Monthly Archives: August 2017

Discharge water from Tennessee Gas Co. pipeline testing worries environmentalists

by Heather Bellow, Berkshire Eagle
August 29, 2017

SANDISFIELD — As soon as the new pipeline is entirely in the ground, over 500,000 gallons of water from Lower Spectacle Pond will course through it to make sure the pipes don’t leak.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. says it will do this hydrostatic pressure testing, required by the federal Department of Transportation, in a way that will minimize the impact to the surrounding environment and wildlife.

And the state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Fisheries & Wildlife have signed off on the Kinder Morgan subsidiary’s plan here, which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year.

But environmental groups say the discharge from this testing, likely to begin next month, might result in erosion.

They are also worried that chemicals from an anti-corrosive coating inside the 36-inch pipes will leach into the testing water before its release back into the environment. 

And they say they don’t know what the chemicals might be because no one will tell them.


At the site visit, we requested information on what is used to coat the insides of these pipes,” wrote Jane Winn, executive director of Berkshire Environmental Action Team, in a 2014 letter to the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.


As far as I know, we have not had an answer,” she added. “We would like a full list of the chemicals that water will be exposed to.


That list was never furnished. This is one complaint of many by environmental groups and residents over this stretch of the pipeline company’s 13-mile Connecticut Expansion Project, now nearing completion. 

Nearly four miles of the Massachusetts spur of the natural gas loop will run through Sandisfield in an existing pipeline corridor with two other pipelines — one built in 1951, the other in 1981. Two of those miles are in Otis State Forest, on land protected by Article 97 of the state Constitution.

That the company won an easement of what became protected land about 10 years ago has drawn ire from activists, residents and state and U.S. lawmakers. Nearly 60 pipeline opponents have been arrested in protests since the work began in May.

Testing pipes
Hydrostatic pressure testing is a standard requirement for new pipelines to prevent what could be a dangerous failure. In this case, 2014 company documents says it will take about 1 million gallons — or three acre-feet — from the pond, which has a surface area of 70 acres.

A recent application to the EPA for a discharge permit, however, says the company will discharge 547,797 gallons.

Over a period of 8 hours the, company will push 2,000 gallons per minute through the pipes, reducing the depth of the pond by 0.04 feet, according to company environmental documents.

“[It is] not anticipated to have an impact on wildlife or human users,” the company says, adding that if additional rare species are found, Tennessee Gas will adjust its plans.

The company says it will use a screen to keep fish or other wildlife out of the hose and pump, and will take care to avoid sucking out insect larvae.

Because federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations don’t allow pipeline discharge into a water body, the water will be discharged at an “upland area” with a lot of vegetation, and regulate the speed.

No chemical additives will be used, the company says. 

But Winn is worried about the epoxy or other materials typically used to protect pipe interiors from corrosion from high pressure gas or oil.

Epoxy typically contains Bisphenol A, which the EPA says is a “reproductive, developmental, and systemic toxicant in animal studies” and can harm aquatic organisms.

Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley said the discharge water isn’t a concern.

”Because the testing involves fresh water, it does not harm the environment when discharged,” he said.

In that 2014 letter, Winn had also asked if the water would be tested for chemicals as it came out of the pipes. She said she never got an answer, and she now says MassDEP isn’t requiring testing.

“Why won’t they test it?” she asked in a telephone interview Thursday.

The company’s state-issued water quality permit doesn’t say anything about testing discharge water. But it does say the test water can’t be released back into a pond or brook.

The company, then, has to abide by approved strategies for managing discharge water, “to ensure that those activities do not result in a discharge to Waters of the United States within the Commonwealth.” 

Cathy Kristofferson, of Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network, said this restriction is the reason why the company is going to let the water out in the “vegetated” upland area from which the water will eventually flow down into Spectacle Pond Brook. She said she’s worried about water warmed from sitting in the pipes for eight hours flushed into the cold water fisheries, and erosion in that area. 

”I’m concerned — there’s not a lot of vegetation and it’s a steep slope,” she added. 

And Kristofferson says she is concerned about chemicals that might also be discharged.

Peter Czapienski, of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office, referred The Eagle to the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System under which Tennessee Gas is bound.

Czapienski declined to answer questions about whether the agency would require testing of discharge water, and whether it knows anything about the pipe coating.

Valspar epoxy

Wheatley confirmed that the pipes are made by Russian steelmaker EVRAZ and lined with anti-corrosive paint made by Valspar. 

An EVRAZ spokesman based in Chicago said the pipe used in Sandisfield comes from one of the company’s plants in Western Canada. He said while EVRAZ sometimes coats pipes, Kinder Morgan had the Sandisfield pipes coated by a different company.

He also said coatings were probably regulated.

