fuel industry that is destroying our climate. Instead, everyday people are stepping up and modeling the future we want to see while taking a stand against the dangerous pipeline that threatens us and our friends and neighbors.

“I am also taking this step because of the amazing connection I feel to the amazing people all over the state who are not only standing up to AIM, Spectra, and FERC, but who are also finding ways to build community during a time when the power that be are bent on keeping us isolated and narrowly focused.” Said Stewart.

Link to video footage: http://youtu.be/CpcMaG5SN1M

Online: www.resistaim.com
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/resistaim
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/ResistAIM

APPLICATION WITHDRAWAL MEANS SUSPENDED PIPELINE PROJECT “OFFICIALLY DEAD”

By Michael P. Norton, STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 23, 2016

After suspending work in April, Kinder Morgan on Monday fully pulled the plug on its controversial Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline project.

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, J. Curtis Moffatt, deputy general counsel at the Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, notified the agency that the pipeline application was being withdrawn.

Tennessee Gas had filed its pipeline application on Nov. 20, 2015.

On April 23, citing inadequate commitments from prospective customers, Kinder Morgan suspended work on the project, which held the possibility of helping Massachusetts and the New England region meet its energy and electricity cost goals. At the time, Kinder Morgan said expected commitments to the project from additional gas distribution companies and other “market participants” had not materialized.

In July 2015, Kinder Morgan authorized Tennessee Gas to move forward with the planned $3.3 billion investment in pipeline capacity from Wright, New York to Dracut, Massachusetts.

Environmentalists, rival energy sectors and some public officials questioned the costs of the pipeline project and the wisdom of increasing the region’s heavy reliance on natural gas. Kinder Morgan hoped the project would address natural gas transportation problems in the Northeast and alleviate “uniquely high” gas and electricity costs.

Bob Croce, a candidate for the Massachusetts House seat in the district currently represented by Rep. Ted Speliotis of Danvers, said in an email Monday that he chaired the Peabody Citizens United to Stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline and his activism led him to run for state rep.

“What this means is that the project is now officially dead,” Croce wrote. “Needless to say, our resident opposition groups across the Commonwealth are rejoicing today!”

Serving the working press since 1910, http://www.statehousenews.com

Kinder Morgan withdraws pipeline application

By TOM RELIHAN, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Monday, May 23, 2016

GREENFIELD – Energy giant Kinder Morgan has officially withdrawn its application for the proposed Northeast Energy Direct project, formally ending its bid to install a new 1.2 billion-cubic-foot per day pipeline through New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The company filed the notice of withdrawal of its application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Monday.

The company said April 20 that it could not attract enough customers to make building the pipeline economical and suspended all work on the project that day.

The pipeline was slated to pass through much of Franklin County and spawned a groundswell of opposition along its proposed path.

You can reach Tom Relihan at: trelihan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

On Twitter, follow @RecorderTom

ANALYSIS: Could Otis State Forest be saved on appeal of court pipeline ruling?

By , Berkshire Edge
Monday, May 16 

Photo: Ben Hillman

 

Tennesse Gas Pipeline’s ‘Connecticut Expansion’ would carve a corridor through Otis State Forest, a 900-acre of old-growth forest with 400 year old hemlocks that is protected under the Massachusetts Constitution. In May, a Berkshire Superior Court lifted an injunction against the project.

While state residents have been focused on the massive Spectra Energy Access Northeast pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s now suspended Northeast Energy Direct, the much smaller Connecticut Expansion pipeline in tiny Sandisfield, which Kinder Morgan wants to construct in the pristine, constitutionally protected Otis State Forest, has quietly precipitated a significant state-federal legal battle.

Summarizing the issue in her brief defending the conservation status of the land, the Massachusetts Attorney General said, “Whether a FERC Certificate [of Public Convenience and Necessity] preempts [i.e., overrides] a state Constitutional provision like Article 97 is, to our knowledge, a question of first impression raising important issues about state sovereignty and the balance of federal and state power over a state’s right to protect and control its sovereign territory.”

A map showing the location of the 3.9 mile Connecticut Expansion.

A map showing the location of the 3.8 mile Connecticut Expansion.

In his May 9 opinion, however, Associate Justice John A. Agostini of the Berkshire County Superior Court sided with Kinder Morgan subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. (Tennessee), holding that the Natural Gas Act preempts Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution.  Justice Agostini stayed his order until July 29, so that an appeal could be filed or a legislative vote could be taken during the current session, which ends July 31.

Article 97, adopted by Commonwealth voters in 1972, provides that land can be purchased and preserved in perpetuity, and can only be removed from protected status by vote of a supermajority of the state legislature (two-thirds vote of each house). The Otis State Forest – a 900-acre jewel of old growth forest containing trees more than 400 years old, rare animal and plant species, rolling meadows and Lower Spectacle Pond –was purchased in 2007 by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) with help from the Audubon Society, and is protected under Article 97 of the state Constitution.

» Read full article

The Bottom Line: NED Pipeline not dead yet, but vital signs are flickering

Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle
May 14, 2016

Is the 412-mile Tennessee Gas Co. pipeline project suspended on April 20 by parent company Kinder Morgan dead, as in terminated, once and for all?

Two prominent organizations opposing the project are flashing yellow lights, focusing on “suspended” and voicing fears that the ultra-controversial Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline could yet be revived, perhaps in a reconfigured form — in other words, back from the almost-dead.

Even if the project is truly gone, it’s not forgotten by the many town governments, homeowners and concerned citizens who organized intense opposition to the pipeline that would have crossed seven Berkshire towns, a half dozen more in the Pioneer Valley, and 18 communities in southern New Hampshire.

“There is a solid chance that Kinder Morgan will reconfigure the proposed pipeline,” declared Vincent DeVito, the legal counsel for NEES, in a filing to the state’s highest court. “Kinder Morgan has only stated that it ‘suspended further work and expenditures for the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project.’ ”

“Neither Kinder-Morgan, the DPU [Department of Public Utilities], the Berkshire Gas Co., nor the Columbia Gas Co. have officially confirmed that the [project] has been canceled, terminated, rescinded,” he wrote to the Supreme Judicial Court.

» Read more

With Obama cuts, Bay State should rethink its reliance on natural gas

Derrick Jackson, Boston Globe
May 13, 2016

Massachusetts should applaud President Obama’s goal to cut methane emissions from oil and gas wells by nearly half by 2025. The Commonwealth is acutely addicted to natural gas, which accounts for about 60 percent of our electricity generation. That demand has resulted in chronic bottlenecks, giving consumers some of the highest electricity prices in the nation. All five New England states are among the top 10 for energy costs, according to federal statistics.

Although Massachusetts does not have a fracking industry or a wealth of natural gas wells,pipelines with thousands of leaks are a key source of methane emissions.

The announcement is another reason to think long and hard before enabling the national hydraulic fracturing industry’s thirst for new pipelines that often prove highly unpopular in towns they would run through.

While natural gas is a cleaner fuel than coal and oil, the Obama administration has sent the strongest message yet that it must be cleaner still. Methane is a huge contributor to global warming because its heat-trapping ability dwarfs that of carbon dioxide. With the explosion of fracking operations in recent years, the federal Environmental Protection Agency last month announced that methane emissions are higher than previously thought, with oil and gas drillers being the largest emitters.

In fact, methane is seen as so important that Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau two months ago announced a joint commitment to cut methane gases by as much as 45 percent by 2025. Obama said, “If we don’t agree, if we’re not aggressive, if we’re not far-sighted, if we don’t pool our resources around the research and development and clean energy agenda that’s required to solve this problem, then other countries won’t step up and it won’t get solved.”

» Read more

NY AG adds to legal woes for Constitution pipeline

By Brian Nearing, Times Union
May 13, 2016

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Friday raised another potential legal obstacle to the proposed Constitution natural gas pipeline, already wounded this month when the state denied it necessary environmental permits.

Schneiderman’s office asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to delay action on its December 2014 order that approved the 125-mile pipeline, which would bring natural gas to Schoharie County from the hydrofrack fields of northern Pennsylvania.

He also urged FERC to consider fining the company up to $1 million a day if an investigation finds that developers encouraged landowners along the planned route in the Southern Tier to cut down trees this year before any decision on the state permits had been reached.

During a two-month investigation along the pipeline route, Scheiderman’s office allegedly found evidence of tree-cutting, road building, heavy equipment use in or near state-protected streams and wetlands, and “other construction-related activities,” according to a statement.

» Read more

Lawyers, courts look ahead to pipeline opposition action

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Friday, May 13, 2016

With one proposed natural gas pipeline through Franklin County on hold and another pipeline through Otis State Forest expected to go ahead at the end of July, opponents may be planning to launch civil disobedience actions.

And the region’s legal system is getting prepared.

About 200 people connected with between 20 and 25 affinity groups coordinated by the Sugar Shack Alliance have been trained in nonviolent protest techniques, with additional trainings planned for next weekend in Leverett and in June in Windsor, according to Cate Woolner of Northfield, a member of the groups’ “spokescouncil.”

She said she doubted that the groups will wait for the “stay” on a Berkshire Superior Court decision that gave Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. the go-ahead to access land along its Connecticut Expansion Project path in Sandisfield to end on July 29 before they protest the company’s decision to proceed with its 13.4-mile pipeline looping project.

The groups, which make their decisions by consensus, haven’t yet decided when or how to take action, she said, although their members are committed to nonviolent action for which they require members to have training.

Meanwhile, Ashfield attorney Stewart “Buz” Eisenberg, said he plans to meet with representatives of the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office and the Berkshire County Bar Association about an effort to facilitate the legal process if there are arrests or mass arrests of peaceful protesters.

