Could feds pave way for new Mass. gas project?

Buzz builds on FERC priorities under Trump

by Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine
September 21, 2017

Environmental activists who oppose the construction of new natural gas pipeline capacity in New England are watching what’s going on at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington with growing concern.

The federal agency last week overruled a decision by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation denying a water quality permit for the construction of a connection between an existing pipeline and a natural gas plant currently in development.

FERC’s decision was based on a technicality – that the New York agency had failed to act within an allotted one-year time frame and thus had waived its authority. Two other pipeline companies have indicated they will go to FERC seeking similar rulings for their projects.

While the FERC decision seems fairly narrow in scope, industry officials and environmental activists both say the ruling is a strong signal that the federal agency under President Trump is willing to take a more activist role in state pipeline battles. That could become important in New England as the region debates whether more pipeline capacity is needed to keep the lights on during the winter months.
New England’s dependence on natural gas is growing. A report released last week by the regional grid operator, ISO-New England, said natural gas-fired power plants represented 44.5 percent of the region’s electricity-generating capacity in 2016, a percentage expected to grow to 56 percent over the next decade. The report also said inadequate pipeline capacity in the region raises reliability concerns that are “particularly critical” during peak winter demand conditions when prices rise and some natural gas plants find it difficult to obtain fuel.

For several years now, the region has been debating what to do about the pipeline situation, which has been subsumed to some degree within the broader debate about climate change. Nowhere has the debate been more intense than in Massachusetts, the largest consumer of electricity in the six-state region.

Last August, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected a Baker administration initiative to tap electric ratepayers for the money to finance additional gas pipeline capacity. The court held that existing state law didn’t allow such a financing arrangement, and gaining legislative approval for the approach is considered unlikely, largely because the state Senate during the last session voted unanimously to oppose such a move.

The pipeline debate has faded from the headlines, but it hasn’t disappeared. ISO-New England is working on a “fuel security study” due out next month that will assess whether the region can keep the lights on without new pipeline capacity. Given the ISO’s past pronouncements, the betting is that the grid operator will say the region needs another natural gas pipeline.

Still, the politics haven’t changed. Many of the New England states favor adding more pipeline capacity, but Massachusetts remains a holdout.

Environmental advocates say they are worried that ISO-New England may use its fuel security study to push for a region-wide tariff on electric ratepayers to pay for the additional pipeline capacity. Just as the ISO makes the case for transmission projects needed to keep the grid operating smoothly, it could argue that more pipeline capacity is needed to keep natural gas-fired power plants running during the winter months.

FERC under former president Obama would have been reluctant to bless what is basically a way to sidestep Massachusetts opposition, but Trump’s new appointees to the agency, as they demonstrated last week, may feel the region’s energy needs are a higher priority.

Kathryn Eiseman, director of the Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network and an opponent of new pipelines, said she is monitoring the agency’s actions closely. “FERC often breaks the law and allows pipelines to be built before anyone can get into court to prove that the agency has abused its power,” she said.

» Read original story


Time running out to help shape CT Comprehensive Energy Strategy

The deadline for comments on the 2017 Draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy is by 4:00 pm, September 25, 2017. Though the new Draft CES does mention the need for increased renewables, it’s policies, as currently written, may actually hinder their development.

A recent letter from dozens of CT Environmental groups to the DEEP reviews what needs to be corrected in detail

» Letter delivered to DEEP on the Draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy.
Signed by dozens of environmental leaders.

More comments echoing these details will help drive the point home that the Draft CES needs serious revision before becoming official policy.

All interested persons are invited to submit written comments electronically on or before September 25, 2017, by 4:00 p.m.
Written comments can be electronically filed on the DEEP website.
Written comments can also be e-mailed to or sent via US Mail to Debra Morrell, DEEP’s, Bureau of Energy and Technology Policy, Ten Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051. All of the written comments received on the draft Strategy will be posted on the DEEP website.

» See Notice


» Further talking points for commenting

ISO-NE Forecast Sees Flat Loads, More Solar, No Congestion

By Rich Heidorn Jr.

BOSTON — ISO-NE expects growing energy efficiency and behind-the-meter solar generation to more than cancel out load growth over the next 10 years.

ISO-NE NERC energy efficiency Coal-Fired Generation

RTO officials outlined their forecasts at a public forum on their draft 2017 Regional System Plan on Thursday.

