Monthly Archives: November 2017

Columbia Gas wants Longmeadow connection to interstate pipeline

By Jim Kinney, Springfield Republican
November 3, 2017

LONGMEADOW — Columbia Gas of Massachusetts wants a new connection built on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Longmeadow that would bring more gas to customers in Longmeadow, Springfield and Chicopee and make Springfield less reliant on a single supply line over the Connecticut River.

The project, which could be built in a single construction season once all the approvals are in place, is one of a package of gas-delivery network projects Stephen H. Bryant, president of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, discussed Friday with reporters and editors at The Republican.

The proposal was also part of a set of documents Columbia Gas filed Thursday for approval at the state Department of Public Utilities.

Other projects include replacing 8,500 feet of aging pipe buried under Springfield streets with modern gas lines, a new compressor station and 2-mile pipeline loop from Agawam to Springfield, and a 6-mile, 12-inch pipeline costing $24 million through West Springfield and Holyoke that could end a moratorium on new gas hookups in Easthampton and Northampton.

That moratorium could be lifted sometime in 2020 if plans move forward, Bryant said.

A new, utility-owned pipeline, a capacity-swap deal with Holyoke, and a beefed-up Agawam compressor station could provide an alternative to the maxed-out Northampton Lateral.

No site in Longmeadow has been selected yet, Bryant said. But the utility has already had preliminary meetings with the town, where development and building projects are notoriously difficult to get approved.

“We would stay away from a residential area,” Bryant said.

The pipeline passes through the southern part of town. The connection itself, a sort of off-ramp from the east-west Tennessee Gas Pipeline, would be on about an acre of land and would be a collection of pipes in a small building. It would not be staffed.

This off-ramp would be connected to Columbia’s existing network by pipes buried in the public right-of-way that is under town streets, Bryant said.

It would be built and paid for by Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which would then charge Columbia a tariff on the gas it buys to recoup the cost. He didn’t have a dollar estimate but said the cost passed on to ratepayers might be offset by lower costs for the gas itself as Columbia adds more sources of gas to its portfolio.

Longmeadow Town Manager Stephen Crane didn’t respond to emailed questions Friday afternoon.

» Read original article

RELATED:

» Columbia Gas: Northampton, Easthampton service moratoriums could be lifted by 2020

By Mary C. Serreze, Springfield Republican
November 3, 2017

 

Editorial: Nice to see concerns on pipeline projects heard, considered

Greenfield Recorder Editorial
November 10, 2017

It’s hard to see why the Legislature shouldn’t embrace two recently introduced bills that would protect us from a future Kinder Morgan gas pipeline.

Not quite two years ago, Franklin County dodged a bullet when local opposition, a state Supreme Judicial Court decision and changing financial currents sank the Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline that would have cut a swath through Franklin County on its way from Pennsylvania to the seacoast. Foes of the multi-billion dollar project argued it would have cut through environmentally sensitive lands the state had paid tax dollars to protect from development. The pipeline posed environmental and health hazards to residents along its route — to provide fuel that wasn’t really needed in Massachusetts or could be provided in less disruptive ways.

The real kick in the gut was that local electric generators who wanted the extra gas supplies planned to pass on the cost in advance to their customers. If the project had failed, those customers would still have taken the financial hit.

Thankfully, the high court refused to allow electricity companies to force on to their customers investments in pipelines that those customers opposed.

Now, more than 120 state legislators have called for passage of bills to protect consumers from unwanted pipeline expansion by codifying that court ruling in law and by forcing the state’s utility regulatory agency to listen to affected towns and their legislators.

A bill filed by state Rep. Stephen Kulik guarantees municipalities, legislators representing electricity ratepayer communities, and groups of 10 or more ratepayers the right to intervene in Department of Public Utilities hearings on rate hikes, and strengthens the department’s review where new interstate gas infrastructure financing is involved, requiring that environmental and community impacts be considered. It also requires the DPU to consider lower impact alternatives to a pipeline proposal.

All of this sounds like common sense, but was in dispute during the NED pipeline fight when the DPU rejected a request by Kulik, along with Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, then-Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, to intervene in its review of the pipeline on behalf of the towns the pipeline would have crossed. Also supporting the new bills are other county legislators: Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, as well as Reps. Paul Mark, D-Peru, and Susannah Whipps, I-Athol.