“I will be talking with the district attorney and with the clerk court and hope to arrange onsite bail reviews and arraignments so we don’t clog up the courts,” said Eisenberg, who along with Northampton attorney William Newman is arranging a team of pro-bono lawyers, including themselves, to represent anyone arrested for nonviolent acts of civil disobedience regarding the pipeline.

Eisenberg had already met with Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan and his assistants, along with Greenfield District Court Clerk Kenneth Chaffee and, after conferring with Franklin County Bar Association President Leslie Powers, was preparing letters asking members to volunteer for what were expected to be Northfield direct actions when the pipeline company announced last month that it was suspending plans for its Northeast Energy Direct project planned through Franklin County.

Eisenberg said he’s already met with Berkshire District Court Judge William Rota to discuss the possibility of a process of arraigning many protesters at the site, which is likely to be in Otis State Forest or elsewhere along the Connecticut Expansion route in Sandisfield.

Although many pipeline opponents have been motivated by protecting their own property and their communities from of the threat of a natural gas pipeline,” said Eisenberg, whose own property is among those that would be affected, “the majority are offended by ‘fracked’ gas, and (many of) those people still wish to engage in activism … to convey the message they don’t want fracked gas expanded in Massachusetts. I know there’s a large community of protesters who are still willing to make their voices heard through mostly peaceful, nonviolent protest.”

By alerting the court clerk and DA just before an action is to be launched, and having the clerk and DA notify local and state police, Eisenberg said, arraignments and bail arrangements could be handled on site, possibly disposing of cases immediately, “so we don’t have a quagmire, so there’s not a burden to the court, not a burden to the jails, not a burden to the police. It’s in recognition of the fact that these are good citizens exercising their First Amendment rights, with a little trespass here and there.”

As a possible sign of things to come, Ashfield builder Will Elwell, who spearheaded building of a Thoreau-inspired log cabin along the NED pipeline route in March, on Thursday called together volunteers to begin making similar cabins that can be erected along the pipeline route in Sandisfield.

“The felling of this tree IS for the common good!” Elwell wrote in an announcement of Thursday’s action. “The felling of old growth Hemlock trees in Otis State Forest IS NOT! We need to show FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) what ‘common good’ means!” — a reference to FERC’s federal power to authorize interstate projects that it determines are for the common good.

Eisenberg said there was no plan for dealing with mass civil disobedience that could otherwise leave peaceful protesters in jail over an entire weekend awaiting arraignment, but that he hoped to have forms to people in advance so they can have them filled out for police and the courts to facilitate the process.

Eisenberg, who is not part of any protest or its planning, said he hopes that there’s no attempt by participants to engage in any malicious behavior.

“They’re doing it out of citizenship,” he said of the expected protests, which are seen as a direct action to halt climate change. “Civil disobedience has served this country well. I’m proud to represent people who are trying to make an unequivocal statement that this can’t keep going on. We’re running our of time.”

New NED?

In another action related to the pipelines, a coalition of environmental groups has noted to the state Supreme Judicial Court it believes the NED project could be resurrected.

Northeast Energy Solutions, a legal coaltion of environmental organizations and land trusts, including Franklin Land Trust, this week advised the Supreme Judicial Court, where it is appealing a state Department of Public Utilities case related to the NED project, that the company may reconfigure its proposed pipeline.

TGP parent Kinder Morgan has only stated it has suspended further work and expenditures” on the project, NEES lawyer Vincent DeVito, but neither the company, the DPU, nor the Berkshire and Columbia Gas companies has officially confirmed that it has been canceled, terminated, or rescinded, he wrote.

Berkshire Gas, in a recent DPU filing, has said it’s engaged with TGP to explore “a possible amendment of their arrangement in order to determine whether some other agreement may achieve their mutual objectives,” DeVito noted in Tuesday’s NEES filing declaring that the case is not moot and the DPU’s decision on long-term contracts should be returned to the department for reconsideration.

DeVito wrote that he believes there is “a solid chance” that “the parties may reach an alternative or amended agreement as a result of their ongoing negotiations which might allow them to proceed with some variation of the NED Project.”

You can reach Richie Davis at:
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

Help Shape the Omnibus Energy Bill!

MAomnibusHEADING

Right now, the House of Representatives of the MA State Legislature is working on an Omnibus Energy Bill. As the term “Omnibus” implies, it is likely to be complicated and contain many different provisions.  Between now and approximately May 23rd, they will be writing the bill.

Though the contents of the Omnibus Energy Bill are not yet known, it’s highly expected to contain a provision for charging a tariff on electric customer’s bills to cover new pipeline capacity (often labeled the “pipeline tax”).  Since decisions made in this bill would lock us into energy policies for the next several decades, it’s crucial for us all to voice our preferences for our energy future to our State Representatives.

TAKE ACTION!

BETWEEN NOW AND MAY 23
Even if you’re fairly sure that your State Rep. is pro-clean-energy or anti-pipeline, contact them now and ask that the Omnibus Energy Bill contains:
— Two thousand megawatts (MW) offshore wind
— Increase the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 2% per year
— Environmental standards for any massive electric transmission project like hydro from Canada
20 % solar PV by 2020 with full retail NM credits for all
— eliminate the Net metering caps for solar

— Incentives for Energy Efficiency and Demand Response
— A provision for fixing gas leaks

ABOVE ALL, make the bottom line demand:
Vote against the bill altogether if it includes the pipeline tax!

Don’t forget to also sign the letter to demand NO PIPELINE TAX
» tinyurl.com/nopipelinetax

If you’re not sure who your MA State Representative is, check here by typing in your zip code under the “Find Your Legislator” heading. Click on your Rep.s name to get their contact info.

» Read the House Letter on Omnibus Energy Bill Priorities
» Read Reps. Kulik and Jones Pipeline Tax Newsletter

» State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier fuels legislative effort to focus more on renewable energy

Share the this page!!

Massachusetts Lawmakers Oppose Customers Paying For NatGas Pipeline Expansions

Charlie Passut, Natural Gas Intelligence
April 13, 2016
Two key lawmakers in the Massachusetts House of Representatives say nearly 100 members are opposed to a proposal in a state omnibus energy bill that calls for electricity customers to pay for the expansion of natural gas pipelines.

According to reports, Rep. Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) and House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr. (R-North Reading) said they are against a proposal for electric ratepayers to pay for the cost of the pipeline expansions, which would be collected through a surcharge, tax or tariff. They estimate the costs would be $5-8 billion. Jones and Kulik outlined their opposition in a letter dated April 6 to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and reportedly plan to give the letter to him on Wednesday.

“Ordinarily, the natural gas producers would be expected to pay for this infrastructure expansion, if the expected revenue from natural gas sales would justify the cost,” Jones and Kulik wrote. “The fact that this is not happening means industry players have determined the risk is not worth the reward. Why should the ratepayer shoulder the risk when private industry is unwilling to?”

On Tuesday, Kulik tweeted that 97 representatives had signed the letter, adding “risk not worth reward.” The letter appears to hinge on lawmakers’ opposition to Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. (TGP) LLC’s Northeast Energy Direct (NED) project, but other projects of note in the region include Spectra Energy Corp’s Algonquin Incremental Market, Atlantic Bridge and Access Northeast projects (see Daily GPI, Oct. 28, 2015), as well as TGP’s proposed Connecticut Expansion Project (see Shale Daily,March 28).

Jones and Kulik also took aim at the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU), after it ruled last fall that electric utilities in Massachusetts could enter into long-term contracts for pipeline capacity, and could pass the costs for natural gas pipeline expansions on to their customers (see Daily GPIOct. 5, 2015).

The largest utilities in Massachusetts — National Grid and Eversource Energy — provide natural gas and electricity service. The costs for obtaining gas for power generation have not been passed on to consumers since the state’s power generation industry was deregulated, but the DPU ruling means such a move is permissible.

 

NFGiM, Rubber Stamp Rebellion – May 19, Pittsfield

3rdRSR

BEAT and 350Mass Berkshires have historically tabled together on pipeline issues during Pittsfield’s Third Thursday events.

This month, along with No Fracked Gas in Mass, we’re turning it into a standout action for Beyond Extreme Energy’s Rubberstamp Rebellion! This is an awesome opportunity reach lots of people in one 3-hour session. (And possibly in subsequent Third Thursdays as well!)

Thursday, May 19
North Street
Pittsfield, MA
5:00 – 8:00 PM

3rd Thursdays are held rain or shine and there is plenty of free parking throughout downtown’s Upstreet Cultural District.

We’re asking people to:

  • Bring yourself (This counts most of all!)
  • Bring a sign (Hand-held, no sign posts allowed in Pittsfield)
  • Bring your smart phone
  • Bring your camera

We’ll be taking photos and/or video of people and tweeting them to @FERC and @BXEAction

You can also tweet to various agencies, as follows:
  • @MassDEP – Deny the 401
  • @MassDEP – No Tree Cutting ’til hell freezes over
  • @MassGovernor – No Pipeline Tax
  • @MassAGO – No Pipelines through Our State Forests & Parks  –  or   please appeal to save our “permanently” protected lands
  • @Kinder_Morgan – Drop the MA loop of the CT Expansion   – or – photos of peoples’ “Kinder Morgan Face” #KMface
  • @(your state legislator) Say “No” to pipelines on Article 97 land
Don’t forget to tag your tweets:
#NoNewPermits
#NoPipelines
#NoLNG
#RubberStampRebellion

We’ll have a white board or two
that people can write something on to tweet to each agency as well.

We would also like to see if anyone can make a giant rubber stamp (at least 3 feet tall) so people can hold it in their photos! Can you make that happen?! (cardboard or papier mache would work.)

JOIN THE REBELLION!
rsr_logo_webpage

Jane is going to bring her lap top and we’ll be setting up a wi-fi hot spot to have people join the official Rubber Stamp Rebellion.
Short link for phone users – bit.ly/1rGBwOs.

