Expensive Gas Pipelines Still Front Burner With Proponents

If you think that Eversource, NGrid, and their Canadian pipeline partner, Enbridge, have given up on building more gas pipelines to bring unneeded, carbon-emitting, natural gas to MA, please listen to what they are saying. They’ve told investors that they will ask the Legislature, once again, to force MA consumers to pay a pipeline tax of $6.6 BILLION to finance their projects. 

The Legislature has wisely refused to pass a pipeline tax, the Supreme Judicial Court has unanimously said “no way,” and residents and businesses from Cummington to the Cape have risen up against more in protest. Now, it seems that pipeline proponents may be planning an end run, with help from ISO - New England, the regional grid operator.  

Gas-obsessed ISO, and its CEO, Gordon van Welie, might ask FERC to impose a “regional tariff,” -- a huge rate hike across New England, that would bypass state legislatures and the courts, but not consumers, who would still be stuck with the tab. 

In its mission to keep power flowing, ISO is supposed to be fuel- neutral. Despite this mandate, Chairman van Welie has long been a natural gas cheerleader.  He would be risking the credibility and effectiveness of ISO by trying to defeat the legislature, the courts, and the people all at the same time, and using scare tactics to do it.  

I wrote an article that appeared last week in Commonwealth Magazine to provide details regarding ISO’s bogus attempts to frighten us into caving to the fossil fuel industry. 

Sometime in October, fittingly, perhaps, on Halloween, ISO is due to release a fuel security study, the details of which remain closely guarded, but that will likely suggest, once again, that New England will be freezing in the dark or facing rolling blackouts unless we come to our senses and pay for gas pipelines that we don’t need, don’t want and can’t afford.  BOO! 

You have it wrong Mr. Van Welie.  The future is in clean, renewable power, not more climate changing fossil fuels.  

If you have a moment, please read the article and pass it along.  

Best wishes for a clean, healthy and safe environment.  

Andy Savitz

Connecticut's Energy Future at Stake

Guest blog post by Martha Klein, Chair, Sierra Club Connecticut Chapter

Yesterday, the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) released its draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy. This draft plan, once finalized, will impact Connecticut energy use and development for the next few years. 

Read more about the draft plan here. 

While Connecticut has made progress in advancing renewable energy and protecting the environment, it is disappointing that the state continues on a path to support major investment in fossil fuels. Fossil fuels harm the environment by polluting our air and water and harm consumers who will continue to foot the bill for unneeded fossil fuel infrastructure. It is both shocking and troubling that while President Trump is doubling down on fossil fuels and new pipelines in DC - Connecticut has chosen to follow his lead. 

Sadly, this CES draft simply does not hit the clear renewable energy goals to set forth by the Global Warming Solutions Act.  

I encourage every Connecticut resident concerned about the environment to turn out to public hearings  and tell our state leaders that it's time for Connecticut to be a leader in combating climate change and investing in clean, renewable energy! 

Public meetings on the CES will be held as follows:

  • August 14, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Webb Hall, Room 110, Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU), Eastern Road, Willimantic, Connecticut.
  • August 16, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Beacon Hall Events Center, Room 214, Housatonic Community College, 900 Lafayette Boulevard, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
  • August 21, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Fort Trumbull State Park Conference Center, 90 Walbach Street, New London, Connecticut.
  • August 29, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Auditorium, Torrington City Hall, 2nd floor, 140 Main Street, Torrington, Connecticut.
  • September 6, 2017, 4:00 p.m., Gina McCarthy Auditorium, 5th Floor, DEEP's Hartford Office, 79 Elm Street, Hartford, Connecticut.
  • September 7, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Jones Auditorium, Britton Building, 2nd Floor, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), 123 Huntington Street, New Haven, Connecticut. 

Access Northeast Pipeline: Not Dead Yet

Don’t be fooled by recent headlines in Massachusetts indicating that the Access Northeast Pipeline proposal has been withdrawn.  As Mark Twain supposedly said, when told that his obituary had appeared in a local newspaper, “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  

Yes, the decision to “pause,” made by Eversource, National Grid and Enbridge, may be positive news in terms canceling this utility rip-off. But it’s more likely to be a false positive. These companies have spent years claiming that Massachusetts is at critical risk for energy reliability.

