Q: What pipeline or natural gas infrastructure projects are we talking about?
A: In the past few years the proponents have requested approval to charge consumers approximately $14 billion for two major pipelines: The Northeast Direct pipeline and the Access Northeast pipeline. The proponents have a number of projects still pending including the Weymouth Compressor stations and others.
Q: Why do Consumers for Sensible Energy and other consumer, environmental and public health organizations oppose these projects?
A: These projects are not in the best interest of New England Consumers:
If the proponents succeed, consumers will be forced to take all of the risk and most of the costs of these projects, while any profits will go to the companies building the pipeline.
There is no demonstrable need for additional natural gas capacity in New England.
Investment in more fossil fuels runs contrary to the state’s Renewable Energy Standards, Global Warming Solutions Act and other legal requirements to lower the greenhouse gas emissions throughout the New England States.
Consumers for Sensible Energy joins a broad and deep chorus of voices in opposition to additional natural gas infrastructure 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: No. They may help to lower cost increases on a few extremely cold days. But the costs of building and maintaining these pipelines, are almost certain to outweigh any short term cost savings. Plus there are much cheaper and more environmentally sensible options.
Building new pipelines to reduce prices during occasional short term cold snaps is like building a new addition on your house to accommodate your in-laws who come to stay with you very rarely. It makes more sense to put them in a hotel, or to double bunk for a few days.
Q: Who pays for any cost overruns, like we saw with the Big Dig?
A: Electricity consumers in New England.
Q: Are additional natural gas pipelines necessary to ensure the reliability of our electricity grid?
A: Not according to many experts. 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.”
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.
Q: I don’t live near any proposed new NGI project, so why should I care?
A: If you use electricity supplied by Eversource or National Grid or natural gas supplied by Eversource, National Grid or Berkshire Gas, your rates will increase no matter where you live.
Q: What should the state be doing to ensure affordable energy in the future?
A: The energy needs of Massachusetts and the region will be best served by a diversified, sustainable and affordable energy portfolio and through investments in energy efficiency. Massive pipeline projects or natural gas infrastructure is simply not needed, based on projections of the region’s future needs.These massive projects also lock us into a fossil fuel future which we don’t want.
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 and yes. Numerous studies have demonstrated environmental and human problems related fracking, including earthquakes. 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: 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 [check] higher in Europe than in the United States, it’s 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.
(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