We’ll also be helping people chime in on the upcoming MA Omnibus Energy Bill and Pipeline Tax opposition

Let’s show up in droves!
Share the Facebook Event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1087831031260825/

» Third Thursdays Information

Rosenberg doesn’t favor pipeline tariff

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Friday, May 06, 2016

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said Friday that he doesn’t favor any legislative provision imposing a tariff on electricity customers to pay for building gas pipelines.

One day after the state Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments on whether to allow a Department of Public Utilities order for such a tariff to help electric utilities invest in natural gas infrastructure in the state, Rosenberg told a gathering of Recorder editors that he favors an emphasis on renewable energy and conservation in the state.

Rosenberg echoed comments made in a letter from Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and signed by 97 of the state’s 140 House members urging that such a tariff not be part of a planned energy package. Rosenberg said he agreed it would be a bad idea.

The idea was first broached by the Baker administration to pay for infrastructure projects like the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline through Franklin County, which was suspended last month because of insufficient demand.

“We have a long-serving system of how we pay for our utilities and our distribution and our supply,” said Rosenberg. “We shouldn’t be changing that for a project or two projects, as has been proposed. No. We don’t need to pay for it a different way. … There’s no argument that’s been presented other than ‘It’s too expensive and we don’t want to pay for it, we want somebody else to take the risk.”

Still, as the Senate prepares to work on a comprehensive energy bill over the next three months, Rosenberg said, the state still needs to bring its high energy costs down, particularly with 8,400 megawatts of fossil-fuel-burning generators coming offline, in addition to the planned shutdown of the Pilgrim nuclear plant, over the next five years, he said.

“We are already making progress,” said Rosenberg. “Our energy growth and demand is already being met by conservation and solar right now. Our first job is trying to replace that (generation tapering off), even as we’re trying to grow the green energy supply chain. It’s all doable, but it’s sophisticated, it takes some work and it takes a lot of focus.”

Offshore wind from Maine and hydro from Quebec are part of the solution, along with conservation that can help “dramatically change” the state’s energy use, climate-change impact and sources of supply over the next 15 or 30 years to cut dependence on fossil fuels and drastically reduce the 90 percent of energy money that now goes out of state, the Senate president said.

“I’m not going to say that there aren’t going to be any more pipelines,” said Rosenberg. “But I will say that there’s a vision that minimizes the chance there’d be more pipelines, and the chance that you need more pipelines.”

The Amherst Democrat also said that while the NED project has merely been suspended, with further notification to the Federal Energy regulatory Commission due May 26 pending negotiations developer Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. is now making with its contractors, “I’m having trouble seeing how it could come back.” Opponents have said they want to put “the last nail in the coffin” by calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to dismiss and deny “with prejudice” the application for the project that would have passed through eight Franklin county towns.

“The body’s in the coffin, and they want to put another nail in the coffin to make sure,” Rosenberg said. “But I’m having trouble seeing another scenario where it could come back.”

Given tremendous opposition by citizens, towns and environmental groups, as well as a state constitutional provision making nearly impossible the taking of conservation land for another purpose and “the project collapsing of its own weight because of the economics of it,” Rosenberg said, “that was just a huge mountain to climb with all of that on your back. And none of that’s going away.”
Berkshire moratorium

Meanwhile, Rosenberg and Kulik have met with Berkshire Gas Co. officials to discuss how the company can lift its self-imposed moratorium on accepting new customers in Franklin and Hampshire counties until NED was to be built.

None of the options the company was given for augmenting its supply are cheap or easy, Rosenberg said, “but all of them are more doable than the pipeline.”

Rosenberg said he plans to meet with the company officials again, and has met with the state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the DPU on ways of working with Berkshire Gas to lift the moratorium. There’s no statutory provision for a gas company to serve all its potential customers, he said, but the moratorium is on adding new customers.

“We’re going to keep working with them” on alternatives like trucking in liquefied natural gas or expanding its Whately LNG facility, where only two of five allowed tanks have been installed, he said.

“It’s compromising economic development, it’s compromising development and improvement of housing, and these are problems we need to be addressing together,” said Rosenberg.

The company is scheduled to update its five-year forecast with the DPU in August, he said.

Editorial: Fight against pipeline not over

Greenfield Recorder
Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution has been seen by some as an impenetrable defense against unwelcome natural gas pipeline proposals. Monday, however, a sizeable chink in this armor may have emerged in a Berkshire County courtroom.

In a ruling that shook many pipeline foes, Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini ruled that Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. can continue with tree clearing for its Connecticut Expansion project in the southern Berkshires, a route that will travel through Otis State Forest and have additional impacts on other state-owned land.

Tennessee Gas, whose parent company is Kinder Morgan, had sought a court order to access the land after winning Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval in March. Opponents had hoped that Article 97, which requires legislative approval for developing state-protected public lands, would supercede the FERC decision. But the Berkshire judge disagreed.

“Considering the judicial history and purposes of the (federal National Gas Act),” Agostini wrote, “I conclude that Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution violates and conflicts with the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and, therefore, is unavailable to hinder or prevent the project.”

Agostini based his opinion on the U.S. Natural Gas Act of 1938, providing power of eminent domain for the interstate transportation, sale and resale of natural gas, and the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, allowing Congress to pre-empt state or local law.

As to the Commonwealth’s argument that Article 97 supersedes FERC, as argued by the state attorney general’s office, Agostini wrote, “the Commonwealth has not cited a single case that would prevent the preemption regarding a subject that has historically and necessarily been within the executive province of the federal government, such as NGA.”

He goes on to say, “What is particularly troubling about the Commonwealth’s argument is the ease at which a state has the ability to stop a federal interstate project … by simply invoking a state constitutional provision geared to protect the environment. If accepted by the appellate courts, other states would be well advised to adopt this road to confederation … I strongly suspect that this is a road that the appellate courts will not take.”

This wasn’t the way environmental and anti-pipeline groups, lawmakers and Attorney General Maura Healey wanted the case to go. But Agostini, in staying his ruling until July 29, provides them with valuable time that can be used in different ways — ranging from the Legislature capitulating to the project by allowing an easement under Article 97 to appealing the ruling. The attorney general’s office has stated its considering its options in deciding what next.

The judge doesn’t let Tennessee Gas off the hook.

“… The certificate (from FERC) does not give Tennessee an unrestrained right to ignore the Commonwealth,” Agostini wrote. “Instead the Certificate expressly requires Tennessee to make a good faith, reasonable effort to ‘cooperate with state and local agencies regarding the location of pipeline facilities, environmental mitigation measures and construction procedures.’”

And Tennessee Gas still needs some additional federal and state approvals for this 13-mile stretch of a pipeline originally envisioned as a way to transport “fracked” natural gas from Pennsylvania to the Northeast. While the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline’s overseers recently announced they were suspending the project, anti-pipeline forces worry that, if it acquires a clear path through the state lands, it might resurface at some point.

The ruling is clearly a setback for those pipeline foes. But the fight is not over.

The state, in putting the interests of its citizens first, needs to take the next steps.

We call on lawmakers to vote against an easement for Tennessee Gas before the end of the legislative session in July. And the attorney general should appeal the ruling all the way to its potential end-game in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Next Steps on CT Expansion

Tennessee Gas won approval for the Connecticut Expansion from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on March 11. The project, consisting of three short sections in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, needed the two-mile path through the forest in Sandisfield to reach gas distribution companies in Connecticut, the company said.

On Monday, May 9, Judge John A. Agostini of Berkshire County Superior Court granted Tennessee immediate access to the Otis State Forest to conduct surveys for its 13-mile Connecticut Expansion pipeline, but put a stay on the order until July 29, when the Massachusetts Legislature wraps up its session.

The U.S. Natural Gas Act grants eminent domain powers to interstate pipeline companies and pre-empts any state provision, Agostini wrote in his 21-page ruling.
» Decision and Order in TGP v Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NEWS ON THIS DECISION:

Berkshire Edge

» Judge Rules for Kinder Morgan in Berkshire Co. Pipeline Case
Mary Serreze, MassLIVE

» Judge paves way for pipeline construction in Western MA
Boston Globe

MassDEP had refused to convey the land without first gaining a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, a requirement mandated under Article 97 of the state constitution. The Legislature has so far failed to deliver its approval of the land transfer.

Tennessee Gas still does not have a Section 401 Water Quality Certificate under the U.S. Clean Water Act. State regulators have said the company will need such a certificate in order to cut trees along the pipeline right-of-way.  As Mass Audubon’s spokesperson says, “The battle to stop this pipeline is not over.”

Look for updates on our Latest News Blog, and any upcoming actions which will be posted on our Events page, once plans are finalized.

 

Both sides weigh appeal in Berkshire pipeline case

By RICHIE DAVIS , Greenfield Recorder Staff
Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Both sides in Monday’s court decision negating a state constitutional protection against natural gas pipelines said Tuesday they’re weighing appeals.

The decision in Berkshire Superior Court would allow Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. to access a proposed pipeline right of way through 2.3 miles of Otis State Forest in Sandisfield to build its Connecticut Expansion project.

Yet Judge John A. Agostini postponed his order from taking effect to give the Legislature a chance to act on bill to permit the land, protected under Article 97, to be used for the project.

In his decision, Agostini ruled that the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in its March 11 approval of the pipeline expansion supersedes that of the constitutional provision designed to safeguard publicly conserved land.

“The need for paramount federal authority here is compelling,” wrote Agostini in his 21-page decision. “An individual state would be powerless to authorize and implement a coherent and comprehensive gas production and distribution system throughout the United States. Given the disparate interests of each state, particularly those producing and those consuming the gas products, only a central authority with plenary power and the national interests at stake could effectively install and maintain such a system. The Natural Gas Act was designed … to produce a harmonious and comprehensive regulation of the industry. Neither state nor federal regulatory body was to encroach upon the jurisdiction of the other.”