ISO-NE NERC energy efficiency Coal-Fired Generation

The forum’s 150 attendees were mostly industry stakeholders, regulators and RTO officials. But there was also a three-woman contingent from Mothers Out Front, a climate change activist group, who pressed RTO planners on the region’s continued reliance on fossil-fueled generation. Carol Chamberlain, of Arlington, Mass., raised concerns about methane leaks in the natural gas supply chain. Randi Soltysiak, of Somerville, Mass., criticized the RTO’s plan for not shifting more heavily to carbon-free sources.

“To me, forming a new 10-year plan around increasing fossil fuels in 2017 is not only irresponsible, but it’s morally unconscionable in the face of the climate destruction that we’re seeing,” she said. “We need to do better. This is New England. They’re [setting 100% renewable goals] in Australia and they’re doing it in California.”

Others in the audience questioned transmission spending and the dearth of storage in the region. The RTO got its first grid-scale battery, a 16-MW facility at Yarmouth Station, last year.

ISO-NE NERC energy efficiency Coal-Fired Generation

Passive demand resources and energy efficiency are expected to more than double over 10 years to 4,475 MW in 2026. Solar PV, including BTM generation and resources participating in ISO-NE wholesale markets, also is expected to more than double over the planning horizon, from 1,918 MW (nameplate) in 2016 to 4,733 MW by 2026. BTM PV will reduce summer peak loads by 1,035 MW in 2026.

But the RTO expects natural gas to comprise 56% of its capacity by 2026, up from 44% now, said Michael Henderson, the RTO’s director of regional planning and coordination, who gave a presentation on the plan.

Declining Net Loads

Although planners expect the gross peak summer load to grow 1% over the 10-year planning horizon, they forecast net load — including energy efficiency and solar generation — to drop 0.6% per year, from almost 126,800 GWh in 2017 to less than 120,000 GWh in 2026.

The 50/50 net summer peak forecast for 2026 is about 26,300 MW, down 0.6% from 2017. The 90/10 net summer peak forecast, however, rises by 0.5% to more than 29,000 MW in 2026.

Energy efficiency — supported by more than $1 billion in spending annually by the New England states — is expected to reduce the 90/10 net winter peak load from almost 21,900 MW to 20,600 MW, easing concerns over having sufficient natural gas for power generation during the heating season.


Despite declining net loads, the RTO says its net installed capacity requirement will grow from 34,300 MW in 2022 to 35,700 MW in 2026. Barring retirements, New England’s resources would exceed the ICR by at least 1,700 MW throughout the planning horizon.

“However, the region will likely still need to rely on operating procedures that provide load and capacity relief every season from 2018 through 2026, especially under extremely hot and humid conditions, severe winter weather, and during infrastructure-outage conditions of both electric power and natural gas facilities,” the report says. “The region also will likely face additional retirements of aging oil and coal-fired generation.”

The RTO’s interconnection queue has 76 active projects totaling almost 13,000 MW, including 6,400 MW of natural gas, 5,400 MW of wind generation and 77 MW of batteries.

Almost all the proposed natural gas generation is in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, consistent with the plan’s conclusion that “the most reliable and economic place for resource development” remains near load centers in southern New England. About 80% of the RTO’s load is south of Massachusetts’ northern border, Henderson said.

Two-thirds of the wind capacity would be added in Maine, with the remainder mostly offshore projects off the southeast coast of Massachusetts.

Transmission Needs

The report notes changes in the criteria and inputs used in assessing system needs, including the adoption of NERC transmission planning standards. The RTO also is using a new probabilistic methodology to determine the amount of generation assumed out of service in its base case analyses.

The report includes about $4 billion in proposed, planned and under-construction transmission upgrades. Since 2002, the RTO has spent $12.4 billion to add 714 transmission project components. “With these system upgrades in place, combined with the changes in assumptions to needs assessments … the need for additional reliability-based transmission upgrades, as shown by the steady-state studies of peak load, is expected to decline over the planning horizon. Conversely, generation retirements and studies reviewing system performance, accounting for the integration of nonsynchronous resources and improved load modeling, may drive the need for some additional reliability-based transmission upgrades.”

ISO-NE NERC energy efficiency Coal-Fired Generation

Future drivers of transmission include integration of large-scale renewable resources and distributed resources, aging infrastructure, adding interchange capability with neighboring systems, and complying with new NERC standards, the report says.

“The overall need for major additional reliability-based transmission projects is expected to decline over the planning horizon. The low growth of net peak load means it no longer is a major driver of the need for new reliability-based transmission projects,” it continues. “The development of [Forward Capacity Market] resources in favorable system locations also defers the need for major new projects.”

