Monthly Archives: July 2017

State Sen. Adam Hinds visits anti-pipeline activists in Sandisfield

By Heather Bellow, Berkshire Eagle
July 24, 2017

SANDISFIELD — The new line is now buried, tucked into the earth with two other pipelines, right next to the Thoreau Cabin Pipeline Barricade. The barricade didn’t stop Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s two-mile Otis State Forest stretch of its 13-mile Connecticut Expansion Project, but the activists who put it here aren’t stopping, either.

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And today they had state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, to lend support to their ongoing mission to complicate any endeavor that involves expanding the fossil fuel infrastructure. 

Hinds stood in the open-walled cabin modeled after the one built in 1845 by Henry David Thoreau on Walden Pond in Concord, “the birthplace of the conservation movement” said creator Will Elwell. And from this cabin one can see what it really takes to build a pipeline.

“When you look out and see … it’s discouraging,” Hinds said, looking around at roughly 40 activists — beyond them some forest wreckage and the newly packed earth — and said he was puzzled when the state settled in court with the Kinder Morgan subsidiary for an easement on land protected by the state constitution’s Article 97.

“Wait a second — why do we have a constitution and Article 97?” Hinds said he had wondered, referring to the company’s payment to the state of $1.2 million that included $640,000 for the land. 

And it was the wrestling of this land from the state that is still drawing outrage to this quiet corner, where moose eat lily pads from ponds and turkeys casually saunter.

Wild things flourish in the open here, and many keep hidden, perhaps in the mossy old growth forest not far from where the company is building this part of it’s $93 million line for gas intended mostly for Connecticut customers.

» Read full story

 

CT Gas Conversions Fall Short

by Andrea Sears, Public News Service (CT)
July 18, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. – Gas companies fell far short of their goals to convert Connecticut homes and businesses to natural gas, and now environmentalists want construction of two new pipelines canceled. The state’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy could be released later this week.

The 2013 CES called for a big boost in reliance on methane, with ratepayers subsidizing part of the cost of converting thousands of homes and businesses to natural gas.

But Martha Klein, chair of the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club, calls that a failed strategy and the companies’ own figures indicate that, even after cutting the projected number of conversions by almost half, the goal still wasn’t met.

“The interstate gas pipelines, Kinder Morgan and Enbridge, are completely not needed,” she states. “We will not be able to use the gas here. There are not enough customers.”

Three new gas-fired power plants are now in the approval process in the state and a fourth is contesting the denial of a permit for construction.

» Read the full story

Baker makes a move

After increasing pressure from citizens’ groups, pushing against his stance that natural gas infrastructure is a federal concern over which states have no power, MA Governor Charlie Baker is at least conceding that the Weymouth Compressor Station warrants another look by state agencies. The proposed compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which already has FERC approval, but is waiting for some last stage approvals, including a certificate from the MA Coastal Zone Management Office. The site is listed at 0 feet above sea level, is surrounded by densely populated. Aside from health concerns over emissions which would add considerable impact to already impacted communities, the safety concerns during high tides and hurricanes will only increase as sea level rises.

Though this is an encouraging change in focus, it will be necessary for citizen’s groups to continue informing state agencies, and be watchful to make sure that this is not just lip service to take pressure off the administration. This announcement is coming soon after the other candidates for Governor have spoken out against the project, and at least three have visited the site with concerned residents (Gonzalez, Massie and Warren).

As the pipeline-resisting community learned from the Baker Administration’s long-demanded, and long-awaited “Low-Demand Study”, a state-agency-driven study can still skew heavily in favor of industry goals.

 

Baker steps up role in vetting Weymouth gas project

By Jim O’Sullivan, Boston Globe
July 17, 2017

Governor Charlie Baker is escalating his administration’s involvement in the increasingly contentious debate over a proposed natural gas facility on the Weymouth-Quincy border, promising that the state will take a more active role in representing the concerns of the communities that would be affected.

Administration officials said Baker has instructed state department heads to investigate the potential air quality, public safety, and other implications of the project, which would serve as a key link for a natural gas pipeline through New England into Nova Scotia.

Mounting opposition to the proposed compressor station near the Fore River Bridge has presented Baker with something of a political quandary, as the state looks to diversify its energy portfolio. Activists in an area of the state that is a stronghold of support for Baker have stepped up their criticism of the project.