But with gas demand heading into sharp decline due to the state’s nation-leading efforts on energy efficiency, renewable energy and emissions reductions, they have not yet convinced the state legislature to stick ratepayers with the $3.2 billion pipeline construction costs, ballooning to $6.6 billion with operations and maintenance (according to the independent energy analyst group Synapse.)

Attorney General Maura Healey has also deemed new natural gas pipelines unnecessary and the state Senate voted 39-0 against pipeline taxes.

The recent media coverage includes quotes from the pipeline developers that they are reloading for a fresh lobbying assault, as early as this fall.  An Enbridge vice president said the company is confident of getting “back on track” with state legislators and federal regulators. A National Grid senior vice president said he hoped, “we can get cooler heads to prevail and get the votes.”

The big utilities really hope that they can get legislators to lose their heads, using their old scare tactics, supported by ISO- NE, an agency that makes its living by crying wolf. 

Natural gas was briefly seen, a decade ago, as a welcome bridge from coal and oil in slashing greenhouse gas emissions. But we are now well past its environmental and economic benefits. More fossil fuel will accelerate climate change and make it more expensive to address. We need to stop the Access Northeast pipeline now and forever.

Please take a minute to write your elected officials.  They need to continue to stop the pipeline tax, and fight the pipelines themselves, no matter what fakery the developers try.  Why should we be forced to pay for pipelines that we don’t need, don’t want and can’t afford, just to enrich gas developers?

 

Let’s Not Give Them the Money:  No Pipeline Tax!

The more President Trump pushes to reverse decades of environmental progress, the harder our state and local activists push back.  It’s inspiring and important work.

The MA Sierra Club, Mass Power Forward, Mothers Out Front, the New England Pipeline Awareness Network, and No Fracked Gas in Mass, have scored big wins against Eversource, NGrid, and their international pipeline partner Spectra/Enbridge – all desperate to build natural gas pipelines that we don’t need and can’t afford.

So far, the MA Attorney General, Synapse Energy Economics, and the University of New Hampshire say we don’t need more natural gas.  The MA Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the developers’ greedy plan to impose a $6.6 BILLION pipeline tax on electric ratepayers to build gas pipelines (go figure), and the MA Senate seconded that opinion, voting 39-0 against the scheme.

So, with no need, a huge price tag, a climate change crisis, and opposition coming from many quarters, what’s motivating these companies to keep pushing?

Simple. They want to use our money to export their gas to Europe, where they can get much higher prices than here.

Let’s not give them the money:  No Pipeline Tax!

Read more at https://commonwealthmagazine.org/opinion/exports-explain-interest-in-gas-pipeline/

Democracy Lesson in Shrewsbury

The momentum is growing against natural gas pipelines, and against making consumers pay for them. 

Town Meetings in Grafton, Norfolk and Shrewsbury recently voted against hosting the West Boylston Lateral, a 27-mile, 16-inch, high-pressure, fracked gas pipeline, running from Medway to West Boylston. 

Anti-pipeline advocate Steve Fishman demonstrating the size difference between an average residential distribution pipeline versus the proposed 16" high pressure transmission pipeline. 

Anti-pipeline advocate Steve Fishman demonstrating the size difference between an average residential distribution pipeline versus the proposed 16" high pressure transmission pipeline. 

The towns don’t want it, they don’t need it and they can’t afford it. And they apparently aren’t going to take it, at least not without a fight.  

I attended the Shrewsbury Town Meeting recently -- an inspiring lesson in small town, New England- style democracy. I wish my kids had been there.  I wish every kid in Shrewsbury and in Massachusetts had been there.

Despite strong opposition from the town’s leadership, including its Finance Committee, its Selectmen, and its Administrator, Town Meeting Members, led by a small group of political newcomers, stood up, tall and determined, voting against the pipeline: 120-91.  

Townhall in Shrewsbury ended with a standing vote, with opponents of the pipeline being heard loud and clear. 

Townhall in Shrewsbury ended with a standing vote, with opponents of the pipeline being heard loud and clear. 

A moment earlier, a voice vote had been ruled as having gone in favor of the pipeline, but anti-pipeline forces immediately called for a standing vote.  When a convincing majority stood up against the pipeline, in defiance of the Town’s pro-pipeline leadership, it was a triumphant and dramatic moment for the democratic process.   It was also a victory for consumers, the environment and the town. Watch the video here. 

