State attorney general urges comprehensive review of Tennessee Gas Pipeline by federal regulators

Last modified: Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Last month’s decision by the state Department of Public Utilities approving three long-term natural-gas supply agreements with the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline “makes it more important than ever” that federal regulators conduct a comprehensive and meaningful examination of the need for and alternatives to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. project, the state attorney general’s office has written to federal regulators.

The letter criticized the state DPU’s review of long-term agreements for Berkshire Gas Co., National Grid and Columbia Gas of Massachusetts to buy gas from the controversial pipeline.

The attorney general’s office also urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider the findings of its commissioned study on need for and alternatives to the pipeline, to be completed by Oct. 31.

A main focus of that study by The Analysis Group is whether more natural gas capacity is needed to maintain electric reliability. The pending study is relevant to the supply contracts approved by the DPU in August, according to the Monday letter to the federal commission’s Secretary Kimberly D. Bose, from the attorney general’s energy and telecommunications chief, Rebecca Tepper.

In her letter, Tepper recounted the attorney general’s requests for the DPU to halt its proceedings, urging the department “not to make decisions without knowing all the facts. We asked for a transparent process and a procedural schedule that would have allowed time for the parties and the public to meaningfully consider, analyze, and testify about the companies’ petitions. Instead, the department expedited the procedural schedule in a manner that did not reflect the precedent agreement’s lasting consequences for Massachusetts ratepayers.”

The DPU also limited evidence presented in the cases by denying full intervention status to the Northeast Energy Solutions coalition and Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, both of which include legislators, municipalities and landowners. Both groups, as well as the Conservation Law Foundation, have appealed the DPU decision in the state Supreme Judicial Court.

The attorney general’s office, according to Tepper, urged the DPU “to consider the interrelationship of gas and electric markets in Massachusetts and to conduct a factual analysis of future demand and cost-effective energy and efficiency resources before making any decisions regarding additional gas capacity investments.” It also called on the DPU to halt proceedings to allow time to consider evidence in those proceedings about gas capacity.

Instead, the DPU rejected those requests “and continued its accelerated schedule,” Tepper wrote. The attorney general’s office, she added, “believes the (DPU) and Massachusetts ratepayers would have benefited from a more thorough process and we are considering how to best participate in the state court appeals of the department’s approvals filed by the Conservation Law Foundation and Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast. “

The attorney general’s office also plans to continue its participation in the proposed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filing for the pipeline, which would cross Plainfield in Hampshire County and eight Franklin County towns on its path from Pennsylvania shale gas fields to Dracut. It plans to file comments in coming weeks about the scope of a federal environmental impact statement.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


© 2018 Daily Hampshire Gazette