Legislative pipeline hearing part of climate change debate

For the Gazette
Published: 4/24/2016 10:09:20 PM

The state Senate’s Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change will still hold a hearing on the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project on May 3, but it will be part of the committee’s broader mission of exploring issues around carbon emissions, greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy.

The 1 p.m. hearing in the State House in Boston will be only the third over the past year, and the first since November to discuss the Global Warming Solutions Act and the state’s clean energy future, according to the website of the panel chaired by Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton.

Rather than a session on legislative action that might have been taken on Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s proposed interstate project, which is regulated primarily by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Pacheco said, “This hearing in particular is focused on fact-finding and understanding the procedures of Tennessee Gas in relation to the state’s energy needs. We want to know how pipeline approval will impact our greenhouse gas emissions.”

TGP’s parent company this week shelved the NED pipeline from New York through Franklin County and New Hampshire to Dracut.

The hearing will also look at a report prepared by Analysis Group for the office of Attorney General Maura Healey about the region’s energy needs that questions the need for the project, as well as the positions of pipeline proponents, Pacheco says.

“We will be asking questions that reflect what we’ve been hearing from residents of Massachusetts and make sure concerns are put on the public record. The state needs all the correct information it can gather when it comes to meeting the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act.”

Although the Legislature’s input on the pipeline project would have been limited to whether to release control over Article 97 state-protected lands, according to a provision in the state constitution, Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and one of six members on the Senate panel, says, “We need to know what impacts the project will or won’t have on meeting our climate goals. It’s important for the committee to do its due diligence, so if the project doesn’t happen, we know where we’re at, and if it does, what steps we have to recalibrate to meet our (Global Warming Solutions Act) goals.

The state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, and its top ranked programs to develop renewable energy solutions and promote energy efficiency, have been used in arguments before FERC that expanding pipeline capacity — including the NED project — to bolster the role of fossil fuels in the Massachusetts energy portfolio runs counter to the state’s fight against climate change.

Downing said that as the Senate prepares in the remaining weeks of this legislative session to draft and enact comprehensive energy legislation, airing the pipeline issue will give committee members an opportunity to inform the Senate on issues pertinent to that debate.

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