The big mystery is this: why would the Shrewsbury Selectman and Finance committees favor a gas pipeline running through their small town, adjacent to their “jewel-in-the-crown” High School, and directly under an aquifer that supplies drinking water for many residents?  Why agree to having “incineration zones,” and “evacuation zones,” in town, along with the administrative burden that the pipeline will require?

The anti-pipeline forces have pointed out, over and over, that the only benefit to Shrewsbury, would be an annual tax payment of $25,000 a year. That’s peanuts compared to the disruption, the additional administrative costs, and the damages that could occur in the event of a problem.

Most residents, and the town’s leadership, remember the gas explosion that occurred in the town a few years ago. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the damage was considerable.

Gas pipe explosion on 15 Colonial Drive, Shrewsbury, December 27, 2013. 

Gas pipe explosion on 15 Colonial Drive, Shrewsbury, December 27, 2013. 

For those of us who care deeply about a clean energy future in Massachusetts, and about the rights of our towns to control their fates, this fight is important. Prior to the Town Meeting, the Town Administrator had given the pipeline developers permission to go onto town-owned land, to conduct a land survey to prepare the way for the pipeline. The pipeline fighters want to get that permission rescinded, now that the Town Meeting has said “no pipeline.”.

Forget Game of Thrones.  Stay tuned to Shrewsbury, and this blog, for further episodes.

The MA Clean Energy Future Tour is coming to a Town Near you

The Massachusetts Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, chaired by Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Pacheco, is holding hearings so that people across the Commonwealth can express their thoughts and concerns about climate change. If you care about the environment and the future of our planet we urge you to participate in a community meeting closest to you. Click here for more information and to find a meeting close to you.

Some points you may wish to make:

  • thank the Committee, and the entire MA Senate, for voting, (39-0 last session), against the pipeline tax; 
  • express your opposition to new gas pipelines, which will bring fracked gas and more greenhouse gas emissions to MA - exactly what we don't need; and
  • ask them to remain firm against the $6.6. BILLION pipeline tax and against new fracked gas pipelines.

The next two hearings are:

  1. Melrose Hearing: Monday May 15th | 6PM | Melrose Memorial Hall 590 Main St, Melrose, MA 02176
  2. Taunton Hearing: Tuesday May 16th | 6PM | Benjamin Friedman Middle School 500 Norton Ave, Taunton, MA 02780

You can also send comments to the committee by clicking here.

Attention Norfolk Residents

Please come to the Town Meeting at the King Philip Jr. High School, this Tuesday, May 9th, from 7 pm, to stand against a proposed interstate pipeline to be built through Norfolk.

We don’t want to pay billions for a pipeline that we don’t need, don’t want and is likely being built to export fracked gas to Canada and Europe!  We should not have our towns and land dug up, with no say in the matter, for the benefit of private corporations. 

We will be article #22 out of #24, so if you need to come a little late, we can still use your help! 

Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/344125282601941/

Thank you

Attention Shrewsbury Residents

Please come to the following 2 events, to stand against a proposed interstate pipeline to be built through Shrewsbury and seven other Worcester County Towns:

  • MAY 9th TUES 6:45 PM – Board of Selectmen – Vote – Town Hall
  • MAY 15th MON 6:45 PM – Annual Town Meeting – Oak Middle School

As you know, the pipeline poses direct threats to our health, to our children’s well-being and to our drinking water by going through the aquifer protection overlay district. It is close to our High School, will go directly under high tension lines, and will create a “blast zone” and an “evacuation zone” in Shrewsbury. All of this will inevitably add costs and burden to our already overtaxed town Boards and Administration,

You can also help by sending an email to our Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen to urge them to SUPPORT ARTICLE 12, which opposes the West Boylston Lateral Pipeline in Shrewsbury.  You’ll need to include both your name and street address and a quick message letting them you’d like them to SUPPORT ARTICLE 12 to stop the West Boylston Lateral Pipeline! Their emails are:

·         selectmen@shrewsburyma.gov  (DEADLINE FOR EMAILS IS FRIDAY AT NOON)

·         financecommittee@shrewsburyma.gov

Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NoGasPipelineShrewsbury/

 

Thank you, and best wishes for a clean, healthy and safe environment.