”Any coater in the U.S. would likely be subject to stringent [environmental] rules, just as we are in Canada,” the spokesman said.

”Valspar 2000,” which is stamped on the Sandisfield pipes, is an exterior anti-corrosive epoxy material, according to the company website. Valspar also makes a line of “CorroPipe” products for interior lining that uses a “100 percent solids polyurethane.”

Calls to Valspar were not returned. But a research technician at a paint and coating analysis firm said while it is “possible” such a coating product could leach into water, the only way to know is to test a sample of the product.

“You’d have to do an extraction study,” said Derek Beauchamp, senior technical director at Avomeen Analytical Services in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

Several scientists contacted by The Eagle said they couldn’t speak to specifics about the degree to which chemicals would leach into the pipes in this case.

But John Tobiason, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor of civil and environmental engineering and a drinking water specialist, said he was fairly sure about one thing.

“It’s never zero,” he said.

Reach staff writer Heather Bellow at 413-329-6871

» Read the original story

All state reviews of Weymouth compressor plan now on hold

By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
August 22, 2017

WEYMOUTH – For the first time since the project was introduced more than two years ago, all regulators have put their reviews of a proposed 7,700-horsepower North Weymouth natural gas compressor station on hold.

On Tuesday, a hearing officer with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection stayed the town’s appeal of a draft waterways permit for the compressor station Spectra Energy-Enbridge subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission wants to build on the banks of the Fore River

The agency previously stayed the town’s appeal of a wetlands permit, which Algonquin Gas Transmission is challenging in Federal Court. A hearing on that is scheduled for October.

Jane Rothchild, the presiding officer, wrote in her decision that considering the waterways appeal while the wetlands permit is tied up in court “would be an unnecessary expenditure of the department’s administrative resources.”
“Without a wetlands permit, the Department cannot issue a final waterways license,” Rothchild wrote.

Following a yearlong delay, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management recently pushed back its review of the project for another six months because it needs more information before it can fully vet the project. The review is also stayed until the project receives a waterways permit.

The fourth and final state review, the clean air permit, is on hold until the state’s environmental protection and public health departments do a comprehensive health assessment.

While it’s not a denial, Joe Callanan, Weymouth’s town solicitor, said the stay on the appeal is a big development.

“These projects are reviewed by a lot of regulators who take their time, but now, nobody is doing anything and the project isn’t on a path moving forward,” he said. “There are four permits (Algonquin) needs, and multiple state regulators put their pencils down and stopped working on them.”

In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a conditional certificate for the proposal as part of Spectra’s Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand the Houston company’s pipelines from New Jersey into Canada.

Compressor stations are placed along pipelines to maintain pressure and keep the gas flowing. Residents and officials in Weymouth, Quincy and Braintree say the facility would vent toxic gases that could sicken neighbors, and that it could explode, causing havoc.

The federal commission has ultimate authority over interstate pipelines, but the project must adhere to some federal laws that are administered at the state level. The compressor station project also can’t go forward because it hasn’t gotten the required permits from several state agencies, which the town and residents group are fighting on all fronts.

Mayor Robert Hedlund said the lull in the review process is “definitely good news.”
“It helps us by buying time,” he said. “There could be possible market issues, and it’s slowing Spectra’s momentum. It’s a big step.”

Hedlund praised Callanan for the “Churchillian” approach he’s taken in having the town fight the proposed compressor station on all fronts.

“It’s been time consuming and costly, but it’s showing results,” he said.

» Read the original article

Federal court upholds state’s right to stop natural gas pipeline under the Clean Water Act

By Mary C. Serreze, MassLive / Springfield Republican
August 21, 2017

Fossil fuel foes are claiming victory after a federal appeals court on Friday upheld New York’s move to block a federally permitted interstate natural gas pipeline that failed to meet state water quality standards.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation acted properly in 2016 when it denied Constitution Pipeline a Section 401 certificate under the U.S. Clean Water Act, effectively vetoing the project, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

The judicial review “carries nationwide implications, as it will invariably influence states’ decisions to block pipelines under the Clean Water Act across the country,” said the Natural Resources Defense Council in a statement.

“This victory is an important reminder to all states that they have the power to stop harmful pipeline projects,” asserted the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance.
Maya K. van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, emphasized that the appeals court decision does not automatically apply to other states. However, she said it “sends a strong signal” on how other circuits could rule.

“It’s black-letter-law clear that states have authority to uphold their own clean water standards when it comes to natural gas pipelines,” she told The Republican. “The key point is that a federal appeals court recognized and upheld that authority.”
Pipeline developers ‘shot themselves in the foot’

In its decision, the Second Circuit noted that Constitution failed to address certain water resource impacts during state environmental review. The company failed to consider alternative routes, and also declined to describe less harmful methods for stream crossings, despite repeated requests for information.