Kulik said the DPU’s position that the legislators were not “substantially and specifically affected” by their decisions was “absurd,” “ridiculous” and “insulting.”

“Our experience in working to defeat that misguided project made it clear that the permitting and financing procedures for natural gas infrastructure do not align with our clean energy future in Massachusetts, and place unjustifiable environmental and financial risks on citizens and ratepayers,” Kulik said in submitting the new bill.

He added in his letter, “We must reform procedures at the Department Public Utilities so that the voices of ratepayers, communities and legislators are fully heard and considered by utility regulators.”
His position was reinforced by the regional grassroots anti-pipeline awareness coalition president Kathryn Eiseman, who said, “This legislation … would allow the public to have a meaningful role in agency decisions that will impact us for decades to come … The DPU currently believes it can bar municipalities and ratepayers from banding together to participate in DPU proceedings in an orderly fashion with legal counsel and technical experts of their choice.”

We can’t agree enough — and we were happy to see our legislative delegation stand so strongly for the interests of Franklin County.

After all, these proposed laws, while not in themselves blocking potentially worthwhile energy projects in the future, would protect our neighbors, the environment and the economy from the self-interest of pipeline companies and electricity generators by giving us an equal voice before the DPU and by requiring a gas pipeline company’s investors — not local electricity users — pay up front for questionable pipeline projects.

» Read original publication

Let the Landscape Speak : Presentation on Ceremonial Stone Landscapes

A presentation on Ceremonial Stone Landscapes by Narragnasett Indian Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Doug Harris and Attorney Anne Marie Garti to be held on Sunday, December 3rd, 3 pm at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, MA.

Learn directly from the leaders of the fight to protect Native American Ceremonial Stone Landscapes from pipeline construction. Narragansett Indian Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Doug Harris will be joined by Attorney Anne Marie Garti to talk about the history and significance of Ceremonial Stone Landscapes and their fight to take FERC to task for ignoring the Historic Preservation Act in permitting the CT Expansion pipeline in Massachusetts, setting precedent for future pipeline fights.
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Sliding scale admission: Suggested donation $5-$50 (no one turned away). Proceeds raise funds for the legal fight to preserve these ancient sites. If you can’t attend, but would like to donate, please visit here for more information.

3:00 PM
Hitchcock Center for the Environment
845 West Street
Amherst, MA

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Native American activist and water protector Winona LaDuke to speak in Great Barrington

By Heather Bellow, The Berkshire Eagle
November 2, 2017

GREAT BARRINGTON — Winona LaDuke, a Native American leader and water protector, will speak at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Saturday about choices that societies must now make on behalf of the Earth and its inhabitants.

LaDuke, a member of the Ojibwe Nation of the Anishinaabe peoples in Northern Minnesota, has advocated since the mid-1980s for indigenous people trying to recover ancestral land, natural resources and culture. 

On Saturday afternoon, the anti-pipeline activist will deliver the keynote address the 37th E.F. Schumacher Lectures on a theme inspired by the Anishinaabe people’s Prophecy of the Seventh Fire, which says that a choice between two paths will have to be made — “one green and lush, the other well-worn but scorched.

“

This references the growing modern concern over the effects of fossil fuels on climate change and water pollution. And also the construction of new pipeline infrastructure everywhere, and where Native American cultural resources and the environment might be threatened.

LaDuke spoke of this prophecy to water protectors at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation last year, where Native American coalitions and anti-pipeline activists entrenched to fight the Dakota Access pipeline, which is now transmitting crude oil.

“We are not just fighting against something, but clearly and decidedly walking with open eyes and hearts down the path that is green,” LaDuke said at Standing Rock.

While at Standing Rock, LaDuke also spoke to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

“It’s time to end the fossil fuel infrastructure,” she said. “I mean, these people on this reservation, they don’t have adequate infrastructure for their houses. They don’t have adequate energy infrastructure. They don’t have adequate highway infrastructure. And yet they’re looking at a $3.9 billion pipeline that will not help them. It will only help oil companies.

