DPU rejects petitions by pipeline opponents for formal intervenor status in Berkshire Gas Co. contract case

Last modified: Tuesday, June 23, 2015

By a single action, the state Department of Public Utilities has formally rejected three petitions related to the long-term contract proposed by the Berkshire Gas Co. with the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline proposed by the Tennessee Gas Co.

With three days of evidentiary hearings scheduled to begin Wednesday in Boston on the case, the DPU formally rejected appeals by Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast and Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, as well as of a coalition of environmental groups — New England Energy Systems — in their bids for formal intervenor status.

NEES, representing Franklin Land Trust and a consortium of other land trusts and environmental organizations, already has called on the state Supreme Judicial Court to halt the proceedings and preemptively challenged the DPU’s rejection.

PLAN and Kulik, leading a coalition that also includes Rep. Paul Mark and other legislators as well as the Greenfield Town Council and the towns of Montague, Conway and Ashfield, called on the DPU June 17 to expedite a decision on its appeal and also slow the process to allow time to prepare for this week’s hearings. It also filed motions to compel Berkshire Gas, Columbia Gas and National Grid (Boston Gas) to provide unredacted copies of all testimony, pleadings, responses and correspondence in the pipeline-related cases.

In its order Friday, the DPU also rejected the attorney general’s call for a halt in the proceedings pending decisions on four related cases before the panel, including the proposed energy efficiency investment plan for the state’s utilities, and adoption of an approach to complying with a state legislation to curtail climate change.

In its decision, DPU said it found no evidence that the hearing officer had “abused her discretion,” and agreed that there was no compelling reason to allow anything beyond limited intervenor status, without a right to issue legal depositions to seek documents, testimony and other undisclosed evidence from Berkshire Gas.

The planned route of the pipeline would pass through Plainfield in Hampshire County and eight Franklin County towns on its way from Pennsylvania to Dracut.


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