Stopping short of joining other elected officials in outright opposition to the project, Baker said he has asked for a public health assessment from his top environmental protection and public health aides.

He has also directed his energy and public safety chiefs to intercede in the discussion between the public and the federal regulator, telling Weymouth’s mayor that the federal officials “should hear firsthand — and then address — the concerns raised by community members.”

Baker said the state’s coastal zone management office would ask for more information from the project developer regarding risks during floods and hurricanes.

In the letter to Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund, obtained Monday by the Globe, Baker wrote that the state was at an energy crossroads, in need of new renewable energy sources. But, he said, “While we continue to believe that this multi-pronged strategy is vital to controlling the costs of energy, providing reliability, and protecting the Commonwealth’s environment, we also understand the importance of weighing all the potential impacts on local communities.”

Hedlund responded in a statement that “no community has ever waged this aggressive and pro-active a legal and grassroots fight against such a proposed facility.”
“Governor Baker heard people’s concerns and now has directed his agencies to demand further information from the natural gas company and from Federal regulators,” he continued.

» Read the full article

Stepping up the pressure

By Jon Chesto Boston Globe
July 17, 2017

Baker apparently couldn’t sit on the sidelines. Baker just sent Weymouth Mayor Bob Hedlund, a former Republican state senator who is fighting the project, a letter pledging that state officials “will not remain silent during this process.”
Among the promises: a public health impacts assessment and a review of the exposure to future flooding. Hedlund hopes the studies could provide fodder for the state to slow the project, or stop it entirely.

Plus, these are tough words from Baker – at a time when the industry needs his help more than ever to make more inroads in New England.

» Read the full article

New ad against compressor station puts Baker in hot seat

By Ed Baker, Wicked Local – Braintree
July 17, 2017

Compressor station opponents are demanding Gov Charlie Baker speak out against Enbridge Inc’s proposed North Weymouth facility in a 30-second TV infomercial that is airing on New England Cable News, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN and You Tube.

Compressor station opponents are demanding Gov. Charlie Baker speak out against Enbridge Inc’s proposed North Weymouth facility via a 30-second TV infomercial that is airing on New England Cable News, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN and You Tube.

Alice Arena, a co-leader of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor, or FRRAC, said viewers will have to be a Comcast subscriber to see the message, which initially aired Monday.

“The intent is to get Gov. Baker’s attention and to ask him to visit the site and talk to his constituents, and state representatives and state senators from the local area,” she said Tuesday, July 11. “We want him to understand this is the wrong place to put a compressor station.”

Arena said the message would air over a four week period and be available for Comcast subscribers in Weymouth, Hingham, Hull , Scituate, Cohasset, Norwell and Hanover.

“If you don’t live in those markets, you can watch it online,” she said. “We hope to expand it to other markets including Quincy and Braintree.”

Arena said the infomercial is intended to help people realize the proposed compressor station is not an issue that only impacts residents in Weymouth, Quincy and Braintree.

“There are 33,000 cars a day that use the Fore River Bridge and it (the compressor) will affect them,” she said. Arena said the compressor could impact drivers if it emits dangerous levels of toxins.

The infomercial features an aerial view of the proposed facility and states it would be located near 1,000 homes and 15 educational buildings within a one-mile radius of the site.

» Read the full article

Natural Gas Building Boom Fuels Climate Worries, Enrages Landowners

By Marie Cusick, National Public Radio
July 17, 2017

They landed, one after another, in 2015: plans for nearly a dozen interstate pipelines to move natural gas beneath rivers, mountains and people’s yards. Like spokes on a wheel, they’d spread from Appalachia to markets in every direction.

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Together these new and expanded pipelines — comprising 2,500 miles of steel in all — would double the amount of gas that could flow out of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The cheap fuel will benefit consumers and manufacturers, the developers promise.

But some scientists warn that the rush to more fully tap the rich Marcellus and Utica shales is bad for a dangerously warming planet, extending the country’s fossil-fuel habit by half a century. Industry consultants say there isn’t even enough demand in the United States for all the gas that would come from this boost in production.

