AG’s office may challenge pipeline gas contracts

 

Greenfield Recorder
By TOM RELIHAN
Recorder Staff
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
(Published in print: Wednesday, September 2, 2015)

The state Attorney General’s Office will have until Sept. 20 to decide whether to challenge a decision by the Department of Public Utilities to allow Berkshire Gas Co., Columbia Gas and National Grid to enter long-term supply contracts with the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline.

The AG’s office, along with state legislators Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, and Paul Mark, D-Peru, Northeast Energy Solutions, the Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast — all of whom were denied full intervenor status in the proceedings — had called for the DPU to halt the process.

“Our office is reviewing the Department’s orders. As the ratepayer advocate, the AG’s Office was actively involved in the precedent agreement cases and argued that they should not move forward until after the DPU considered the broader issue of the region’s gas capacity needs. The AG’s Office is conducting a regional study that will examine the need for additional gas capacity in New England through the year 2030 and what the right mix of sources should be. The study will identify the most cost-effective solutions for ratepayers that will allow us to achieve our regional climate goals,” wrote Chloe Gotsis, spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey.

The three 20-year contracts to buy gas from the nearly 420-mile pipeline planned to cross eight Franklin County towns are all contingent on completion of the nearly $5 billion project. Kinder Morgan, TGP’s parent company, plans to formally ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate pipelines, to approve the project later this year.

The decision, announced Monday, would allow Berkshire Gas to contract up to 36,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day of gas from the pipeline effective Nov. 1, 2018. Berkshire Gas and Columbia Gas have imposed moratoriums on accepting new customers or expanded service until the project is approved and in service.

Peter Lorenz, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, which oversees the DPU, said in a statement Monday that the department’s decision is not equal to an approval of the pipeline. That decision is up to FERC.

“The orders issued by the Department do not constitute the approval of any interstate pipeline project. The decision regarding whether or not an interstate pipeline may be constructed is made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” Lorenz wrote.

Recorder reporter Richie Davis contributed to this story.

You can reach Tom Relihan at: trelihan@recorder.com, or call 413-772-0261 ext. 264. On Twitter, follow @RecorderTom