Nearly 100 miles of the pipeline would traverse New York, crossing 251 water bodies, including 87 trout streams.

Patrick Parenteau, a professor at Vermont Law School, said he was astounded that Constitution failed to cooperate with state regulators.

“What were they thinking?” he said. “They shot themselves in the foot.”

The court hung its hat on Constitution’s failure to provide project information, he said. “I tell my budding law students — if you’re representing an energy company, and a state agency asks you for information, you’d better give it to them.”

In denying the clean water permit, Constitution claimed New York intruded upon the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s “exclusive jurisdiction” over natural gas pipelines. The project gained overall approval from FERC in 2014.

Parenteau said that states do have legal authority to stop natural gas pipelines. However, FERC has been “stubborn” and “slow to accept the fact that states have a veto power” over their federal licenses.

» Read the full article

Court rejects pipeline project on climate concerns

By Timothy Cama, the Hill
August 22, 2017

The ruling is significant because it adds to environmentalists’ arguments that analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act — the law governing all environmental reviews of federal decisions — must consider climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

The case concerns the Southeast Market Pipelines Project, which is meant to bring gas to Florida to fuel existing and planned power plants.

The Sierra Club sued FERC following its 2016 approval of the project. The environmental group brought a series of objections to the project and its environmental review, but the court denied all of the objections except the one focused on greenhouse gas.

The environmental impact statement for the project “should have either given a quantitative estimate of the downstream greenhouse emissions that will result from burning the natural gas that the pipelines will transport or explained more specifically why it could not have done so,” Judge Thomas Griffith, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush, wrote in the opinion. He was joined by Judge Judith Ann Wilson Rogers, one of President Bill Clinton’s nominees.

“Quantification would permit the agency to compare the emissions from this project to emissions from other projects, to total emissions from the state or the region, or to regional or national emissions-control goals. Without such comparisons, it is difficult to see how FERC could engage in ‘informed decision making’ with respect to the greenhouse-gas effects of this project, or how ‘informed public comment’ could be possible,” the court wrote, quoting previous cases regarding environmental reviews.

» Read the whole article

Chatterjee Named Acting FERC Chair as Quorum is Restored

by Rich Heidorn Jr., RTO Insider
August 10, 2017

FERC’s quorum was restored Thursday as former Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Robert Powelson was sworn in, joining former Senate Republican aide Neil Chatterjee, whom President Trump named acting chairman. The filling of the third seat allows FERC to issue rulings in contested cases, which had come to a standstill when former Chairman Norman Bay resigned in February after Trump named Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur acting chair.

Chatterjee will serve as acting chair pending the confirmation of Republican attorney Kevin McIntyre, whom Trump selected to hold the gavel and direct the commission staff. McIntyre and Democratic Senate aide Richard Glick are scheduled to have confirmation hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Sept. 7.

“I want to thank Chairman LaFleur for the tremendous work she’s done in guiding the agency,” Chatterjee said in a statement. “The absence of a quorum was unprecedented, yet she rose to the challenge and created stability through her unwavering leadership.

“I look forward to working with Commissioner LaFleur and Commissioner Powelson on behalf of the American people. And I hope that we will have all five Commissioners here soon with the confirmation of Kevin McIntyre and Rich Glick.”

Chatterjee and Powelson were confirmed by the Senate on Aug. 3. Chatterjee was sworn in Aug. 8. (See FERC Quorum Restored as Powelson, Chatterjee Confirmed.)

The new commissioners were not immediately available for comment.

FERC also announced that it will resume its monthly open meeting schedule next month, with the first meeting set for Wednesday, Sept. 20. With the quorum restored, Chatterjee said, the commission will soon begin notational votes on its backlog of dockets.

FERC staffers have been acting since Feb. 4. under limited delegated authority that allowed them to grant waivers and approve settlements in uncontested cases, as well as take interim action on rate filings, subject to refund pending further orders by the commission. According to LaFleur, FERC has issued only a fraction of the 100 commission-authorized orders it averages a month. The delegation period will end in two weeks following the restored quorum.

State approves major new rules to cut carbon emissions

By David Abel, Boston Globe
August 11, 2017

A little more than a year after the state’s highest court ruled Massachusetts had to do more to cut carbon emissions, state officials Friday will issue sweeping new regulations that set specific limits on sources of greenhouse gases, the emissions linked to climate change. The new rules, swiftly criticized as insufficient by environmental advocates and unfair by the power industry, aim to reduce the state’s carbon emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, as required by state law. The tougher standards, which will focus on the transportation and energy sectors, could cause utility costs for ratepayers to climb as much as 2 percent a year, state officials said.