“

LaDuke’s address will be followed by a panel discussion led by Nwamaka Agbo, a member of the Schumacher Center’s board of directors, with panelists Karissa Lewis and Gopal Dayaneni, both community resource activists in California. 

The panel will also feature Robert Hawk Storm Birch, a hereditary Sachem (Chief) of the Schaghticoke First Nations people of New York and Connecticut.

The lecture series began in 1981 with lectures by Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson after the Schumacher Center for a New Economics was founded a year earlier.

The Great Barrington-based educational nonprofit is known internationally for its pioneering work toward a more sustainable society.

If you go:
When: Saturday, Nov. 4, 1 to 5 p.m.
Where: Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle Street, Great Barrington
Tickets are $40 and on sale at the Mahaiwe box office. For $150, tickets will also include an evening reception and dinner featuring indigenous ingredients.
For more information go to www.centerforneweconomics.org/events

» Read original article

March for ‘Reclaiming our Future

Columnist Marty Nathan, Daily Hampshire Gazette
November 3, 2017

Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists … the Jews … the Catholics … Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Many of you know those remorse-ridden words spoken by Protestant pastor Martin Niemoller who ultimately was imprisoned by the Nazis for seven years in a German concentration camp. They are a warning to future generations to heed and take responsibility for threats that may not yet be affecting us personally.

I recalled them while enjoying a walk with my husband on a balmy morning Saturday. He joked about the benefits of global warming for us in Northampton, and I couldn’t disagree. A summer-like October is pleasant. NASA has determined that mean global temperatures have risen at least 1 degree Celsius since record-keeping began, and 16 of the last 17 years have been the hottest in recorded history.

To quote Alfred E. Neuman: “What? Me worry?” My pepper plants keep producing because there has not yet been a severe frost. I still can read and answer email on my front porch.

Yet Niemoller keeps whispering in my ear. Global warming is a different kind of rolling crisis for sure. Though, like the German Nazi movement, it is human-created through our burning of fossil fuels, the intermediary force is not a storm-trooper’s midnight knock on the door. Instead it is 150 mph winds sweeping away one’s house; 50-inch rainfall filling the living room; fire raging over the hillcrest to consume loved ones; drought wiping out crops on the family farm.

For our survival, we humans have learned to shut out the unpleasant, particularly if it is not easily dealt with. If we can, we steer our minds away from things that make us afraid.

However, in the face of rolling climate catastrophe that eventually will affect us all, Niemoller hit the nail on the head. First Katrina came for New Orleans, and I did not speak out because I lived in the North. Then Sandy came for New York, but I lived in Northampton. Then drought ravaged California, but my food is sourced locally. Then Maria hit Puerto Rico, but I do not even speak Spanish … All far away and possible to ignore.

Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann says bluntly that this summer’s “natural” catastrophes are not the new norm. Instead, because of rising ocean temperatures, melting ice sheets, and methane emissions from dissolving tundra, we can expect more and worse and more widespread. There is now 410 million parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, adding to other more potent greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide and methane.

We are facing a minefield of climate tipping points, each of which may devolve into an independent process that reinforces global warming We are very close to the amount that will in future give us 2 degrees Centigrade global warming that will affect all of us, and not in a pleasant, warm-October-day way.

The good thing is that global carbon emission rates have flattened, despite continuing industrial development. The bad thing is that Donald Trump is in the White House and Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan run the Senate and House. They are doing their darnedest to ensure increased emissions to maintain profits for Exxon and Koch.

Nov. 6 marks the opening of the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany. This is a continuation of the historic agreement made in Paris two years ago among 195 countries, the same group and accord that Trump withdrew from this summer.

If you agree with the implications of the lessons from history, you will want to do anything and everything to make our nation stop burning fossil fuels. I still think it is worth demanding that Trump rejoin and strengthen the U.N. accords, fire Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke and abandon his “dirty power plan.” Worth it because it keeps our eyes on the prize of a federal government dedicated to saving us from climate catastrophe.

