Gas contract gets state backing



Last modified: Thursday, August 06, 2015

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has argued before the state Department of Public Utilities that Berkshire Gas Co.’s 20-year contract to use gas from Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct project should be approved.

DOER argued that the company’s contract with TGP was consistent with its portfolio standards, that it compares favorably with a range of alternatives, and that reasonable alternatives have not been presented by Portland Gas Transmission System or the Conservation Law Foundation, including greater use of liquefied natural gas to offset peak use, which testified in the case.

It also rejected an argument by CLF, a full intervenor on the case, that would place a “greenhouse-gas mitigation” charge on natural gas consumption, adding “the evidentiary hearing in this docket lacks any evidence that the NED project will result in increased (greenhouse gas emissions.)”

The $5 billion TGP project, for which the Houston-based corporation plans to formally apply in October for a federal permit, would deliver 1.3 billion cubic feet of Pennsylvania natural gas from Wright, N.Y., through Plainfield and eight Franklin County towns on its way to Dracut, north of Lowell.

“DOER supports the company’s petition that it acquire 20,000 (dekatherms per day) of NED capacity to meet its current and projected customer demand,” concluded the agency in its July 17 filing. “No party has challenged its forecast or provided an alternative forecast. The company has demonstrated a forecasted supply shortfall, including department-approved energy efficiency programs and the observed migration of capacity exempt customers. Consequently, the company has demonstrated a need for additional capacity, which could reasonably be met by the NED project.”

The DPU on Friday also rejected a request to reconsider Attorney General Maura Healey’s call for delaying the Berkshire Gas precedent agreement case.

The attorney general, whose request was endorsed by CLF, Northeast Energy Solutions representing a coalition of land trusts, environmental organizations, and Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast, had called for a four-month delay to allow her office to complete its own investigation into options for addressing the state’s electric reliability needs through 2030. The study is due to be completed in October, the same month that TGP plans to formally file for its certificate with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Healey argued that the DPU could not find that Berkshire Gas’ long-term agreement for TGP gas is in the public interest without considering factors such as whether it “compares favorably to a range of alternative options that may strengthen the company’s overall portfolio by introducing more diversity and flexibility.”

But Berkshire Gas argued that the AG’s motion failed to bring forward previously unknown facts, and DOER argued against the request, saying it technically needs to wait until the end of the proceeding and that it “relies on the to-be-completed study as being previously unknown information warranting reconsideration.” The state agency also argues that the AG’s study is not relevant to her office’s original May 27 request for a delay until four related DPU filings were concluded, the company’s long-range forecast and four-year supply plan.


 


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