The RTO has yet to identify the need for market-efficiency transmission upgrades (METUs), because reliability upgrades have reduced system production costs, particularly out-of-merit operating costs. New economic and fast-start resources also have helped eliminate congestion and uplift costs.

While the study projects sufficient capacity and transmission to meet reliability criteria, it says the limited natural gas pipeline system is a fuel-security risk, especially in winter.

Panel Discussion

In addition to the presentation on the system plan and a keynote speech by former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the forum included a panel discussion on planning for the “hybrid” grid. (See related story, Ex-EPA Chief Angry but Optimistic Over Climate Change.)

Outgoing ISO-NE Board Chair Paul Levy moderated the discussion, which focused on integrating renewables, storage and other distributed energy resources.

ISO-NE NERC energy efficiency Coal-Fired Generation

Chris Root, chief operating officer for Vermont Electric Power Co., said his state is showing where the region is headed.

About one-quarter of its typical peak load of 1,000 MW is provided by solar on sunny days. More than 35% of its needs come from in-state run-of-river hydro and hydro imports from Canada and New York. It also has 120 MW of wind, with an additional 30 MW under construction.

“Ninety percent of the time, there is not a single carbon-producing generator running in the state of Vermont,” he said.

But wind output must be curtailed during heavy hydro runoff periods because of insufficient transmission, he said. “There hasn’t been a public policy transmission project yet. Everyone’s scared to be No. 1 on that,” he said.

ISO-NE NERC energy efficiency Coal-Fired Generation

Stephen Pike, CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, said he would like to see “a truly educated and engaged customer base.”

He said that when his organization offered businesses a free feasibility study on adding solar or storage, it could find only 30 takers, well below the 50 it sought. “It’s extremely frustrating,” he said. “Frankly I thought we’d be overwhelmed with requests for assistance.”

Root agreed with the need for more customer education, saying few people know that it takes about 6 acres of PV panels to generate 1 MW. People say, “‘I have six panels on my roof.’ [I say,] ‘Great — you can run a hairdryer.’ A typical women’s hairdryer is 1,500 W. That’s [the capacity of] all the panels on the roof during that time you’re running it.”

Ed McNamara, regional policy director for the Vermont Department of Public Service, predicted consumers will become more educated about the varying cost of power as electric vehicles become more popular.

“Think of how many people you know who know exactly which gas station has the cheapest gas,” he said. “If you’re now moving into electric vehicles, people are going to care about what their rates are.”

Nicholas Miller, senior technical director for GE Energy’s consulting business, said even industry professionals in the U.S. aren’t as informed as they should be. While European engineers have become increasingly comfortable with high renewable penetration rates, in the U.S. “lots and lots of PV starts to get really scary.”

“There are many distribution systems in northern Germany that regularly run at 300% instantaneous [solar] penetration — that is 3 MW of solar for one 1 MW of load. The distribution system looks like a spread-out power plant pushing power onto the grid,” he said. “That makes utility distribution people in the U.S. — including in New England — hair catch on fire. We’ve got a ways to go.”




» See original article

Delaware River Basin Commission Considering Ban on NatGas Development, Fracking

by Charlie Passut, Natural Gas Intel
September 11, 2017


The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) will consider a resolution at its meeting on Wednesday calling for a rulemaking that ultimately could place a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and related natural gas development activities in the river basin.

The DRBC said Monday the resolution is a procedural measure that, if adopted, would direct its executive director to prepare and publish a revised set of draft regulations governing natural gas development activities within the basin by Nov. 30. The agency emphasized that commissioners would not adopt any draft regulations at Wednesday’s meeting, which is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. EDT at Linksz Pavilion, on the campus of Bucks County Community College in Newtown, PA.

“If the proposed resolution is approved by the commission on [Wednesday], the revised draft rules to be published on a later date would include prohibitions related to the production of natural gas utilizing horizontal drilling and fracking within the Delaware River Basin,” the DRBC said.

“The revised draft regulations would also include provisions for ensuring the safe and protective storage, treatment, disposal or discharge of fracking-related wastewater where permitted and provide for the regulation of inter-basin transfers of water and wastewater for purposes of natural gas development where permitted.”

The DRBC said it plans to hold public hearings on the draft regulations and provide “ample opportunity for written comments.”

Environmental groups have been lobbying the DRBC for years for prohibitions or an outright permanent ban on fracking and other activities in the basin. Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, told the Associated Press (AP) last week that the organization supports a permanent ban.