“Congress intended to pre-empt this area and left no room in this field for a state to incorporate its rules and laws,” he added. “In fact, permitting the states to exercise the unilateral ability to interfere with federal policy would eviscerate” the National Gas Act.

And regardless of Article 97’s standing as Constitutional amendment, Agostini noted, the law is “littered with numerous state constitutional provisions felled by federal pre-emptions.”

TGP, which had originally sought the court decision by April 30 so that it could begin tree cutting by the end of May along the path of the 13-mile pipeline project and have the project operating by Nov. 1, is also weighing its options, according to a written company statement.

“We are pleased that the Court applied the ample legal authorities which allow access to and use of property necessary to build an interstate pipeline project approved by … (FERC). We are continuing to review the decision and will consider our options, and we look forward to working cooperatively with stakeholders involved in this project.”

The Article 97 aspect of the case has been watched closely by land conservation and environmental advocates as well as opponents of TGP’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project, which had been planned to cross eight Franklin County towns on its path from Wright, N.Y. to Dracut, north of Lowell. Work on the NED project has been suspended because of insufficient customer demand.

The state Attorney General’s Office, which had argued that there would be irreparable harm to the state sovereignty if the court struck down the provision without having to, issued a written statement saying it was “reviewing the decision and considering our options moving forward.

“We are disappointed in Judge Agostini’s decision to grant Kinder Morgan’s request for a preliminary injunction. We are pleased, however, that the judge stayed his order until July 29, recognizing the critical role of our state Legislature in determining the status of conservation land and allowing it the time to act,” wrote the AG, which had argued that a decision on a preliminary injunction would be “premature” until the end of the legislative session when a measure to remove Article 97 protection from the state forest parcel might be acted on.

The Legislature’s Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight tabled the legislation the day before the company’s filing of the suit against the state.

Rep. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton, who chairs the committee, said the committee had tabled the bill until the company produced information it had repeatedly failed to present about the details of compensation packages that had been offered to the Town of Sandisfield and to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Conservation Trust, along with information from the U.S. Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers about the impact on wetland and wildlife habitat.

Without that information, Kocot said, “It’s impossible to make a recommendation. We continue to await receipt of the additional information,” after which the House and Senate could decide on whether to pass the Article 97 measure by a required two-thirds majority in both houses.

Yet if the judge is leaving time for the Legislature to take definitive action on the measure, even while he rules that Article 97 is pre-empted under federal law, Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, said “it’s worth considering” whether to vote on the Article 97 legislation, if only as a symbolic act, if the case is appealed — as Kulik and Agostini seem to expect it will.

“I’m disappointed by the decision, though I’m not surprised by it,” said Kulik, a strong opponent of the Connecticut Expansion and NED projects.

Kathryn Eiseman, president of Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, said, “I certainly hope the attorney general’s office will appeal on behalf of the commonwealth, because I don’t think the judge should have reached the pre-emption issue.”

Because the judge could have let the Article 97 issue play out in the Legislature without shooting it down on federal pre-emption grounds, or by seeing whether the state Department of Environmental Protection grants a needed 401 federal water quality certificate, “I thought it was a very odd way to split the baby,” she said.

Agostini, who required that TGP post a $500,000 bond to cover compensation to the state and affected Sandisfield property owners, wrote, that the company has “satisfied all requirements of the Natural Gas Act. …The failure of Tennessee to obtain all of the permits or to satisfy all of the construction conditions is not grounds to prevent the requested relief. It is axiomatic that the project cannot commence without complying with the conditions in the certificate. However, this does not prevent the exercise of eminent domain power and preliminary relief.”

You can reach Richie Davis at rdavis@recorder.com, or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

Tennessee Gas wins Otis State Forest case

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
May 9, 2016

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Superior Court favored Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. in a decision Monday that will allow the company access to a 2.3-mile path in Otis State Forest to build its Connecticut Expansion project.

However, the order is stayed until July 29 to allow the Legislature to waive an act on a constitutional provision to the protected land.

In his decision, Judge John A. Agostini ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the pipeline expansion supersedes Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution.

Agostini also noted that TGP still needs to obtain state and federal environmental permits to proceed with the project.

The case, in which the company has sought to proceed with tree clearing for the project to have the pipeline operational by this fall, has been seen as noteworthy for clarifying whether Article 97 is superseded by federal authority under the National Gas Act.

The July 29 stay, noted Agostini, will also give both sides a chance to decide whether they will appeal the case.

Pols: Pipeline tax bad idea

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Friday, May 06, 2016

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said Friday that he doesn’t favor any legislative provision imposing a tariff on electricity customers to pay for building gas pipelines.

One day after the state Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments on whether to allow a Department of Public Utilities order for such a tariff to help electric utilities invest in natural gas infrastructure in the state, Rosenberg told editors at the Greenfield Recorder Friday that he favors an emphasis on renewable energy and conservation in the state. The Recorder is a sister paper of the Gazette.

Rosenberg echoed comments made in a letter from Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and signed by 97 of the state’s 140 House members urging that such a tariff not be part of a planned energy package. Rosenberg said he agreed it would be a bad idea.

The idea was first broached by the Baker administration to pay for infrastructure projects like the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline through Franklin County, which was suspended last month because of insufficient demand.

“We have a long-serving system of how we pay for our utilities and our distribution and our supply,” said Rosenberg. “We shouldn’t be changing that for a project or two projects, as has been proposed. No. We don’t need to pay for it a different way. They’ve been building transmissions lines how we’ve been paying for those. We don’t need to pay for it another way. There’s no argument that’s been presented other than ‘It’s too expensive and we don’t want to pay for it, we want somebody else to take the risk.’”

Still, as the Senate prepares to work on a comprehensive energy bill over the next three months, Rosenberg said, the state still needs to bring its high energy costs down, particularly with 8,400 megawatts of fossil fuel-burning generators coming offline over the next five years, in addition to the planned shutdown of the Pilgrim nuclear plant, he said.

“We are already making progress,” said Rosenberg. “Our energy growth and demand is already being met by conservation and solar right now. Our first job is trying to replace that (generation tapering off), even as we’re trying to grow the green energy supply chain. It’s all doable, but it’s sophisticated, it takes some work and it takes a lot of focus.”

Offshore wind from Maine and hydro from Quebec are part of the solution, along with conservation that can help “dramatically change” the state’s energy use, climate-change impact and sources of supply over the next 15 or 30 years. These initiatives would cut dependence on fossil fuels and drastically reduce the 90 percent of energy money that now goes out of state, Rosenberg said.

“I’m not going to say that there aren’t going to be any more pipelines,” said Rosenberg. “But I will say that there’s a vision that minimizes the chance there’d be more pipelines, and the chance that you need more pipelines.”

The Amherst Democrat also said that while the NED project has merely been suspended, with further notification to the Federal Energy regulatory Commission due May 26 pending negotiations developer Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. is now making with its contractors, “I’m having trouble seeing how it could come back” even though opponents have said they want to put “the last nail in the coffin” by calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to dismiss and deny “with prejudice” the application for the project that would have passed through eight Franklin county towns.

“The body’s in the coffin, and they want to put another nail in the coffin to make sure,” Rosenberg said. “But I’m having trouble seeing another scenario where it could come back.”

Given tremendous opposition by citizens, towns and environmental groups, as well as a state constitutional provision making nearly impossible the taking of conservation land for another purpose and “the project collapsing of its own weight because of the economics of it,” Rosenberg said, “that was just a huge mountain to climb with all of that on your back. And none of that’s going away.”
Berkshire moratorium

Meanwhile, Rosenberg and Kulik have met with Berkshire Gas Co. officials to discuss how the company can lift its self-imposed moratorium on accepting new customers in Franklin and Hampshire counties until NED was to be built.

None of the options the company was given for augmenting its supply are cheap or easy, Rosenberg said, “but all of them are more doable than the pipeline.”

Rosenberg said he plans to meet with the company officials again, and has met with the state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the DPU on ways of working with Berkshire Gas to lift the moratorium. There’s no statutory provision for a gas company to serve all its potential customers, he said, but the moratorium is on adding new customers.

“We’re going to keep working with them” on alternatives like trucking in liquefied natural gas or expanding its Whately LNG facility, where only two of five allowed tanks have been installed, he said.

“It’s compromising economic development, it’s compromising development and improvement of housing, and these are problems we need to be addressing together,” said Rosenberg.

The company is scheduled to update its five-year forecast with the DPU in August, he said.

Wave of Fossil Fuel Project Cancellations Follow Keystone XL Rejection

Grassroots climate activists have been effective in stirring public opposition; industry mostly sees market forces at play.

CanceledEnergyUSA1058px_0

Six months after the Obama administration rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, at least 20 other proposed energy projects—mines, pipelines, plants, related rail projects and export terminals—have been canceled, rejected or delayed, according to research compiled and mapped by InsideClimate News.

Sustained grassroots resistance and public opposition have played a role in at least some of these decisions; other influential factors include unfavorable economic conditions such as low oil prices, as well as governments’ environmental concerns and project siting issues.

»  Read more

Editorial: Focus should be on efficient energy

Greenfield Recorder Editorial, May 5, 2016

Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline protest on Boston Common across from the Statehouse in Boston, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Energy company Kinder Morgan has proposed the 3.75 billion extension of its northeast pipeline through Massachusetts and says will provide clean-burning natural gas to the northeast. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

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Despite withdrawal of the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline proposal, the natural gas debate goes on in Massachusetts. Stripped of some of the site specific backyard conservation concerns, part of the debate that has roiled Franklin County for nearly two years has survived — focused on broader concerns about use of fossil fuels in a warming world that grows increasingly wary of a supposedly cleaner “bridge” fuel like natural gas.