We’re Getting FERC’d

Spoiler Alert:  this is not a call to action or an announcement related to our movement to prevent new natural gas pipelines from bringing fracked gas into Massachusetts. Most of you already realize we don’t need or want new gas pipelines, and with price tag of $6.6 billion, we certainly can’t afford them. Fracked gas pipelines mean more fossil fuels, so they are also a major setback to our collective efforts to become more reliant on renewable energy. 

No, this is an open lament, and a way to connect with others who may be feeling the same way. 

Massachusetts has lost over 50,000 acres of forests in the past decade, so it was very unwelcome news that Kinder Morgan, the Texas based pipeline company that owns Tennessee Gas, received permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to fell trees to make way for its gas pipeline - the “Connecticut Expansion” project. Click here for the story.

To add insult to injury, many of the trees will fall in and around Otis State Forest, which is conservation land protected by Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution.  Federal law overrules our state Constitution where interstate pipelines are concerned. 

Otis is a treasure, with pristine lakes and waterways, combined with one of the few old growth forests left in the state.   

If losing old trees, in and old forest, in a state park, explicitly protected by the state constitution, in the face of significant local opposition, for unneeded pipelines isn’t cause enough for complaint, how about the fact that the pipeline is not likely to serve Massachusetts consumers? The extra gas is destined for Connecticut.

Now I like the Nutmeg state as much as the next guy or gal, but this is a bad deal for Massachusetts. We lose trees, we take the risk that the pipeline will leak methane, or cause other forms of pollution, we pay to help build it, and we get nothing in return.

As State Representative William Pignatelli (D-Lenox) has artfully said: “We are getting FERC’d again.” 

This isn’t the first time FERC has tried to FERC us. Last year, Kinder Morgan was very close to getting approval for another project - the largest of the New England pipelines projects – “Northeast Energy Direct,” an expensive, needless pipeline, cutting through many towns along its 185-mile in- state route, to bring fracked gas to Dracut, MA.

Instead, people from all over the State and the region raised their voices and took action, holding thousands of meetings, and hundreds of rallies, marches and demonstrations, along with writing and calling their elected officials to say “no.” Those efforts changed the course of history, turning what started as “not in my back yard” issue into a “not in my New England” issue. 

In the face of unprecedented, widespread opposition, Kinder Morgan eventually put NED on hold, albeit ready to be revived at the slightest hint of an opening. Now they are pushing for this project, seeking to expand an existing pipeline, with some trees being a small price to pay.

It may be a small price to pay for the pipeline developers, but I doubt that I’m alone in feeling that trees are important. Do you remember the first tree you ever climbed?  I do, and I also remember the goldenrod tree that my grandmother planted when my mother was born, and how I stood under it on my mother’s 40th birthday. I remember the huge red oak under which I was married, and I remember the first time I ever saw a baobab tree.

So, this week I can only imagine how those who love the Otis State forest and its trees are feeling about their impending loss. Probably a combination of anger, betrayal, and sadness.

They should also be feeling exploited, because these trees don’t need to die, for the simple reason that we don’t need the extra gas. Several recent independent reports have shown that by the time any new pipelines are operational, we won’t need them as solar, wind, and good old fashioned New England efficiency will displace the need for more natural gas. [1] And even in the unlikely event that more gas is needed a few times a year, there are far better and cheaper ways to get it than building or expanding pipelines that will soon be unneeded, but for which ratepayers will be paying for decades to come.

Make no mistake.  These pipelines - and several others that are planned for New England - including the $6.6 billion Access Northeast pipeline – will be built primarily to enrich the companies that are building them. Like the infamous bridge to nowhere, these pipelines are designed to siphon money from your wallet into theirs.  

I am sure we all applaud the concerted efforts of Senators Warren and Markey, who are working hard to get FERC to reconsider this very poor decision. Read their letter to FERC here

  1. “New England’s Shrinking Need for Natural Gas ” Synapse Energy Economics, www.Synapse-Energy.com, (February 7, 2017)

Pipeline proponents using alternative facts or alternative math

Alternative facts are catching on in Massachusetts like a bad habit, especially with those advocating for more natural gas pipelines.  For example, we’re told that we need to “diversify our energy supply” which sounds very much like a true fact, until you find out that natural gas accounts for almost 60% of our energy supply already.

Pipeline proponents are either using alternative facts or alternative math.  To diversify energy in Massachusetts, we must increase renewables, which make up only 11% of our energy supply. If we add more gas, we continue to put our eggs in an overfilled basket. Not prudent.