In the meantime, we have Charlie Baker, who says he has committed Massachusetts to the Paris climate agreement, but in fact is tepid in support of solar and wind power and energy efficiency development and has never met a gas pipeline he didn’t like. He also has not committed his administration to Deval Patrick’s climate justice executive order, to serve and protect those poor communities of color that have suffered the most in terms of bad air and gotten the least from our burning of fossil fuels.

On Sunday, Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m., there  will be a march from Northampton High School to City Hall for “Reclaiming our Future.” We will celebrate the Bonn climate conference, demand the federal government end Trump’s “dirty power plan” and rejoin the U.N. Conference of the Parties on climate change, and tell Gov. Baker to “Stand Up, Charlie!” by not acquiescing to fossil fuel companies and instead making Massachusetts the national leader in the race to zero greenhouse gas emissions. The following day at noon we will present our demands to Baker’s office in Springfield.

To answer Alfred E. Neuman: “Yes, I am horribly worried, for my future, my children and my world.”

And to answer Pastor Niemoller: “I will claim my historical responsibility. I will speak out before it is too late.”

Dr. Marty Nathan lives in Northampton and is a physician at BaystateBrightwood Health Center in Springfield. She is on the steering committee of Climate Action NOW. She can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.

» Learn about these actions, the vigil in Boston and more on our Events Page

 

 

 

Bill aims to protect consumers in pipeline expansions

Would provide for intervening in DPU proceedings, prohibit taxpayer subsidization

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder
November 2, 2017

It’s been more than a year and a half since Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. halted its plans for a Northeast Energy Direct pipeline that would have cut through Franklin County on its way from Pennsylvania and New York. And it’s been more than a year since the state’s highest court struck down a ruling that would have allowed gas pipelines to be subsidized by a surcharge on all electricity customers.

Now, more than 120 state legislators have called for passage of a bill to protect consumers from pipeline expansion.

In separate letters Tuesday to House and Senate chairs of the Joint Committees of Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, the lawmakers called for passage of bills that would prohibit the kind of electricity surcharge to finance gas pipelines that was found illegal in June 2016 by the Supreme Judicial Court.

House Bill 2698/Senate 1855 would prohibit utilities from turning to ratepayers to finance interstate gas pipelines while House 3400, filed by state Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, and Senate 1847, filed by state Sen. James Eldridge, D-Lexington, codifies the SJC decision prohibiting electric customer financing of gas pipelines and includes reforms the Department of Public Utilities handling gas infrastructure proceedings.

The Kulik-Eldridge bill guarantees ratepayer municipalities, legislators representing ratepayer communities, and groups of 10 or more ratepayers, to intervene in DPU proceedings and strengthens the department’s review where new interstate gas infrastructure financing is involved, so that environmental and community impacts must be considered, as well as lower impact alternatives.

“This bill addresses a number of issues that arose during the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project,” said Kulik, who also testified in person by the joint committee on Oct. 26 and noted that the written testimony exceeded more the nearly 70 House sponsors of his bill and had bipartisan support. “Our experience in working to defeat that misguided project made it clear that the permitting and financing procedures for natural gas infrastructure do not align with our clean energy future in Massachusetts, and place unjustifiable environmental and financial risks on citizens and ratepayers.”

The DPU’s rejection of a request by Kulik, along with Sen. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, then-Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, to intervene in its review of the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline was described by Kulik as “absurd” as well as “ridiculous and insulting” for saying that the legislators were not “substantially and specifically affected” by the DPU’s decision at the time, he told The Recorder.

He added in his letter, “We must reform procedures at the Department Public Utilities so that the voices of ratepayers, communities and legislators are fully heard and considered by utility regulators.”
Though now suspended, Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline and Enbridge’s Access Northeast proposal each threatened to saddle ratepayers with multi-billion-dollar risk while threatening Article 97 conservation land preserved through public investment, private property and Massachusetts’ climate goals, said the Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast in a prepared statement about the proposed bills.

“This legislation would address many of the regulatory failings we have witnessed and experienced at the Department of Public Utilities, and would allow the public to have a meaningful role in agency decisions that will impact us for decades to come,” said Kathryn Eiseman, president of PLAN, which formed to harness community opposition to projects such as NED. “The DPU currently believes it can bar municipalities and ratepayers from banding together to participate in DPU proceedings in an orderly fashion with legal counsel and technical experts of their choice.”

