Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.
FRCtwit
» See more details and how to join in from anywhere!

Lacking financing, utilities put $3 billion natural gas pipeline plan on hold

By Jon Chesto, Boston Globe
June 29, 2017

Eversource and National Grid, the two biggest utilities in the state, are shelving a $3.2 billion natural gas pipeline project known as Access Northeast until they can find a way to pay for it. Their partner in the project, pipeline operator Enbridge Inc., notified the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Thursday of the decision to withdraw the application for the project.

The companies argue that the pipeline expansion is needed to bring cheaper natural gas to the region’s power plants, particularly on cold days, when demand rises. But they need more time to build political support for legislation that would allow the costs to be shouldered by electricity customers.

In August, the state Supreme Judicial Court struck down a plan put forward by the Baker administration to have electricity ratepayers pick up the tab for the pipeline expansion, ruling it wasn’t permissible under state law. As a result, other New England states put similar proposals on hold.

“Once we work through the legislative [support], we’ll be able to reengage the FERC filing process and be back on track,” said Brian McKerlie, a vice president at Enbridge.

Access Northeast is the second massive natural-gas project in New England to be shelved because of financing problems. Kinder Morgan suspended a major pipeline plan last year.

» Read the full story

A Week After Leaving FERC, Former Commissioner Honorable Joins Firm Lobbying for Company Behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline

By Itai Vardi, DeSmogBlog
July 12, 2017

Only one week after leaving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), former commissioner Colette Honorable has joined a law firm lobbying for Dominion Energy, the company behind the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Honorable is joining Reed Smith LLP, a firm lobbying in the state of Virginia for Dominion, the energy giant leading the proposed natural gas project. The Atlantic Coast pipeline, a 550-mile three-state line, still requires FERC’s approval.

Virginia lobbying disclosures show that Reed Smith has been lobbying for Dominion since at least 2015. The firm has so far assigned three lobbyists to work on Dominion’s behalf: William Thomas, Jeffrey Palmore, and Edward Mullen.

Honorable, a Democrat, was appointed as FERC commissioner by former President Obama in August 2014. Previously she served as chairperson of the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Reed Smith hired Honorable as a partner in its international energy & natural resources practice.

As DeSmog previously reported, Honorable has ties to a senior executive at Southern Company, a minority stakeholder in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

FERC’s Revolving Door Continues

Honorable’s immediate transition to a private sector firm connected to the industry she had regulated follows in the steps of many other ex-FERC commissioners and employees. Just last year, former commissioner Philip Moeller was hired by the Edison Electric Institute, the main lobbying group for US utility companies, while former commissioner Tony Clark joined Wilkinson, Barker & Knauer LLP, a firm with a robust energy practice.

A 2015 report by E&E found that FERC employees negotiate their prospective industry jobs while still at FERC.

» Read full article on DeSmog Blog

When does MA start saying “No” to fossil fuel expansion

Unnecessary Abdication of Power

While MA Governor Charlie Baker’s pledge to join the Climate Alliance is a welcome declaration in the face of the United States becoming one of only three countries to not adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement, Governor Baker (as well as other Governors who have taken this pledge) will need to be held accountable on policies that may lead them astray of the goals of the agreement.

In Massachusetts, we have the Global Warming Solutions Act and several pieces of proposed legislation that would move us toward a 100% Renewables economy, yet Governor Baker has been quick to drop any state authority on preventing pipeline projects from gaining necessary state-level permits.

The latest was on July 6,  2017 on WGBH’s “Ask the Governor”, when asked directly if joining the Climate Alliance would mean an end to his “hands off” approach regarding new fossil fuel projects.

My question:
Thank you Gov. Baker for pledging to join the Climate Alliance.
Does that mean you’ll change your hands-off approach in opposing fossil fuel development like the Weymouth Compressor station, pipelines, and LNG in the state?

Baker’s answer:
60% of our current energy sources are natural gas, it would be pretty hard for us to walk away from that anytime soon. And as we all know, the presence of natural gas has taken a ton of oil and coal out of our energy sector, which has been a good thing for a greenhouse gas point of view.

With respect to the compressor, I would just say the following. As I said before it’s a federal issue, but we do have a role to play here because we implement certain federal standards here. And we got a lot of really positive input from folks, Secretary Beaton and his team, during the public hearing process. And we will hold those folks to the highest standard possible under the federal law – you can count on that – with respect to both public safety, public health and any others issues associated with that.

Thoughts:
• My question wasn’t about “walking away” from fossil fuel infrastructure that’s already in use (although that’s not a bad idea, given our climate crisis). It was about halting the INCREASE in fossil fuel use by saying “no” to new fossil fuel projects, and “yes” to clean energy instead.

• Yes, these projects require approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but they also require state permits to move forward. As a state that has not only pledged to join the Climate Alliance, but also enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act, it should be our #1 priority to not allow more fossil fuel development.

• 60% of our energy from any one source is cause for concern, especially when that source is a finite fuel that’s historically be subject to wide price swings. We need to make sure to maximize efficiency first – a tactic that currently has our demand for electricity dropping. Then any added energy generation should be clean, non-emitting sources only, and have grid storage available to reduce the need for peak demand generation.

• The “highest standard possible under federal law” is part of the problem. Those standards are not high enough.

Other seem to “get” that state level permits can block final permitting of projects that are detrimental to our environmental, health and safety and climate goals.
» N.J. DEP denies permits needed for PennEast pipeline
by Cristina Rojas, NJ.com, June 28, 2017
» Gov. Cuomo Blocks Northern Access Pipeline
by Kimberly Ong, Natural Resources Defense Council, April 9, 2017
» Cuomo administration rejects Constitution pipeline
By Scott Waldman, Politico.com
April 22, 2016
Looking to the (near) future …
» Gubernatorial MA candidates join
compressor station opposition
By Michael P. Norton, State House News Service, June 28, 2017

Gov. Charlie Baker says Massachusetts
will join US Climate Alliance

by Shannon Young, Springfield Republican / MassLive
June 2, 2017

“Today we join the U.S. Climate Alliance to expand on our efforts while partnering with other states to combat climate change…our administration looks forward to continued, bipartisan collaboration with other states to protect the environment, grow the economy and deliver a brighter future to the next generation,” he said in a statement.