“The water resources of the Delaware River watershed would be inevitably and indelibly degraded should oil and gas drilling be allowed to commence,” Carluccio said.

Conversely, supporters of oil and gas development and some landowners oppose a ban.

“Banning the safe, tightly-regulated development of American natural gas is great news” for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, “but it’s bad news for working families,” Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Spigelmyer told the AP. “We strongly encourage DRBC to make sound policy based on facts and science, not politically charged hyperbole.”

The DRBC decided in 2009 that all gas drilling in the basin needed to be reviewed, and said it would not approve any development until it adopted rules governing the industry. The agency postponed the natural gas development review in 2010 and failed to act on adopting rules in 2011, leaving in place the de facto moratorium.

Last March, the DRBC said it had no plans to lift the moratorium on natural gas drilling within the 13,539-square mile watershed. Also in March, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed a lawsuit filed by a small exploration and production company that challenged the authority of the DRBC to review and approve gas drilling in the watershed.

Renewable Portfolio Standard – Bill Hearings!

Hosted by Mass Power Forward. No Fracked Gas in Mass is a MPF Coalition member.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
11:45 AM – 4 PM
Massachusetts State House
24 Beacon St.
Boston, MA

The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) will hold a hearing on bills related to the Renewable Portfolio Standard. The RPS is a critical tool for advancing clean energy, mandating the amount of clean energy our utilities must purchase. As a show of solidarity, we’ll also give a plug to the Fight for $15 minimum wage, which has a hearing the same day. Come show your support!

We’ll convene at 11:45 outside the State House.
The hearing begins at 1 p.m. in Room A-2. Because this is a small hearing room, we are planning to fill it and send folks to advocate to their legislators. Testimony at the RPS hearing is also welcome.

Mass Power Forward supports increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standard by 3% each year, driving demand for renewable power and growing our local clean energy industries. We also support a statewide solar target of 25% solar by 2030.

Additionally, we support a proposal by Rep. Khan to accelerate the RPS by 2% per year while incorporating municipal light plants into the state’s clean energy goals.

H2706 / S1846
An act relative to solar power and the green economy
– Rep. Mark / Sen. Eldridge

H2700 / S1876
An Act to Increase the RPS and Ensure Compliance with the GWSA
– Rep. Khan / Sen. Pacheco

» RPS info sheet
» Watch this video to learn more about the Massachusetts RPS

Save the Date! FERC Protest in D.C. on September 20th

A quorum has been restored at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with the confirmation of Trump’s two nominees, Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee. By adding these pro-fossil fuel commissioners to FERC, the abuses of power will only continue and get worse as they carry out Trump’s dirty energy agenda.

All of this is happening as the Senate and House are moving bills that would expand FERC’s authority. One of the House bills actually strips the president of the border crossing authority used to stop Keystone XL and gives it to FERC. But the worst of the bills is the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, S. 1460. It expands FERC’s authority by requiring other permitting agencies to “give deference” to FERC and it limits FERC’s review of LNG facilities to 45 days.

FERC will be back to holding monthly meetings, starting with the meeting they’ve scheduled for Wednesday, September 20th. We need to be there in big numbers that day to let FERC and Congress know that the direction they plan to take the country is unacceptable and that we won’t tolerate it.

Rushed approvals, refusal to consider climate impacts, approvals with insufficient information. And Congress wants to expand FERC’s authority? No way! Unacceptable!

We’ve been FERCed long enough! Join us in D.C. to send that message on September 20th!

September 20, 2017
Beginning 8:30 AM
At the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First St, NE, Washington, DC 20426

Afternoon lobbying on the hill to begin around 11:30, starting with a lunch time gathering in the Lower Senate park next to the Russell Senate Office Building, the corner of D St. and Delaware Ave NE.

Day’s agenda:
8:30 Gather and Rally from 8:30 until 9:30 am

10:00: Attendees encouraged to attend FERC’s open public meeting which begins at 10 am

11:00 (or thereabouts): At 11 am folks will be invited to grab a bag lunch and join together to drop in on Congressional offices to deliver the Stop Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda sign on letters.
11:30: Over lunch at the park outside the Senate office buildings we will talk about the message and how to effectively drop in and drop off materials.
12:30: Head into congressional buildings to drop materials and ask for drop in meetings
2:45: Reconvene in the park outside Senate building to share your experience of the day
3:30: Head home feeling good that you have been part of delivering a powerful message of opposition to FERC, Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda, and advocating for reform and change.

