Q:    What pipeline project?

A:    The Access Northeast pipeline which will cost approximately $6.6 billion.

Q:    Why does Consumers for Sensible Energy oppose these projects?

A:    We oppose this project because it is not in the best interest of consumers in New England:

  • Through a complicated financing structure, consumers will be forced to take all of the risk and most of the cost of this project, while any profits will go to the companies building the pipeline.
  • There is no demonstrable need for additional natural gas capacity(i).
  • Investment in new pipelines runs contrary to the state’s Renewable Energy Standards and will just increase the cost to consumers of meeting these goals down the line.

Consumers for Sensible Energy joins a chorus of voices in opposition to the pipelines including the state consumer advocates of Massachusetts and New Hampshire and numerous political and environmental leaders.

Q:    New England has some of the highest electricity prices in the nation, won’t these additional natural gas pipelines reduce costs?

A: Not likely. The gas companies and utilities are proposing to charge all energy users in New England for the construction costs of the pipeline, which could be as much as $6.6 billion(ii). And because these proposals include long-term contracts for gas, energy consumers would be on the hook for those costs as well.

Q:     Are additional natural gas pipelines necessary to ensure the reliability of our electricity grid?

A:     Many experts disagree with that.  An independent study commissioned by the Massachusetts Chief Consumer Advocate and Attorney General concluded “that power system reliability will be maintained with or without electric ratepayer investment in new natural gas pipeline capacity.”(iii) The non-profit Regional Transmission Organization responsible for overseeing the New England electricity market has expressed confidence that the changes it has promoted – which encourage the resolution of shortages through supply and demand – will provide the necessary financial incentives for reliable operations at all times of the year without investment in new natural gas pipeline capacity. (iv)

Q:     I don’t live this proposed pipeline, why should I care?

A:     Anyone who uses electricity supplied by Eversource or National Grid or natural gas supplied by Eversource, National Grid or Berkshire Gas, regardless of their location, will have to pay for the pipeline, estimated to cost $6.6 billion. This will constitute a substantial increase for the average family on their monthly electric or gas bill.  The gas and pipeline companies want to confuse this situation by calling this price hike a “transmission tariff.”  

Quite simply, if you use electricity or gas, you will be paying for the construction of these pipelines and for the long-term gas contracts through an additional fee on your utility bill.

Q:     What should the state be doing to ensure affordable energy in the future?

A:      We believe that the energy needs of Massachusetts and the region will be best served by a diversified, sustainable and affordable energy portfolio and by through investments in energy efficiency.  This massive pipeline project is simply not needed, based on projections of the region’s future needs.

According to the Attorney General’s study, investing in a more responsive grid and implementing better energy efficiency programs entails less risk to consumers, will lower costs and allow the state to stay on course to meet its renewable goals.

Q:     Is this gas produced by hydraulic fracturing (fracking)?  Is that a problem?

A:        Yes. Numerous studies have raised concerns about the environmental and human health impacts of fracking.  Moreover, the study commissioned by the Massachusetts Attorney General clearly states: “The pipeline solution fails to offer outcomes consistent with the climate change programs and goals of the New England states.”

Q:     What if the region ends up not needing the additional gas?

A:    Energy consumers in Massachusetts will still foot the bill for the pipeline while excess gas will likely be exported to other countries for a profit by utility companies. In February 2016 the U.S. Department of Energy approved plans to export gas from New England to Canada and overseas. Pipeline backers have not denied that the gas could be exported, “as an open access pipeline, we provide access and capacity and it’s up to the customers and shippers where they want to move gas from point A to point B,” a spokesperson for one of these companies was quoted as saying. With gas prices three times higher in Europe than the United States and companies motivated by profit, it is clear where excess gas will go.

Q:     What can I do to help fight the pipelines?

A:    We are asking interested consumers to contact their elected representatives in state government to stop this rush to build pipelines and commit to long-term contracts for gas that we do not need.  Click here to take action.

Q:     Who pays for any cost overruns, like we saw with the Big Dig?

A:    Electricity consumers in New England.


Footnotes/References:

(i) "Power System Reliability in New England" The Analysis Group, conducted on behalf of the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, November 2015
(ii) "New England’s Shrinking Need for Natural Gas" Synapse Energy Economics, February 7, 2017                                                                                                                           (iii) "Power System Reliability in New England" The Analysis Group
(iv) "Power System Reliability in New England" The Analysis Group