The letters were also signed by Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, as well as Reps. Paul Mark, D-Peru, and Susannah Whipps, I-Athol.

After conducting an “open survey” proceeding this spring to gauge interest in new gas pipeline, TGP wrote to customers on Aug. 31, ” Tennessee has now determined that there is no further need to reserve capacity for a Future Northeast Expansion Project and provides notice that, as of the date of this posting no capacity is being reserved for a Future Northeast Expansion.”

» Read original article

» Read the Bill HR3400

Most Lawmakers Eager to Address Gas Pipelines, DPU Powers

By Colin A. Young, 
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
November 2, 2017

About two-thirds of the Legislature has signed onto letters making the case for passage of legislation to impose a permanent prohibition on utility companies making electric ratepayers help finance the construction of gas pipelines and to shake up the way the Department of Public Utilities considers gas pipeline financing.

The 125 lawmakers who signed are asking the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy to quickly advance a series of bills codifying a Supreme Judicial Court ruling that declared so-called pipeline taxes illegal and giving lawmakers more say in regulatory decisions.

One letter, signed by more than 100 members of the House, was circulated by Reps. Stephen Kulik and Ken Gordon and Minority Leader Bradley Jones. The second letter was circulated by Sens. Jamie Eldridge and Patricia Jehlen.

“Massachusetts ratepayers should not be forced by electric companies to pay for gas pipeline construction costs through subsidies,” the Senate letter says. “In paying a surcharge on their utility bills to build the pipeline, ratepayers are taking away the risk of the electric company’s business decision to build the pipeline whether it is profitable or not. This shields the electric companies from risk and subsidizes the corporate bottom line.”

The letter writers are hoping the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee will act quickly on two sets of bills. The first (H 2698/S 1855) would codify the SJC’s ruling from August 2016 that utilities cannot ask electric ratepayers to help finance the construction of gas pipelines.

The Department of Public Utilities in October 2015 concluded that it had the authority under existing law to approve long-term contracts by utilities like Eversource and National Grid for the purchase of natural gas capacity that would allow for the cost of pipeline construction to be passed on to ratepayers.

By creating a financing mechanism for expanded pipeline capacity, energy officials appeared to be seeking to improve access to cheap gas and limit the state’s exposure to price spikes during periods of high consumption when expensive power on the spot market has to be purchased to meet demand.

Engie Gas & LNG, which ships liquefied natural gas into the Boston area, and the Conservation Law Foundation challenged the new rules in court and the SJC sided with the plaintiffs. The court ruled DPU must regulate electric and gas utilities separately, and found that imposing a tariff on electric ratepayers to subsidize the construction of a new pipeline would contradict the intent of the Legislature in the nearly two-decades-old utility deregulation law.

The second bill of concern to the letter writers (H 3400/S 1847) would “create an overall more rigorous framework than that under which the DPU currently operates when evaluating petitions relating to new gas infrastructure proposals, along with other modifications to DPU practice,” according to the House letter. The bill would require DPU to grant full intervenor status to ratepayer municipalities, legislators representing ratepayer communities and groups of 10 or more ratepayers.

“What does not make sense is the degree to which the DPU sidelines and silences ratepayers, communities, and even legislators, so that we don’t have a seat at the table when critical decisions are being made that will directly affect our communities,” the representatives wrote.

The representatives said several of them sought to intervene in proceedings related to Spectra’s Access Northeast project and the Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct project. “DPU denied multiple petitions to intervene, deeming none of us ‘substantially and specifically affected’ by the proceeding, even when we were joined in a coalition with individual ratepayers and ratepayer municipalities that would be both financially impacted by the contract and physically impacted by the infrastructure,” the lawmakers wrote.

Kulik said his work to defeat the Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project “made it clear that the permitting and financing procedures for natural gas infrastructure do not align with our clean energy future in Massachusetts, and place unjustifiable environmental and financial risks on citizens and ratepayers.”

All four bills got a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on Oct. 26. Both letters suggest that, though the letter writers want swift passage of the legislation, the committee could rework the bills and combine their “essential components” into one single bill.

» Read original article