Two regional energy companies, Holyoke Gas & Electric and Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, are nearing an agreement to lift the moratorium on the development of a new pipeline that will improve service to Holyoke, Northampton and Easthampton residents.
Stephen H. Bryant, president of Columbia Gas, announced last week that the companies plan to build a new pipeline from Easthampton to Holyoke to bypass the Northampton lateral pipeline, according to MassLive. Such an agreement would allow Columbia Gas to feed more natural gas to Holyoke customers and free capacity on the Northampton lateral to meet increasing demands.
For many homes and businesses, natural gas offers a more cost-effective source of energy than traditional propane or coal. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts a 50 percent increase in global natural gas consumption between 2010 and 2035.
“We were concerned that not having the advantage of gas would put our city at a disadvantage for economic growth,” said Easthampton Mayor Karen L. Cadieux. “When they lift the moratorium, new businesses and residents will be allowed to choose gas as an option for their business or homes.”
Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz also says the moratorium has affected the development of two housing projects on Pleasant Street in Northampton, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
“It’s in the region’s best interest that this important agreement between Columbia and Holyoke Gas & Electric is signed,” Narkewicz told the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
The moratorium, which allows for no new natural gas hookups to homes or businesses in the region, was put in place at end of 2014 when the Northampton lateral reached maximum capacity.
A new pipeline would provide direct service to Holyoke and allow more of Columbia Gas’ natural gas to flow from Southwick to customers in Easthampton and Northampton.
Opponents to the pipeline say the project would prolong the necessary transition away from fossil fuels and increase the harmful drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, for natural gas across the country.