There are still other pipeline projects in the other parts of the state that aren’t threatening Franklin County’s forests, rivers and fields, but that do fit into concern over global warming generally. And so we are happy to see that discussion in the Legislature continues about pipelines and our energy future.

Just last week, Gov. Baker’s energy secretary, Matthew Beaton, testified before the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, arguing that “incremental” increased natural gas use continues to be a necessary component of the administration’s plan to meet growing energy demand, while controlling cost in an environmentally friendly way.

His view was rebutted later by anti-pipeline activists who said that with the state already heavily dependent on gas, we should focus more on energy efficiency and renewables.

We agree.

It was great to see a Republican governor working with the Democratic Legislature to develop an energy mix rich in hydro and solar and wind — with gas and oil as legacy fuels at the base.

But long term, oil and gas can’t be the go-to energy source to fuel future growth.

It probably is faster, simpler and easier to build pipelines, and we could comfort ourselves with the notion that gas is a relatively clean petroleum bridge to a truly clean future.

But a special pipeline report commissioned by the attorney general’s office concluded the state’s energy needs could be met with increased efficiency, although Beaton said that analysis relies on achieving efficiencies that exceed the state’s most ambitious goals.

Some members of the global warming committee, which includes area legislator Sen. Ben Downing, take the opposite view. Sen. Marc Pacheco said, “If anything I’m impatient. I want to go as fast as we can” toward a greener energy mix.

Ultimately, the global warming committee asked if the Baker administration could provide alternative energy “mixes” so the Legislature could weigh the pros and cons itself.

We think that’s a great idea. We’d rather see the state’s path to a clean, cooler future charted by a Legislature after review of all the choices — and we agree with Rebecca Tepper, chief of the attorney general’s energy division, that while energy efficiency isn’t the easiest way to obviate the need for more fossil fuels, it’s a goal worth reaching for.

“We get it that we’re all working really hard on energy efficiency, but what would it look like if we double down” on clean energy and conservation, she asked.

Looks good from here.

Pennsylvania Township Legalizes Civil Disobedience – Ready to Stop Company from Injecting Frack Wastewater into their Community

New Law Shields People from Arrest for Protesting Project

Grant Township, Indiana County, PA:

from Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Tonight, Grant Township Supervisors passed a first-in-the-nation law that legalizes direct action to stop frack wastewater injection wells within the Township. Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) has sued the Township to overturn a local democratically-enacted law that prohibits injection wells.

 

If a court does not uphold the people’s right to stop corporate activities threatening the well-being of the community, the ordinance codifies that, “any natural person may then enforce the rights and prohibitions of the charter through direct action.” Further, the ordinance states that any nonviolent direct action to enforce their Charter is protected, “prohibit[ing] any private or public actor from bringing criminal charges or filing any civil or other criminal action against those participating in nonviolent direct action.”

Grant Township Supervisor Stacy Long explained, “We’re tired of being told by corporations and our so-called environmental regulatory agencies that we can’t stop this injection well! This isn’t a game. We’re being threatened by a corporation with a history of permit violations, and that corporation wants to dump toxic frack wastewater into our Township.”

Long continued, “I live here, and I was also elected to protect the health and safety of this Township. I will do whatever it takes to provide our residents with the tools and protections they need to nonviolently resist aggressions like those being proposed by PGE.

In 2013, residents in Grant Township learned that PGE was applying for permits that would legalize the injection well. Despite hearings, public comments, and permit appeals demonstrating the residents’ opposition to the project, the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued a permit to PGE.

Finding themselves with no other options, residents requested the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Grant Township Supervisors, with broad community support, passed a CELDF-drafted Community Bill of Rights ordinance in June 2014. The ordinance established rights to clean air and water, the right to local community self-government, and the rights of nature. The proposed injection well is prohibited as a violation of those rights.

PGE promptly sued the Township, claiming that it had a “right” to inject within the Township.

The case is ongoing. Last year, in October 2015, the judge invalidated parts of the ordinance, stating that the Township lacked authority to ban injection wells. Three weeks later, in November 2015, residents voted in a new Home Rule Charter. The rights-based Charter reinstated the ban on injection wells by a 2-to-1 vote, overriding the judge’s decision.

CELDF assisted the community with the drafting of the Charter and is representing the Township in the ongoing litigation with PGE.

Grant Township Supervisor and Chairman Jon Perry summed up the situation by saying, “Sides need to be picked. Should a polluting corporation have the right to inject toxic waste, or should a community have the right to protect itself?”

Perry continued, “I was elected to serve this community, and to protect the rights in our Charter voted in by the people I represent. If we have to physically and nonviolently stop the trucks from coming in because the courts fail us, we will do so. And we invite others to stand with us.

Those others are showing up. Tim DeChristopher, co-founder of the Climate Disobedience Center, stated, “I’m encouraged to see an entire community and its elected officials asserting their rights to defend their community from the assaults of the fossil fuel industry, and I know there are plenty of folks in the climate movement ready to stand with Grant Township.

CELDF community organizer Chad Nicholson has been working with the community since 2014. He added, “In our country’s history, we celebrate people standing up to challenge unjust laws. The American Revolution, abolition, women’s suffrage, the labor and civil rights movements, marriage equality – all required people to take action resisting illegitimate laws. All required creating new and more just laws in their place. We applaud the people of Grant Township for taking action as their community is threatened, and asserting their rights. It is an honor to stand with them.”

MESSAGE FROM CELDF: If you are interested in supporting the efforts in Grant Township, please contact Stacy Long, lemonphone28@gmail.com or 724.840.7214.


**BEAT cannot support civil disobedience. We do support non violent direct action that stays within the law. No Fracked Gas in Mass is a program of BEAT.

Kulik against pipeline tariff in energy bill

By COLIN A. YOUNG, State House News Service
Monday, April 11, 2016

BOSTON — A bipartisan group of 91 lawmakers plans to deliver a letter to House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Wednesday preemptively objecting to the inclusion of any provision in an expected omnibus energy bill that would require electric ratepayers to pay for a proposed natural gas pipeline.

At issue in the letter circulated by House Ways and Means Vice Chairman Stephen Kulik and House Minority Leader Bradley Jones is a natural gas pipeline proposed by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. that would carry shale gas from Pennsylvania through parts of Massachusetts.

The pipeline would enter western Massachusetts from New York, cut across the northern part of Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin counties, divert into southern New Hampshire and re-enter Massachusetts before terminating in Dracut.

In the letter, the lawmakers say that in addition to burdening ratepayers, the pipeline will diminish private property values and public lands protected by the constitution and “make it impossible” for the state to meet its statutory emissions reduction requirements under the Global Warming Solutions Act.

“We ask you to ensure energy legislation does not commit ratepayers to bearing the cost and risk associated with financing new gas infrastructure,” Kulik, of Worthington, and Jones, of North Reading, wrote in the letter signed by 88 of their colleagues. “Doing so will create liabilities for the many legislators whose districts are impacted by one or more proposed fossil fuel projects, increase our state’s over-reliance on gas, and saddle ratepayers with significant expenses for years to come.”

» Read more

» Read the original bipartisan letter

Gregg: It’s not over until FERC is fixed

Now that the glow of Kinder Morgan’s suspension of the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline has begun to fade we need to look at some cold, hard facts. The first fact is that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission didn’t deny Kinder Morgan’s filing for a certificate of convenience to take our property by eminent domain to build the project. Kinder Morgan suspended its application.

That is a significant difference. When Kinder Morgan’s finances improve or the climate seems more propitious, what is to stop them from returning? Or someone else? The immediate danger is gone, but the issue of natural gas, its need, its cost to residents versus its profits for big corporations remains. We could see another NED in a twinkling of an eye unless we can ensure that FERC denies it and all others of similar kind to come.

The second fact is that the U.S. Senate and House have passed bills that, while strengthening certain conservation measures and improving the electricity grid in order to accommodate more renewable energy sources, also allow for streamlining regulations for the energy industry. “Greasing the skid,” as Richard Husband of N.H. Pipeline Awareness Network has expressed it.

Senate Bill 2012 (the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016) would streamline the permitting process at FERC by limiting state authority and decision-making in the process. Although states could still deny permitting, these denials would apparently be harder to make and harder to make stick. The bill also calls for expediting the approval of gas infrastructure, making it more difficult for states and stakeholders to respond within the allowed window of time. Authorization, the bill mandates, should be issued not later than 90 days after an application has been completed. More greasing the skids.

The House passed an energy bill in December, and the two bills now have to be reconciled in a conference bill. But there is still time and need for us to act. NED may have receded for the moment, but other, possibly worse, gas transport options could loom in our future.

We in New Hampshire hold our state’s rights dear. We don’t look kindly on the federal government’s unfair treatment of tax-paying citizens in favor of corporations, and we understand the rules of the game as they are stacked against us: dirty (fracked) gas we don’t need, transported through our state for sale elsewhere; our assets and way of life compromised for giant corporations’ profits and for their stockholders’. And biggest of all: our state lawmakers, laws and regulatory agencies summarily passed over by FERC, already funded in part by the fees of the very corporations whose permit applications it approves and soon to be facilitated even further by this federal legislation.

There’s still time to influence the reconciliation of the Senate and House bills in Washington. Write to your senators and representatives and tell them to stand up for state’s rights to protect states’ citizens.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte: ayotte.senate.gov
 202-224-3324

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: shaheen.senate.gov 202-224-2841

Rep. Ann Kuster: kuster.house.gov

Rep. Frank Guinta: guinta.house.gov

Kulik, Rosenberg to talk with Berkshire Gas about current hold on new customers as well as its plans to serve area’s energy needs

By DIANE BRONCACCIO, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Friday, April 29, 2016

CHARLEMONT — Now that the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project has been halted, state Rep. Stephen Kulik and Senate president, Sen. Stan Rosenberg, will meet with Berkshire Gas Co. officials to discuss its ongoing moratorium and future plans for the company to meet Franklin and Hampshire County’s energy needs.