Many of our political leaders who are pro-pipeline say that this is not State House decision.   When questioned on a radio call-in show recently, Governor Baker said that it’s the federal government that calls the shots on interstate pipelines. “FERC controls this process,” he said. “If you don’t want pipelines, talk to your representatives in Washington.”

That’s often true, but regarding the Access Northeast pipeline (ANE), it’s an alternative fact. ANE depends on forcing ratepayers to pay for it through a pipeline tax, an unprecedented proposal that the Governor and House Leadership can reject in a nanosecond.  (The State Senate voted 39-0 last session against it.)  Katy’s Eiseman’s excellent article identifies other ways that the Baker Administration could stop these unneeded pipelines from being built, https://commonwealthmagazine.org/environment/governors-can-wield-influence-over-pipelines/

The pipeline developers have also caught the alternative fact bug, constantly repeating this whopper: “the Access Northeast Pipeline will cost New England ratepayers $3.2 billion.”

Tsk, tsk, tsk.  In December 2015, expert witnesses for the pipeline developers testified before DPU that the pipeline would cost ratepayers $500 million per year, for 20 years. In present value terms, that translates to $6.6 billion dollars -- over twice as much as they have been saying.  

To be candid, I sometimes use alternative facts myself, when bragging about my athletic prowess, or exaggerating my height (when I’m on the phone or the internet).  That reminds me. Today is opening day at Fenway Park and I’ll be in the bullpen for the Red Sox, ready to take my turn on the mound if they need me.

footnote: http://www.synapse-energy.com/sites/default/files/New-Englands-Shrinking-Need-for-Natural-Gas-16-109.pdf

Corporate pipeline developers use our money to build costly, unnecessary gas pipeline

Andy’s Blog

Thursday, March 9, 2017

by Andy Savitz

Corporate pipeline developers use our money to build costly, unnecessary gas pipeline

Consumers for Sensible Energy (CSE) recently helped underwrite an important report on the Access Northeast Pipeline (ANE) that provides new, important and dramatic information.  Entitled New England’s Shrinking Need for Natural Gas, the report, by Synapse Energy Economics Inc., an independent research consulting firm located in Cambridge MA, concludes that the pipeline is:

  • TOO COSTLY:  the ANE pipeline will cost New England consumers $6.6 billion, not $3.2 billion as the proponents have been claiming.  Massachusetts consumers, alone, would be saddled with almost $3 billion in extra costs
  • A BURDENSOME CONSUMER EXPENSE: given these enormous costs, the pipeline will not save money as the gas, electric and pipeline companies told us, but will result in utility bill increases; and   
  • UNNEEDED: several years after the ANE pipeline comes on line (around 2020), environmental and energy laws will require New England’s use of natural gas for electric generation to decrease 27 percent, making all new or expanded pipelines unnecessary. 

The pipeline is a bad idea, and appears to be intended to export gas to Canada and Europe. In any case, the developers make money simply by building ANE.  Their proposed financing scheme requires you and me to pay the full costs of the pipeline, whether it gets used or not. 

Why should the proponents get to use our money to build their pipeline? And what can you do to prevent this blatant and arrogant rip-off? 

We need your help, again, to convince the legislature to stop the construction of these fracked gas pipelines that are unneeded, unwanted and completely unaffordable – especially at a price tag of $6.6. billion!

Here’s a link to the Synapse Report. The Executive Summary, at the beginning, tells you everything you need to know.

To paraphrase Smokey the Bear: only YOU can prevent pipelines!  Please stay tuned for more information about how to do that to help ensure a safe, healthy and clean environment for us and for our children.

Andy Savitz is Executive Director of Consumers for Sensible Energy, Inc., (CSE).  He has over 25 years of hands-on experience assisting corporations to become leaders in sustainability, environmental performance, measurement and reporting. Andy is the author of Talent, Transformation and the Triple Bottom Line (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2013) and The Triple Bottom Line: How the Best Run Companies are Achieving Economic, Social and Environmental Success and How You Can Too (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2006).  Andy was a lead partner in PricewaterhouseCooper's global Sustainability Business Services practice. He served as General Counsel in the Massachusetts Office of Environmental Affairs, where he conceived and organized the Commonwealth’s Environmental Crime Strike Force, and the first-in-the-nation workshop on environmental law for state court judges.