Paying for the pipeline
‘Living On Earth’ does story on pipeline, Conservation Law Foundation says payment scheme unprecedented in US
Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. and its parent, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, may have had a chance last week to convince 300 attendees at a Franklin Regional Council of Governments meeting why its nearly 300-mile pipeline project is needed, but this week, a nationally syndicated radio program is painting a different view.
“Living on Earth,” the Boston-produced Public Radio International environmental affairs program heard on public radio stations around the country, features this week an interview with Shanna Cleveland, senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, which is challenging the process by which New England governors orchestrated the financing by electric customer tariffs planned for the pipeline, expected to cost $3 billion to $4 billion.
Cleveland argues that TGP’s Northeast Energy Direct project, which would deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania shale beds northward to Wright, N.Y., and eastward across nine Franklin County towns to Dracut, north of Lowell, is not needed.
“From our analysis, the incremental expansions of existing natural gas pipelines, as well as the current supplies of liquefied natural gas that we have on the system, would be plenty to make up the shortfalls that we’ve been seeing in the winter months and reduce those price spikes that folks have been concerned about,” she tells host Steve Curwood on the program, titled “Unprecedented New England Pipeline Proposal,” which aired on New England Public Radio this weekend and is available on the program’s website:
Curwood said that Kinder Morgan declined to speak with program representatives to provide a rebuttal.
At last Thursday’s Franklin COG meeting, Kinder Morgan marketing manager for the project, Curtis Cole, said additional gas capacity is needed not only to lower New England’s energy costs — which he said are the highest in North America — but also to provide stability to the region’s electric generation system.
But Cleveland told “Living on Earth” that Black and Veatch, the engineering firm hired by the region’s governors, found that under a “low-demand” scenario in which the region reduces natural gas consumption, new infrastructure is not needed.
Instead, she said, the six governors are promoting a regional energy infrastructure initiative, in which “ they’re proposing ... something that’s never been proposed in the history of the United States, and that is for electric customers to subsidize the costs of a natural gas pipeline. So the electric customers would be paying for the construction of this pipeline even though it’s really the power generators who need the natural gas that would be transported along this pipeline.”
Cleveland said the region should instead launch a major energy conservation initiative that would include market reforms.
“We believe that with a combination of changes to the market, better use of existing supply, and more energy efficiency, we can meet the challenge that we face,” Cleveland said, adding that electric utilities should be required to buy firm transportation contracts for natural gas instead of contracts that leave them subject to spot market prices during the winter heating season.
Although gas-fired generating plants are benefitting public health, compared to the coal- and oil-burning plants they replaced, Cleveland said that in the long run, they don’t cut down enough on greenhouse gas emissions.
“Not only do the pipelines leak and create a fair amount of methane that gets released into the atmosphere, but ... there is significant concern about leaks and flaring at the wellhead, and there are significant climate change impacts from extracting and transporting the gas,” she said.
Given the fact that the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline would have more than three times the capacity of what the Black and Veatch study said was needed, Cleveland suggested, “There is quite a potential for a lot of this natural gas to end up on the export market.”
She added, “The folks who live in the areas that this pipeline is proposed to go through are very concerned, and we’ve seen an unprecedented level of engagement by individuals and residents not only on the issue of the pipeline and its proposed route itself, but also on energy policy and the need to really bring this conversation about what our energy future looks like into the public debate and into the public eye.”
CLF has filed a complaint in Suffolk Superior Court against the state Executive Office of Energy and Environment for withholding public documents it began requesting in March about development of the New England governors’ regional energy plans developed by the New England States Committee on Electricity. NESCOE has issued a response saying, “NESCOE is a not-for-profit corporation that facilitates collaboration among the six New England states in connection with regional wholesale electricity matters. NESCOE is not a state government agency and is not subject to the state laws CLF references.”
On the Web: www.loe.org
You can reach Richie Davis at
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269