I-Team: Natural Gas pipeline proposals

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) –  On 22News at Six we revealed that electricity rates are going up this winter because of a lack natural gas availability. Now the 22News I-Team examines the proposed natural gas pipeline proposals.

Kinder Morgan has proposed a new pipeline across the northern part of the state.  That’s been met with a lot of resistance. While there is a second pipeline proposal that could also eventually cut costs in western Massachusetts.

The lack of available natural gas in Massachusetts is costing many of us money.  More homes and businesses are using natural gas for heat and close to half our electricity is powered by natural gas.

“During the winter time demand for natural gas is very high and it simple economics, when you have more demand than supply the price goes up,” said ISO New England spokesperson Lacey Girard.

The cost of electricity goes up on really cold days when more natural gas is needed to power the grids and there isn’t enough space in the current pipeline. There are solutions to add more space to the pipeline, but there is a big push fighting against Kinder Morgan’s proposed natural gas pipeline expansion.

“It’s a very pristine area people enjoy it very much we’re trying to protect it and keep it nice,” said Deerfield’s Joe Haynes.

The existing Tennesse gas pipeline runs from Berkshire County near Pittsfield though the southern part of western Massachusetts and out to eastern Massachusetts.

The proposed Kinder Morgan project would install 177 miles of new natural gas pipeline that would run from Wright, NY through parts of Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin Counties in the northern part of western Massachusetts out to Dracut in the eastern part of the state.

Spectra Energy and Northeast Utilities, the parent company of WMECO have proposed expanding its existing Algonquin pipeline in the eastern part of the state, which would also give western Massachusetts customers more access to natural gas.

“This has minimal impact on communities on land owners on the environment,” said WMECO spokesperson Priscilla Ress.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the final say on these pipelines.  A FERC spokesperson told the I-Team that the pipeline proposals aren’t competing against each other.  They will be reviewed independently and both could potentially be approved.

A Kinder Morgan spokesman told the I-Team their project would deliver large volumes of gas to the region.  As such, costs over time stand to decrease for consumers.   Last winter, he continues, New Englanders spent approximately $3.6 billion more for electricity than they would have, if sufficient pipeline capacity had been available.

“There’s got to be another way, it can’t be that black and white you shouldn’t have to ruin an area to lower people’s costs. This is the 21st century they should be able to incorporate clean power without damaging an area,” said Haynes.

Joe Haynes lives in Deerfield and this is part of his property on the Deerfield River that Kinder Morgan has asked to survey.

While there is a lot of talk about renewable energy like water, solar and wind, from 2000 to 2013, New England has only increased its electric energy production from renewables by 1 percent (13% in 2000 to 14% in 2013).  Oil (22% in 2000 to <1% 2013) and coal (18% in 2000 to 6% in 2013) are almost non-existent now, but natural gas (15% in 2000 to 46% in 2013) produces close to half of our electricity.

“The bottom line is we have to do something to address this natural gas capacity crisis that we’re facing,” said Ress.

What about the cost? Kinder Morgan plans to invest approximately $3 billion from Wright, NY to Dracut, MA.
Kinder Morgan is expected to submit their formal application next September, if approved it could be in service by 2018.

The Spectra Energy/Northeast Utilities pipeline expansion in the eastern part of the state is further along in the regulatory process. The cost is also around $3 Billion for the entire multi-state project.  If approved, customers could see a 30% increase in pipeline space by 2016.

Both projects are privately funded so it would be up to your utility companies for how some of that cost goes back on their customers.

Information from groups who are opposed to the Kinder Morgan proposal:

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