And yet, five of the 11 pipelines already have been approved. The rest await a decision from a federal regulator that almost never says no.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is charged with making sure new gas pipelines are in the public interest and have minimal impact. This is no small matter. Companies given certificates to build by FERC gain a powerful tool: eminent domain, enabling them to proceed whether affected landowners cooperate or not.

Only twice in the past 30 years has FERC rejected a pipeline out of hundreds proposed, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and StateImpact Pennsylvania, a public media partnership between NPR member stations WITF in Harrisburg and WHYY in Philadelphia. At best, FERC officials superficially probe projects’ ramifications for the changing climate, despite persistent calls by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for deeper analyses. FERC’s assessments of need are based largely on company filings. That’s not likely to change with a pro-infrastructure president who can now fill four open seats on the five-member commission.

“They don’t seem to pay any attention to opponents,” said Tom Hadwin, a retired utility manager from Staunton, Va. He doubts FERC will be swayed by the flood of written comments — including his own — and studies critiquing the Atlantic Coast pipeline. It’s the largest of the pending projects and would wind nearly 600 miles from West Virginia into his home state and North Carolina.

“FERC will issue the certificate,” Hadwin said. “They always have.”

FERC declined Center and StateImpact Pennsylvania requests to interview Cheryl A. LaFleur, its acting chairman, as well as senior officials. In response to written questions, the agency said it hasn’t kept track of the number of projects it denies. It provided a brief statement offering little insight into its pipeline-approval process. FERC spokeswoman Mary O’Driscoll wrote that, as a quasi-judicial body, “we must be very careful about what we say.”

In the statement, the agency said the Natural Gas Act of 1938 requires it to approve infrastructure projects that it finds would serve “the present or future public convenience and necessity.” FERC wouldn’t explain how it weighs competing interests; instead, it pointed to a 1999 policy outlining how it defers to market forces. That policy, still in effect, was influenced by, among others, Enron, the energy firm whose spectacular collapse in 2001 led to prosecutions and bankruptcy.

Former insiders defend the commission, describing its mandate as limited. Renewable-energy consultant Jon Wellinghoff, a FERC commissioner from 2006 to 2013, including nearly five years as its chairman, said the agency has little leeway for denying a pipeline. “It has to stay within the tracks,” he said.

Donald F. Santa Jr., a former FERC commissioner who heads the pipeline industry’s trade group, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, said the agency’s low denial rate merely reflects the quality of the projects. They’re so expensive to build that few make it off the drawing board into FERC applications.

“It’s the envy of the world,” Santa said, referring to the nation’s pipeline network. “It is something that has enabled us to have remarkably competitive natural gas markets that have benefited consumers and the economy.”

Two former directors of the FERC office overseeing pipelines say no project survives the vetting process without route alterations or other changes. On occasion, FERC has delayed or rescinded approval of projects that don’t meet specific conditions. But at every turn, the agency’s process favors pipeline companies, according to Center and StateImpact Pennsylvania interviews with more than 100 people, reviews of FERC records and analyses of nearly 500 pipeline cases.

This is the agency’s approval process: Take proposals as they come, see if the pipeline has long-term customer contracts, gather public feedback, try to keep local impacts to a minimum and assure basic safety standards.

» Full EXTENSIVE article on WAMC’s website

 

Energy CEOs threaten to pull investments if FERC isn’t functional soon

By Carl Surran, Seeking Alpha News Editor
July 10, 2017

Energy CEOs, increasingly worried over the lack of sitting members at the Federal Energy Regulation Commission, warn that if the FERC is not functional by August, they could withdraw private investment dollars for as many as 15 energy infrastructure projects valued at $15B-$25B.

The FERC normally has a five-member panel but has only one currently, with two others awaiting a full Senate vote on their nomination; without at least three commissioners, the FERC has been unable to conduct business since February.

Time is running out to approve projects before Congress leaves town for its August break; FERC’s regular monthly meeting is scheduled for July 20, but the meeting will be canceled if there is no quorum, and the next meeting is not scheduled until September.

» Read the full story

**For this reason, Delaware Riverkeeper has scheduled at “Senate Parade” for July 20, delivering letters to key Senators asking that they not approve FERC appointees, restoring a quorum, until there are serious reforms.
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