Those who cannot rally or go into the FERC meeting but just want to lobby in the afternoon are welcome to simply meet us at the park at 11:30

People are also encouraged to set up meetings with their own House members and/or Senators. Contact Bridget at for materials that can be left with those you meet with.

Organizations can endorse our action here:
And can sign on to the letter to be delivered to congress here:

Individuals can sign up to attend the rally, other actions, and housing here:
And can sign on to the letter to be delivered to congress here:

Housing: There is low-cost housing in a church about a 10 minute walk from FERC the night of September 19th. You will be asked to pay $27 for this, the cost to us, though no one will be turned away who needs housing. Mattresses on the floor are available, there are showers and there will be food for dinner on the 19th and for breakfast on the 20th. Be sure to fill out this form to reserve a spot.

Food will be available the early evening of September 19th at the church and the early morning of the 20th. There will be bag lunches distributed to people in front of FERC before we walk over the Capitol Hill.

Beyond Extreme Energy: BXE is organizing a strategy meeting the evening of the 20th from 7-9 pm and the morning of the 21st from 9 am -1 pm. If you are interested contact Ted Glick at for more information.


Supporters Of this Day of Action Include:
Delaware Riverkeeper Network
Berks Gas Truth
Beyond Extreme Energy
Green America
OVEC—Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Safe Energy Rights Group, Inc.
Coalition for Responsible Siting of LNG Facilities
River Healers
Wild Virginia
Agape Community
Center for Health, Environment and Justice
198 methods
The Enviro Show
No Fracked Gas in Mass
Lancaster Against Pipelines
Resist Spectra
Safe Energy Rights Group
Bold Alliance
ECHO Action NH
PAUSE—People of Albany United for Safe Energy
350 NYC
Resist the Pipeline
Center for Biological Diversity
Stop NED
Alliance to Protect Our People and the Places We Love
Food and Water Watch
Toxics Action Center
Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development
Berkshire Environmental Action Team
The Shalom Center
Northjersey Pipeline Walkers
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
Pa. Alliance for Clean Water and Air
Northern NJ Chapter, National Organization for Women
The Essene Church of Peace
Global Coalition for Peace
Gas Free Seneca
Seneca Lake Guardian, a Waterkeeper Alliance
Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (SACRED)
Christians for the Mountains
Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community
Athens County (Ohio) Fracking Action Network
STOP (Stanisfield Taxpayers Opposing the Pipelines)
Frack Free Genesee
Interreligious Eco-Justice Network
Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy
Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development
NJ Industrial Union Council
Oil Change International
Interfaith Moral Action on Climate
350 NJ
350 Central Mass
Aytzim: Ecological Judaism
Potomac Riverkeeper Network
Green Education and Legal Fund
350 Fairfax
Pay It Forward Global Foundation
Greenbrier River Association

A Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Moment for Natural Gas in NH

by D. Maurice Kreis, Power to the People
InDepth NH, September 11, 2017

Liberty Utilities is on the march, working hard to grow its natural gas empire in New Hampshire. What’s a ratepayer advocate to do? What does the public interest require?

The questions are anything but abstract at this point. Last week, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) held a hearing on Liberty’s latest expansion request: a bid for a utility franchise to provide natural gas service to Lebanon and Hanover.

In February, Liberty won PUC approval for a franchise to serve Pelham and Windham, neighboring communities in southeastern New Hampshire that are near the so-called Concord Lateral, the backbone of New Hampshire’s natural gas pipeline network.

Serving Hanover and Lebanon is a different kettle of fish altogether; the two Upper Valley communities on the Connecticut River are far from the existing distribution network and Liberty will have to truck natural gas to any system it builds there.

Of even greater potential importance is the divergent public reaction to Liberty’s plans. Town officials in Pelham and Windham were unequivocal supporters of having a natural gas utility.

In the Upper Valley, the two municipalities oppose the petition and grassroots activists have intervened in the PUC proceeding to argue that the only good natural gas is no natural gas – i.e., that given the need to act decisively to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere we have no business doing anything to double down on fossil fuel.

In this sense, Liberty’s proposal for Hanover and Lebanon is less like the Windham and Pelham deal and more like the recently completed Addison Natural Gas Project in Vermont. When Vermont Gas Systems first proposed extending its pipeline network south from Burlington in 2012, the utility expected dancing in the streets.

What it got was outspoken and principled opposition, as affected landowners and municipal officials found common purpose with climate activists, particularly those of college age, who perceived that the establishment was doing little to reduce our collective reliance on fossil fuels.

» Read the full article