Speaking at the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association breakfast Friday morning at the Berkshire East Ski Lodge, Kulik said the legislators hoped to discuss long-term plans to meet the region’s future energy needs.

Kulik also believes the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline is not merely suspended, but dead.

He said he believes the announcement to suspend the pipeline was made, to give Kinder Morgan time to negotiate with those who had already contracted to receive natural gas supplies from the NED pipeline, but that “a more formal conclusion” was expected around the end of May.

“We don’t see this project getting rejuvenated in some other way,” he told the group. “I think we have seen the end of Kinder Morgan, but I’m waiting for that very final word.”

Kulik said the given reason for the suspension was that Kinder Morgan didn’t have enough customers to justify what might have been a $5 billion to $8 billion project. But they also hadn’t been prepared for the extensive community opposition and activism, he said.

“It was not just a NIMBY effort, but the area’s commitment to green energy,” said Kulik. “I think the way people reacted to this pipeline was so consistent with Franklin County values. “But it’s not the end of a significant conversation, because we do have to meet our energy needs.”

He said he hoped local communities would continue pursuing renewable energy options, and that Berkshire Gas would develop its infrastructure to meet potential energy needs for the future. Berkshire gas imposed a moratorium on new hookups nearly two years ago citing the need for a new pipeline to provide it with fuel. Others have argued that the company could find other sources of additional fuel such as liquefied natural gas delivered by truck or rail.

BROADBAND
When asked about last-mile broadband, Kulik was optimistic that the state’s delay in spending on building Internet access to rural towns would be over soon, but he was less certain about what role WiredWest would play in the fiber optic build-out.

Kulik said the Charlie Baker administration is not backing off plans for the broadband build-out, or for the use of $50 million in state money to offset the cost to the towns. “But they were critical of the WiredWest model, and they question the ownership, governance and financing assumptions,” he said.

Kulik said the Massachusetts Broadband Institute will be meeting with the WiredWest multi-town cooperative and others in about two weeks.

And the partially served cable towns — Shelburne, Buckland, Conway and Northfield — should soon see the start of design and construction work soon, since funding for the Comcast build-out has been approved by MBI.

Tariff, Article 97 rulings still in play

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
Thursday, April 28, 2016

If you think NED is dead, you haven’t been reading the fine print.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s notice of its April 20 decision to indefinitely halt its $5 billion, 416-mile Northeast Energy Direct project clearly said it is suspending further work and expenditures on the pipeline, “as a result of inadequate capacity commitments from prospective customers and a determination that the project is uneconomic.”

Yet the company “is in the process of determining how best to proceed consistent with existing contracts” for capacity on the proposed pipeline, which as now configured would cross eight Franklin County towns on its path from Pennsylvania shale gas fields and Wright, N.Y., to Dracut, north of Lowell.

TGP parent Kinder Morgan in its official statements also said, “The New England states have not yet established regulatory procedures to facilitate binding (electric utilities’) commitments” and that with “the process in each state for establishing such procedures … open-ended … the ultimate success of those processes is not assured.”

What could be more open-ended than a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court challenge of a state Department of Public Utilities decision last October allowing electric utilities to sign long-term gas supply contracts with natural gas pipeline developers and provide for tariffs to be paid by their electric customers?

That DPU tariff decision, seen as a way of shoring up support for financing of projects like NED and other planned gas pipelines, has led to applications for those kinds of 20-year agreements by National Grid and Eversource, that are now pending before the DPU.

A Boston court hearing Tuesday on the appeal, filed by the Conservation Law Foundation and GDF Suez, now known as Engie, could resolve whether the DPU’s action to help bring new gas pipeline capacity to the state is legal, or whether the department “is going off the rails on something it had no authority to do,” in the words of CLF staff attorney David Ismay.

The state’s attorney general, who normally would defend the DPU as a state entity, had argued in this case against allowing the electric-pipeline arrangements, and has not only refused to defend it against the appeal but has filed a brief in support of the appeal, even requesting time to argue against the DPU decision, Ismay said.

The SJC appeal comes as Berkshire Superior Court is expected to render its decision on another key issue for TGP — whether the state’s constitutional authority under Article 97 to deny use of public conservation land from pipeline development is superceded federal authority under the National Gas Act.

Meanwhile, another effort has been underfoot in the Legislature to add a pipeline tariff provision to a comprehensive energy bill that the House is about to begin drafting, according to Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington. Kulik co-authored a bipartisan letter this month to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, signed by 97 of the 140 House members, urging him to “omit any public support for gas pipeline expansion from any energy legislation package.

“Ordinarily, the natural gas producers would be expected to pay for this infrastructure expansion, if the expected revenue from natural gas sales would justify the cost,” the letter said. “The fact that this is not happening means industry players have determined the risk is not worth the reward. Why should the ratepayer shoulder risk when private industry is unwilling to?”

The letter, calling any such tariff proposal “unprecedented,” says that deepening the state’s already heavy reliance on gas for electricity generation would create liabilities for ratepayers, “particularly since the natural gas market is notoriously volatile.”

Kulik, who said he’s heard the idea of tariff legislation “floated around by colleagues,” also argues that increasing the state’s reliance on fossil fuels “goes against the direction” of the state’s energy and climate change policies, and that if natural gas is seen as a “bridge fuel” until other sources like offshore wind and Canadian hydropower can be put in place, “the utilities should pay for that capacity. That shouldn’t be front-loaded onto ratepayers.”

Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network Director Kathryn Eiseman writes in a recent op-ed column, “If the National Grid electric contracts get the “all-clear” by way of new state legislation, Kinder Morgan could decide that NED is economically viable again (even if they have to scale it back …) Likewise, if the gas markets change, other companies could sign up with Kinder Morgan.

“Back in February of 2014, Kinder Morgan proposed this project as ‘scalable from approximately 600,000 Mcf/d to 2.2 Bcf/day.’ The company cited interest from local gas companies, power generators, industrial end-users, and developers of LNG export projects. When they submitted the NED application to FERC, Kinder Morgan had about 552,000 Mcf/d lined up, primarily with gas utilities, including Berkshire Gas, Columbia Gas, and National Grid’s gas company. The addition of National Grid electric utility contracts put them over 650,000 Mcf/d.

“In other words, the ‘pipeline tax’ alone could be enough to make the NED project instantly financially viable again.”

The attorney general also argues, in a brief supporting the appeal, that the DPU’s ruling would “re-expose ratepayers to the risks inherent in the pre-Restructuring Act regulatory scheme. Neither the Department nor (the Department of Energy Resources has been shy about this intention. … The order is completely antagonistic to the re-calibrated risk-allocation design embodied in the 1997 Restructuring Act.”

Ismay contends the DPU decision last October is “illegal for a whole host of reasons,” including the fact that the state’s 1997 Electric Utility Restructuring Act doesn’t allow electric distribution companies to be affiliated with an electric generation company, or buy gas and “flip on the open wholesale market to power (generating) companies.”

The 1997 act pulled away from the DPU authority it once had to adjust generation costs, saying in effect “we trust the market,” he said, but instead gave it authority to mitigate high energy prices by implementing energy efficiency plans.

“We see the DPU’s order as an impermissible entry into deregulated energy markets, putting a thumb on the scale of gas suppliers,” said Ismay.

Boston Statehouse Rally for a Renewable Future and No More Pipelines

Come to the Boston Statehouse to Celebrate and Rally for a Renewable Future and No More Pipelines

Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change Hearing: Commonwealth’s Clean Energy Future

We seem to have won a great victory on the NED pipeline – and it’s time to celebrate. It’s also a time to build on our strength to win more! We need to stop all pipeline expansions. We must stop the pipeline tax. And we must get our legislators to support smart, renewable energy and climate legislation to reduce emissions and support clean, renewable energy!

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016
11:30 Rally, Celebration & Pizza at the State House Steps
12:00 Training/Opportunities to Visit Legislative Offices
and Push Hard on the Pipeline Tax
1:00 Global Warming Committee Hearing, State House Rm. 428

One or more buses to Boston are available on a sliding scale from $5 to $30. For details and to sign up for a bus, send an email to masspowerforward@toxicsaction.org.
Please indicate your top three choices ( leaving from/ returning to Pittsfield, Cummington, Greenfield, Orange, Amherst, or Northampton) and we will do our best to  accommodate. Your flexibility is appreciated.

See you at the Statehouse on May 3rd
» Please RSVP to help us plan!

Eiseman: Pipeline battle isn’t over in Massachusetts

A wave of victory parties and impromptu parades has swept the region, celebrating the suspension of Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline project.  What comes next?

This is not an end, but a beginning of the recognition of the power and potential of the broad-based network of engaged citizens, organizations and state and local officials that has formed over the past 26 months of concerted opposition to the pipeline.

There are several directions that the movement is taking.

Some people are shifting more attention to other gas pipeline and power plant projects in the state. Others seek to influence federal legislation to reform the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Many are also focusing on promoting clean energy solutions as a way to reduce demand for gas and other fossil fuels.

But for those who need a reason that hits closer to home to stay involved, here’s a sobering reality: Political pressure is necessary to ensure that we do not see what some are calling “zombie NED” – a return of the nightmare pipeline proposal. NED is still twitching and could be given life support by the Massachusetts Legislature.

Here is a little background to understand the risks and pressure points.

Kinder Morgan’s stated reason for suspending the NED project is its inability to secure enough pipeline capacity contracts. (That is, insufficient market demand, or “no need” for NED.) The company has also made clear that a key to establishing adequate demand lies with electrical power generation.

