Updates & Archives

How local utilities gamed the natural-gas market

November 16, 2017, The Wall Street Journal [excerpted below]
New England regulators have assumed the region’s natural gas pipelines were being used efficiently. Not so. Valuable space was going unused on the busy Algonquin Pipeline, which supplies gas for electricity and heating, even during the coldest days when demand is highest.

The researchers discovered that local gas utilities owned by two companies, Eversource and Avangrid, routinely booked large gas deliveries, then cut orders sharply at the last minute. By then it was too late for anyone else to use the pipeline space, enabling them to limit the amount of gas available to the generators that produce half the region’s electricity.

On 37 cold days, when demand was high, unused pipeline space resulting from the scheduling changes represented about 28% of the daily capacity typically used by gas-fired generators, a big number given the dollars at stake.

Econ 101 teaches what happened next: When supply goes down, prices go up. Increases spilled into the wholesale electricity market, boosting average prices about 20% over a three-year period, costing New Englanders an estimated $3.6 billion.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is reviewing the findings, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to open an investigation on the matter, and both the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and the Massachusetts Public Utilities Department are launching inquiries of their own.

Eversource and Avangrid say their actions were intended to ensure a steady supply to their gas customers. Yet nine other gas utility companies taking gas from Algonquin didn’t cancel at the last minute. Whatever their motive, the flawed rules left business and consumers holding the bag.

Developers point to those price spikes as justification to impose the costs of a new $3 billion pipeline on electricity consumers. So far, no electric generator or other large user wants to sign a long-term contract for this capacity, and the developers want their investment to be risk-free. The guaranteed charges to consumers for decades would also lock in gas demand even as cheaper and cleaner sources of energy are gaining market share.

Most Massachusetts lawmakers eager to address gas pipelines, DPU powers

November 2, 2017, The Berkshire Eagle
About two-thirds of the Legislature has signed on to letters making the case for passage of legislation to impose a permanent prohibition on utility companies making electric ratepayers help finance the construction of gas pipelines. . .
Read the article here.

Pipeline charges prompt lots of questions

October 20, 2017, CommonWealth
Accusations and investigations are underway in response to an academic white paper posted by the Environmental Defense Fund concerning artificially created pipeline capacity constraints and resultant spikes in energy prices.
Read the article here.

Art of the self-deal: how regulatory failure lets gas pipeline companies fabricate need and fleece ratepayers

September 19, 2017, Associated Press
A new report released by Oil Change International, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club examines how a new wave of gas pipeline construction threatens to shunt serious risk and costs on to utility ratepayers.
Read the article here.

Court rules New York had power to deny key pipeline permit

August 18, 2017, Associated Press
In a decision held up as an affirmation of the right of states to reject major oil and gas infrastructure, a federal court ruled Friday that New York acted properly when it blocked plans for a 124-mile natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania’s shale fields.
Read the article here.

Lacking financing, utilities put $3 billion natural gas pipeline on hold

June 29, 2017, Boston Globe
Enbridge (formerly Spectra Energy) is shelving a $3.2 billion dollar fracked gas pipeline known as Access Northeast until they can find a way to pay for it.
Read the article here.

Eversource Rate Case in MA

March 20, 2017, Acadia Center
On January 17, 2017 Eversource filed its first comprehensive electric rate case in Massachusetts in many years, proposing significant revenue increases. At a time when the distributed energy resources present new opportunities and challenges for utilities, the components of the rate increase would unnecessarily increase consumer costs and inhibit clean energy.
Read the article here.

UNH Research Finds Increased Energy Use Not Needed to Grow Economy

March 7, 2017, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
New England does not need to increase energy use to continue to grow its economy, according to new research released by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire that looked at cost, reliability and risk associated with the region’s electricity future.
Read the article here.

The Access Northeast Pipe Dream?

By Pat Knight, February 7, 2017, Synapse Energy Economics
This report examines the need for, and the cost of, the Access Northeast (ANE) natural gas pipeline.
Read the article here.

Governors can wield influence over pipelines

By Kathryn R. Eiseman, January 30, 2017, Commonwealth Magazine
With new federal energy policies evolving to be starkly at odds with our priorities in Massachusetts, it is vital that we understand what authority our state has to influence controversial new natural gas infrastructure projects.
Read the article here.

Sensing Gains Ahead Under Trump, the Kochs Court Minorities

By Hiroko Tabuchi, January 5, 2017, The New York Times
The crowd that thronged a gospel concert last month in Richmond, Va., was in for an unusual Christmas treat.
Read the article here.

The Future of Spectra’s Access Northeast Pipeline Looks Dim (but Baker’s continued pro-pipeline stance and Enbridge’s new influx of capital give us pause)

By Greg Cunningham, August 26, 2016, Conservation Law Foundation
Last week’s unanimous decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, ruling in favor of CLF and finding that the state’s Department of Public Utilities cannot legally tax the Commonwealth’s electric consumers to cover the cost of new interstate gas pipeline, is reverberating throughout New England.
Read the article here.

Pipeline tax protesters cap 43-mile hike at State House steps

By Miguel Otárola, July 18, 2016, The Boston Globe
After marching 43 miles from Medway to the steps of the State House, 69-year-old David Klafter on Sunday said there were times when he would have loved to go home and rest his feet.
Read the article here.

Warning: Unnecessary Pipelines Could Leave Consumers Holding the Bag

By Natalie Karas, December 7, 2016, EDF blog
New oil pipelines are very much in the national spotlight. There’s been less attention on big pipes to transport natural gas.
Read the article here.

US must transition to low-carbon energy

By Jeffrey D. Sachs, November 20, 2016, The Boston Globe
For two centuries, fossil fuels — coal, oil, and natural gas — offered the key to America’s and the world’s growing energy needs. Now, because of global warming, we have to shift rapidly to a new low-carbon energy system.
Read the article here.

Baker’s Pipeline Support Undercuts Climate Goals

By Emily Norton/Guest Columnist, November 5, 2016, MetroWest Daily News
Gov. Charlie Baker recently took two terrific actions for the environment. But they are undercut by his continuing support for more natural gas pipelines.
Read the article here.

Connecticut Becomes Most Recent State to Back Away from Spectra’s Access Northeast Pipeline Project

By Sharon Kelly, Thursday, October 27, 2016, DESMOG Blog
Connecticut regulators dealt a blow to pipeline company Spectra Energy Corp. this week by abandoning several utility proposals that would have relied on Spectra’s beleaguered Access Northeast pipeline, a 125-mile pipeline expansion project planned to span from New York state to just past Boston, MA.
Read the article here.