State Sen. President Stanley Rosenberg says DPU will hold hearing in western Massachusetts on natural gas pact



Last modified: Tuesday, May 19, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — The Department of Public Utilities will hold a public hearing in western Massachusetts on a proposed agreement between Berkshire Gas Co. and the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., state Sen. President Stanley Rosenberg said Friday.

The hearing, which has yet to be scheduled, was one of several topics Rosenberg discussed during an editorial board meeting at the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton. He also praised the election of new University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan and said the Senate had added $20 million to the university system’s budget to settle a controversial labor dispute.

Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, said the DPU “told me (Thursday) they would be doing a hearing and it will be in June.”

The DPU previously had scheduled only one hearing on the topic — at 2 p.m. May 26 in Boston. Rosenberg urged the DPU earlier this week to schedule a public hearing in western Massachusetts.

Under the agreement, Berkshire Gas would contract for gas beginning Nov. 1, 2018, at three locations along the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline system. Berkshire Gas Co., based in Pittsfield, has imposed a moratorium on new customers, stating that they have reached near capacity with the existing pipeline system in the region.

Rosenberg described the question of how to serve the region with power as a complex math problem.

“The puzzle is how many transmission lines, how many pipelines and how will those decisions impact upon the steady supply and price reliability, and how will it impact on our leading status in the country in green and conservation,” he said. “That is the picture we’re dealing with.”

UMass issues

Rosenberg said Meehan, now the chancellor of UMass Lowell, was a good choice as new president.

“He succeeded marvelously as the chancellor of UMass Lowell and if he can bring that same energy and focus and vision to the president’s office it would be terrific,” Rosenberg said.

And Rosenberg said the Senate had added $20 million to the UMass budget to settle a controversial labor dispute involving back pay for professors and other staff in the university system.

That money will be the subject of discussion when the budget goes to a conference committee, he said.

Rosenberg said he is happy to work toward outgoing president Robert Caret’s 50-50 plan, to have taxpayers pay half and students pay half of the UMass tuition.

Rosenberg said he had worked in the past on legislation to have students pay one-third and taxpayers pay the other two-thirds. Rosenberg said he believes state appropriations should be increased for the university system.

‘Lifting all families’

The theme of this year’s budget is “lifting all families,” according to Rosenberg. The budget tries to maintain and build as many supports necessary to allow people in Massachusetts to get into the work force and advance in their careers, he said.

“We were a leading state at one point for helping people on public assistance and now we are among the least successful in the country,” he said.

Work training, transportation and child care programs that helped people re-enter the work force have virtually all been cut, and Rosenberg said he would look to restore some of them.

Programs targeting people addicted to opioids and heroin are also priorities in the budget, which includes money for 150 new beds for treatment and two more specialty high schools that help young people through their addiction, Rosenberg said.

And Rosenberg said he has a great working relationship with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

“So far the relationships have been good,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t disagreement, but they are not expressed in disagreeable ways.”

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@gazettenet.com.


 


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