Kinder Morgan has, for more than two years, been scheming to work out a way to make electric ratepayers across New England help pay for NED’s construction.

A competing pipeline company, Spectra Energy, devised a plan to do just that for its Access Northeast project. Kinder Morgan has been trying to piggyback on this novel scheme – referred to by many as a “pipeline tax” because of its effect of saddling the general public with the cost of new gas infrastructure. Last year, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) gave its blessing to this electric utility pipeline contract scheme, including “cost recovery” from consumers.

Under the scheme approved by the Baker administration – which is currently being challenged in court – electric utilities have entered into agreements for space on both Access Northeast and the NED pipeline. Kinder Morgan has pointed to legal uncertainty over this so-called “pipeline tax” as a factor in its decision to shelve NED.

The Massachusetts Legislature is working on an omnibus energy bill that could contain a provision that allows this electric ratepayer pipeline financing scheme in conjunction with these contracts. If the DPU is allowed (through new legislation) to approve these contracts, that legal uncertainty goes away for Kinder Morgan’s planning purposes.

It is true that even with the electric utility contracts Kinder Morgan has (with National Grid) for NED, the 1.3 billion cubic foot (bcf) per day pipeline never became more than 50 percent subscribed. Below is some nitty-gritty detail, but the takeaway is that if the National Grid electric contracts get the “all-clear” by way of new state legislation, Kinder Morgan could decide that NED is economically viable again (even if they have to scale it back by downsizing the mammoth compressor stations once more). Likewise, if the gas markets change, other companies could sign up with Kinder Morgan.

Here’s a look at the numbers:  Back in February of 2014, Kinder Morgan proposed this project as “scalable from approximately 600,000 Mcf/d to 2.2 bcf/day.” The company cited interest from local gas companies, power generators, industrial end-users, and developers of LNG export projects. When it submitted the NED application to FERC, Kinder Morgan had about 552,000 mcf/d lined up, primarily with gas utilities, including Berkshire Gas, Columbia Gas and National Grid’s gas company. The addition of National Grid electric utility contracts put them over 650,000 mcf/d.

In other words, the “pipeline tax” alone could be enough to make the NED project instantly financially viable again. All of the NED applications and petitions are currently merely suspended, not withdrawn, while our Legislature crafts its energy legislation.

On May 3, the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change is holding a hearing on the suspended NED project and the commonwealth’s clean energy future. The anti-pipeline movement is holding a rally on the Statehouse steps beforehand. Be there. Let Beacon Hill know that while we celebrate each victory, we know that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom from ill-conceived energy policy decisions. Let them know we are here to stay.

Kathryn R. Eiseman is director of the Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network and president of the Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast Inc.

FERC to Consider Electric Utility Purchases of Gas Pipeline Capacity

By William Opalka

FERC will convene a technical conference May 9 to consider a proposal by New England officials that electric utilities purchase natural gas pipeline capacity (RP16-618).

MAP Access Northeast - gas pipeline capacity - electric utility purchases-fercThe commission said the conference would examine issues raised by Algonquin Gas Transmission’s Feb. 19 petition asking FERC to allow exemptions from its capacity release bidding requirements. The proposed changes to the company’s tariff would permit “prearranged releases” of firm capacity to utilities or generation owners. Algonquin, a unit of Spectra Energy, owns a network of pipelines in the Northeast that it is proposing to expand.

“Such tariff modifications are consistent with the commission’s current policy of exempting releases pursuant to state-regulated retail access programs of natural gas local distribution companies from bidding requirements,” Algonquin wrote. The company said the exemption is needed to increase the supply of available gas in periods of high demand.

Generators have protested the petition, saying the exemption would distort the secondary market for natural gas and depress electricity prices. Other protests note that “state-regulated electric reliability programs” referenced by Algonquin either do not yet exist or are on shaky legal ground. A plan by Massachusetts regulators that would allow electric distribution companies to recover costs from ratepayers was challenged by the attorney general and is before that state’s Supreme Judicial Court.

Kinder Morgan last week scrapped plans to develop a major pipeline into New England to help supply natural gas-fired power plants, citing a lack of commitments from electric generators due to regulatory uncertainty over their cost recovery. (See related story, Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline Suspended.)

The cancellation of Kinder Morgan’s project, and New York regulators’ decision last week to deny an environmental permit to the proposed Constitution Pipeline, may improve the fortunes of a third major pipeline expansion into New England, Algonquin Gas Transmission’s Access Northeast project. (See related story, New York Rejects Constitution Pipeline.)

Two electric utilities, Eversource Energy and National Grid, own a combined 60% of the project, which would provide fuel for 5,000 MW of generation. Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Gas Transmission owns the remaining 40%. (See Algonquin Submits Pre-Filing Request for Access Northeast Pipeline.)

NY Denies 401 Water Quality Certificate for Constitution pipeline!

Governor Cuomo and the NY DEC gave us an Earth Day gift by officially denying the 401 Water Quality Certificate. This is a precedent-setting decision that will help other states follow suit in standing up for their own water quality regulations and some greater power in the face of FERC’s rubber-stamp pipeline approvals.

Constitution’s Williams pipeline company has 30 days to appeal the DEC denial.  As stated by one NY pipeline fighter, “Aside from more embarrassment, Williams Co. have nothing to lose by doing so.  So we can expect they will appeal in the Second Circuit Court.  But they will lose, and lose badly.  We think the DEC’s case is airtight.  We know ours is.”

Constitution is the pipeline that closely mirrored the Northeast Energy Direct supply path, running from the Pennsylvania fracking fields to the gas hub at Wright, NY. It’s also the pipeline for which trees were prematurely cut, taking out the Holloran maple sugar bush and approx 25 miles worth of trees.

» Read more from EcoWatch about this historic decision
» Report from Capital New York
» Pipeline Assessing Options After Permit Denial

Kinder Morgan suspends NED pipeline proposal!

On April 20, 2016, Kinder Morgan granted us an early Earth Day present by announcing that they are suspending further work on the Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline.
» Read the Kinder Morgan press release
» Read the many articles emerging in the press

While the suspension of the NED pipeline is a hard-won victory and tremendous relief for the many hundreds of impacted property owners and for the communities that would have been impacted, Massachusetts and the northeast are still not out of the woods.

While those of us who have been fighting NED are definitely celebrating that victory, we’re also keenly aware that the word “suspension” allows the possibility of the project coming back. Also the CT Expansion pipeline is still entirely on the table, and the weight of Article 97 of our state constitution vs. the Natural Gas Act is still an undecided issue. We’ll continue engaging in the fight not only for the sake of Otis State Forest, the people of Sandisfield, but also for the sovereignty of our state constitution. How this case is decided will influence Spectra’s Access Northeast pipeline bid, and hopefully set a precedent that can have influence across the country.

We’re also continuing to engage in pipeline-related issues like the Mass DPU hearings on tariffs on electric bills to help electric generators subsidize their pipeline capacity purchases, the contentious Energy Policy Modernization Act (S.2012) in Congress that would shorten FERC pipeline review to 90 days and LNG project review to 45 days, and ongoing calls for GAO review of FERC will help us fend of the other 4 pipelines the state is facing, and any possible proposals in the future. The NED pipeline appears to be gone, but the conditions that set it’s proposal in motion are not.

It’s a wonderful bit of news that the NED pipeline is indefinitely suspended, and it clearly shows that people power works! But there’s still much more work to be done to keep us on the path to freedom from the threats of pipeline expansion.

Let’s make sure to use the amazing organization, networking and momentum we’ve cultivated in the fight against NED to keep these threats at bay:

IN MASSACHUSETTS
— We are still facing the continuing battle on the CT Expansion pipeline, and the dangerous state-wide precedent that it could set if Kinder Morgan is successful in getting permission to build on Article 97 protected land
— Communities in the eastern part of the state are still facing the Spectra pipelines and need us all to engage
— There are still DPU challenges facing us that may allow electric companies to charge a tariff to their customers for their contracts with gas pipeline companies
— There is a looming omnibus energy bill that we’re watching and will be informing people about that might end up with pro-pipeline and clean-energy limiting language.
— Massachusetts is continuing to struggle in meeting it’s own Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) mandates. We’ll be keeping you all informed on what to do to help the push for greenhouse gas emissions reductions

IN NEW YORK
— The Constitution pipeline is still hanging by a decision by the Cuomo administration on whether or not they will grant the 401 Water Quality Certificate. This decision is due next week and can kill this pipeline project with a denial of the permit or give it the final green light if the NY DEC decides to grant it.

NATIONWIDE
— So many communities are still facing the same threats we all just faced. The structure of the FERC process remains focused on the interests of the industry, and a bill currently working its way through Congress (S.2012) is pushing to mandate expedited FERC approval of projects in as little as 90 days and LNG projects in just 45 days.  Stay tuned as we gather details on this legislation, and please continue to support us in our push in the other direction, to make FERC more accountable to public interests.

“ZOMBIE NED”, THE DEVILS IN THE DETAILS ….
The wording that Kinder Morgan used to suspend the NED pipeline also leaves the door open to the project, or some altered version of it coming back if market conditions change.
Statements like “indefinitely suspended” are often used as a way of saving face, but combined with others in their statement like “As a result, there are currently neither sufficient volumes, nor a reasonable expectation of securing them, to proceed with the project as it is currently configured”, it does leave the option of reviving the project on the table.

Until they officially withdraw this proposal from FERC, it’s foot remains in the door, keeping the option of revival open if conditions for its profitability emerge.

This suspension of NED is clearly a cause for celebration and a deep sigh of relief, and there are many well-earned celebrations happening, including the fund-raiser for PLAN-NE’s continuing work, the Pipeline Boogie, coming up this weekend in Montague! We’re just asking that folks stay engaged and use that energy to make sure that other pipelines follow suit, and the conditions for pipelines and other fossil fuel expansions wither on the vine.