“Combatting and preparing for the impact of climate change remains a top priority of our administration,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement. “These regulations will help ensure the Commonwealth meets the rigorous emission reductions limits.”

The new regulations, which take effect in January, seek to reduce emissions from natural gas leaks, power plants, the state fleet of passenger vehicles, other parts of the transportation sector, and electrical system components. In a meeting with reporters on Thursday, Matthew Beaton, the state’s secretary of the energy and environmental affairs, said he was “very confident” the stricter emissions limits will allow the state to comply with the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which mandated the 25 percent decline.

“We feel we’re in a good position to meet the immediate goals,” he said.

Energy and environmental officials said that, as of 2014, the state had already reduced emissions by 21 percent, a figure that environmental advocates dispute.
For that reason, some environmental advocates contend that the new rules don’t go nearly far enough and belie Baker’s pledge to intensify efforts to reduce emissions since President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord in June.

Craig Altemose, executive director of 350 Mass, an environmental advocacy group in Cambridge, called them “weak regulations.’’ “This move shows Baker’s stance on climate is more posturing than policy,” he said.

But Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, said the rules “violate the intention and plain reading” of the 2008 law, which also required the state to reduce carbon emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

“In doing so, these regulations are expected to increase regional emissions and costs for consumers,” Dolan said. “That simply cannot be what was intended.”
Under the state’s plan, nearly 90 percent of emissions reductions will come from the electricity sector, although the state’s power plants have already reduced emissions by 60 percent since 1990, far more than any other sector, he said.

While the regulations might reduce emissions in Massachusetts, they could backfire by causing electricity production to be diverted to less efficient power plants outside the state that might use more polluting energy sources, such as coal or oil, Dolan has said.

“These regulations make the problem worse, not better,” he said.  Beaton noted the regulations mainly aim to comply with the 2020 requirements, and aggressive action is necessary to meet 2050’s targets. He also said Massachusetts needs to do more to reduce transportation emissions, which now account for more greenhouse gases than any other sector of the state’s economy.

“The whole world is wrestling with the transportation sector,” Beaton said. “We are cognizant that we won’t hit our 2050 goals without transportation.”
State officials said they’ve been working with other states, as well as provinces in Canada, on regional solutions to reducing transportation emissions. The state has already joined others in the region in a pledge to register 300,000 electric vehicles by 2050; the state has 11,000 electric vehicles, or less than 1 percent of all registered vehicles in Massachusetts.

The rules also require utility companies and other power providers to obtain 16 percent of their energy from clean sources, such as wind and solar, in 2018. That requirement will increase by 2 percentage points a year until 2050, when 80 percent of their power must come from emissions-free sources. The state’s remaining 21 fossil fuel power plants will be required to cut emissions from nearly 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018 to 1.8 million metric tons in 2050. The regulations also require the state Department of Transportation to set specific, declining annual limits on emissions from their vehicles. Utilities will be required to set similar, declining limits on methane leaks from natural gas mains.

Advocates from the Conservation Law Foundation, whose 2014 lawsuit led to last year’s ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court, had mixed feelings about the state’s regulations. He noted that the regulations exempt 44 town-owned utilities — which are responsible for about 15 percent of the state’s electricity supply — from the requirement to buy an increasing amount of renewable energy every year.

“While we’re disappointed that these regulations exempt these towns from having to purchase clean energy, they do put the commonwealth as a whole back on track to meet our near-term carbon pollution limits and establish a clean, renewable energy future,” said David Ismay, a senior attorney at the foundation, which is in Boston. Other advocates said they were concerned about the lack of emissions caps between 2020 and 2050, and urged the Legislature to set interim requirements for reducing carbon emissions in 2030 and 2040.

“This will ensure that this and future administrations constantly focus on emission reductions as statutory requirements and not as aspirations,” said Jack Clarke, director of public policy at Mass Audubon.  Beaton noted that the administration has already set targets for 2020 and 2030, but he declined to say whether the administration would support the bill that would make the targets legal obligations.

ISO-NE draft report: Market revenues not sufficient for new resource development

by Robert Walton, Utility Dive
August 7, 2017

Dive Brief:
• The draft version of an ISO-New England study on resource expansion scenarios concludes wholesale energy markets will not be sufficient to keep new resources economically viable, absent additional revenues.

• The draft also finds that renewable energy will reduce the need for natural gas, but gas-fired units will still set the marginal cost in both 2025 and 2030.

• The grid operator stresses the study, “2016 NEPOOL Scenario Analysis,” is not a final document and specific figures could change. ISO-NE has given stakeholders until Aug. 23 to provide comment.

New resources “will require sources of revenue in addition to the wholesale energy market to remain economically viable,” ISO-NE expects.

» Read the full article

» 2016 NEPOOL Scenario Analysis