Anti-pipeline group questions HG&E moratorium decision

  • Students hold signs and chant in opposition to a Columbia Gas pipeline project during a forum at First Churches in Northampton in September 2018. The event was sponsored by a coalition of groups that have launched what they call the Columbia Gas Resistance Campaign. ​​COURTESY OF RENE THEBERGE​​​​

Staff Writer
Published: 2/26/2019 10:52:14 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A group opposed to natural gas pipeline expansion is questioning Holyoke Gas & Electric’s recently announced natural gas moratorium and calling for more transparency and a shift to clean energy.

“The HG&E moratorium seems created to emphasize a dubious need for the widely criticized ‘Columbia Reliability Project’” Holyoke Neighbor to Neighbor lead organizer Jacqueline Velez said in a statement from the Columbia Gas Resistance Campaign, a group that formed two years ago in opposition to pipeline expansion.

Holyoke Gas & Electric announced in late January that it would not be able to provide new customers with natural gas, citing what it calls “insufficient pipeline capacity.” The company is "operating at capacity during peak periods,” a Jan. 28 letter states, and “is forced to impose a moratorium on new natural gas connections until the capacity issue is addressed.”

The company serves customers in Holyoke and Southampton. Attempts to reach HG&E officials for comment on the resistance campaign’s claims about its moratorium announcement were unsuccessful Tuesday. 

HG&E joins two other utility companies – Berkshire Gas and Columbia Gas – that have made similar announcements in western Massachusetts over the last few years. All three companies get some gas supply from the 20-mile Northampton Lateral of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, according to HG&E. 

“Recent proposals that would increase natural gas capacity in the region have been met with opposition,” HG&E wrote in its January letter, “and the current pipeline constraints are causing significant adverse environmental and economic impacts on the region’s ratepayers.”

The proposed Columbia Gas Reliability Project would replace and expand pipelines in Hampden County and Tennesee Gas Pipeline Company’s upgrade project, which has been filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, would replace and add 2.1 miles of pipeline in Agawam.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Velez told the Gazette of the moratorium. “I think it’s a strategy.” 

The new moratorium will frustrate homeowners and businesses who want to get natural gas connections, she said, and create opposition to the anti-pipeline work.

Coalition member Marty Nathan urged greater transparency, such as Holyoke Gas & Electric releasing data demonstrating it is at capacity.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com


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