While we’re taking a moment to take a deep breath and pat everyone who’s worked so hard on the back, we’re not going away just yet. We can now keep fighting the rest of the fight with the knowledge that citizen pressure and involvement pays off!  😉

Be happy. Stay watchful. Stay involved!

 

Press on the NED pipeline suspension

» Kinder Morgan pulls the plug on Northeast Energy Direct-Tennessee Gas pipeline
MassLive

» Kinder Morgan Suspends Work, Spending On Pipeline Project
State House News Service

» Kinder Morgan suspends pipeline project
Company faced opposition to project in New York, New Hampshire
WMUR

» Kinder Morgan Suspends Work, Spending on Kinder Morgan Pipeline
WBUR

» BREAKING: Kinder-Morgan Pulls The Plug On Northeast Pipeline Project
Your Tewksbury Today

» Kinder Morgan shelves $3 billion pipeline project
Boston Globe

» Kinder Morgan suspends plans for NED pipeline
Keene Sentinel

There are many more! Search “Kinder Morgan” on Google News and you’ll see they keep increasing.  🙂

Plus: this Twitter shout out from Rachel Maddow whose home is near NED-affected communities, linking back to the Greenfield Recorder story.
Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 10.38.17 AM

Congressman Jim McGovern’s Statement on Kinder Morgan Suspension of Northeast Energy Direct-Tennessee Gas Pipeline

April 20, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) released the following statement on today’s announcement by Kinder Morgan Inc. that it will suspend further work and expenditures on its proposed Northeast Energy Direct-Tennessee Gas pipeline.

“Today is a big victory for Western Massachusetts and our state’s future as a leader in clean and renewable energy. With the defeat of this pipeline, it is clear that the voices of Western Massachusetts families have been heard. I am so proud of the incredible activism led by my constituents.

“The safety and health of our communities must be our first priority. With so many concerns raised about how the pipeline could impact local drinking water, our farmers and the crops they grow, and ongoing conservation efforts, I believe it is the right decision to halt development of the pipeline.

“People must always come before profits and today the people won. Massachusetts has a proud tradition as a leader in clean energy and we must continue to build on that by investing in solar, wind, and other renewable energies. Making these investments will help to reduce energy costs, combat climate change, and support the good-paying jobs that will power the 21st century economy and build strong, sustainable communities that will thrive for decades to come.”

Locals cheer suspension news

By TOM RELIHAN, RICHIE DAVISand DIANE BRONCACCIO
Greenfield Recorder Staff
Wednesday, April 20, 2016

NORTHFIELD — “This is what I’ve been hoping and praying for, for more than a year, that this might actually happen,” said a jubilant Holly Lovelace. “That they would go away.”

Lovelace lives on Gulf Road in Northfield, not far from where a large-scale gas compressor station was expected to be built to help push 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas along a proposed 30-inch diameter pipeline, the Northeast Energy Direct, each day.

But on Wednesday, Lovelace received the news she and hundreds of other area residents had been hoping to hear for the better part of two years: the project has been suspended “in its current configuration,” according to energy giant Kinder Morgan, the pipeline’s Houston-based developer.

The company cited a lack of customers to purchase the gas it would have transported from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale fields to Dracut, north of Lowell, as the main factor driving its decision. It attributed that to the current low-price market conditions for the commodity.

Since the project has been suspended, many county residents said they remained concerned that it could rear its head once more in the future, but for now, they lauded the news.

The project’s announcement in 2014 spawned a groundswell of opposition not only in Franklin County, where eight towns would have been crossed by the pipeline, but across New York, southern New Hampshire and other parts of western and northern Massachusetts. Meetings held by the company itself or various federal and state agencies regularly resulted in packed houses, while marches and protests occurred on a near-weekly basis, and the opposition grew in scope and sophistication.

In Deerfield

Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, who has criss-crossed the state to testify before state legislative and department hearings in his efforts to prevent the pipeline from being close to his family’s 100-year-old orchards, let out an audible sigh of relief while discussing the announcement with a reporter over the phone.

“It’s amazing. Our family is overwhelmed and overjoyed,” he said. “We’re happy to be on the winning side with so many of our neighbors and other committee members who’ve opposed this all along. We’re glad they finally got the point.”

Deerfield Selectman Carolyn Shores Ness, who lives on the pipeline’s proposed path and who has been involved with a volley of town legal actions to halt the project in one way or another, expressed relief at the news, but vowed to continue working to build a case against the project should it be revived at some point.

“I’m so excited and thrilled, I can’t even say enough. There are no words to express it,” Ness said. “But we can’t let down our guard, can’t give up the fight. We have solid legal arguments that we have to pursue,” she said, citing a fight over whether Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., the Kinder Morgan subsidiary that would have built the project, can cross land in Otis State Forest protected by Article 97 of the state Constitution for its Connecticut Expansion project.

Opposition vigilance

Jed Proujansky of Northfield, the chairman of the Municipal Coalition Against the Pipeline, said he hopes area pipeline opponents will now look toward that case and offer their help there.

“It’s the same issue, with a different pipeline,” he said.

Clark, too, stressed the need to remain vigilant, but hopes the project has been put to rest for good.

“I just really want to thank everyone who helped in the opposition,” Clark said. “It’s been a long fight, and one that none of us wanted, or ever thought we’d get involved in. It’s nice to not worry about losing our water and land here, to sleep a little easier at night.”

West County joy

Maple sugarer Dana Goodfield of Stonegate Farm in Conway was delighted to hear news.

“Wow! Obviously, we’re very happy with that — because it was slated to go through our sugar bush.”

A few miles away, in Ashfield, Will Elwell was on a tractor, tilling a field, when his wife, Donna, called out to him: “The pipeline is dead.”

“I’ve just come in to read it online,” Elwell said Wednesday afternoon. A few weeks ago, Elwell had built a replica Henry David Thoreau cabin directly over the pipeline route, as an act of protest against a pipeline that seemed on a course against the will of the landowners involved. Dozens of residents had helped him build it, including two of the town’s Selectboard members.

James Cutler of Ashfield, a pipeline opponent and the founder of Hilltown Community Rights, believes it was Article 97 that stopped the pipeline.

“Article 97 trumps and it should trump; that’s why they stopped it. That was much more meaningful than anything,” said Cutler, who was in Puerto Rico when he heard the news. “This was such an uphill climb for them. This (natural gas) wasn’t for local consumption. This was for import. It’s a states-rights issue that will have influence over national geopolitics — from our little corner of the world. This is huge,” said Cutler.

In Shelburne, where the pipeline was to go through the James and Prudence Wholey farms, James Wholey was concerned that the news about halting the pipeline may not be permanent.

He said the halt “may give the state a chance to do something — but we’ll see.”

His sister Prudence was more optimistic. “I hope that it never comes here,” she said of the pipeline.”

Shelburne Selectman Joseph Judd was happy, although he added: “I don’t think this is the time to let our guard down.”

Shelburne’s town meeting warrant has a few articles designed to mitigate the impact of a pipeline on the environment. When asked if a request for $13,000 for legal fees or services regarding the pipeline will be kept on the warrant, Judd said, “This may be money that we never have to spend. But it we need it for this purpose, it will be there. Always prepare while we oppose,” he said. “That’s what I’m thinking right now.”

Kinder Morgan suspends pipeline

Richie Davis, Greenfield Recorder
Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Work on the controversial Northeast Energy Direct pipeline – which has stirred a growing groundswell of opposition in Franklin County and beyond – has been suspended by energy giant Kinder Morgan.

A company statement issued this afternoon blamed “inadequate capacity commitments from prospective customers,” on  Kinder Morgan Inc. and its subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, pulling the plug on the estimated $3.3 billion project that would have cut through eight county towns on its way from the shale gas fields west of New York to Dracut.

In July 2015, Kinder Morgan’s board announced that it had authorized TGP to proceed with the project’s “market path” segment from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut, “designed to help alleviate New England’s uniquely high natural gas and electricity costs caused by severely limited natural gas transportation capacity currently serving the region.”

That assumption has been challenged by critics of the project who have said there are other ways to meet the region’s fuel demands for generating electricity and providing heat.

“Unfortunately, despite working for more than two years and expending substantial shareholder resources, TGP did not receive the additional commitments it expected. As a result, there are currently neither sufficient volumes, nor a reasonable expectation of securing them, to proceed with the project as it is currently configured,” the company said.

In addition, innovations in production have resulted in a low-price environment that, while good for consumers, has made it difficult for producers to make new long term commitments.”

“Given these market conditions, continuing to develop the project is not an acceptable use of shareholder funds,” the company said.

Stop a Pipeline for Fracked Gas

GENERATIONS of the Holleran family have harvested sap from trees on their land in New Milford, Pa. In early March, their small maple syrup business was nearly destroyed when armed federal marshals accompanied men with chain saws onto the family farm and used the power of eminent domain to cut down most of their maple trees.

The Hollerans are in the way of the Constitution Pipeline, the 124-mile structure that would carry fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale fields of Pennsylvania to a compressor station in Wright, N.Y. From there, it would connect with the Iroquois and Tennessee pipelines to take the gas to New England, and potentially to Canada. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission almost always approves such pipelines, despite growing evidence of the harm they are doing.

Now the Houston-based Constitution Pipeline Company is poised to begin construction in New York. They have been held back from cutting trees only by an objection in January from Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, who cited the fact that the state still has one way to stop the project.

The Clean Water Act gives the New York Department of Environmental Conservation the power to deny a water-quality certificate to projects that do not meet its water-quality standards. There is ample reason to do so.

The pipeline would cross nearly 300 creeks and streams and necessitate cutting 700,000 trees. The D.E.C. has recommended drilling six feet under all crossings, but the company plans to “trench” through most of them.

» Read more …