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Massachusetts Attorney General Urges Closer FERC Scrutiny of Kinder's NED Project

Tennessee Gas Pipeline's (TGP) struggles to win approval of the proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline seem never ending, with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey now calling on FERC to take up a comprehensive evaluation of the project's potential impacts.

"This proposed pipeline would have a significant impact on local residents and the energy future of Massachusetts," Healey said. "FERC should fully evaluate the need for this project in conjunction with other pipeline proposals for the region. My office will continue to play an active role in proceedings for this pipeline moving forward.”

Comments filed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by Healey's office urge the Commission to consider if there is a need for NED in conjunction with other natural gas pipeline proposals for the region, and to review NED's potential impact on Massachusetts residents, communities, conservation land and climate goals. In several long-ago  pipeline construction booms, notably affecting earlier pipeline proposals to deliver gas into New England from Canada and into California from the Rockies, FERC has initiated comparative proceedings.

Healey urged FERC to consider the results of a regional study being conducted by her office that "will evaluate natural gas capacity needs and options to address regional electricity reliability in New England through 2030" (see Daily GPIJuly 7). That study is due to be completed by Oct. 31.

Healey also called on FERC to combine the National Environmental Policy Act reviews of several pending New England pipeline projects into one combined environmental impact statement "to avoid piecemeal review, utilize a common analysis of regional gas demand, and compare each projects' impacts and benefits."

In addition to NED, there are several other natural gas pipeline projects designed to serve New England at various stages of development, Healey said. Spectra Energy Partners LP's Algonquin Incremental Market Project, which would carry 342,000 Dth/d of Marcellus/Utica shale natural gas from Ramapo, NY, to citygates in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, was approved by FERC earlier this year and is under construction (see Daily GPIMarch 4). FERC is also reviewing an application from Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC for the Connecticut Expansion Project, which is designed to provide more gas, including some from the Marcellus Shale, at its northeastern delivery end through upgrades to its existing pipeline system in three states (see Shale DailyAug. 15, 2014).

Other planned natural gas pipeline projects in the region include Portland Natural Gas Transmission System's Continent to Coast project (see Daily GPIJan. 13), Spectra Energy's Atlantic Bridge project (see Daily GPIFeb. 5, 2014), and the Access Northeast project, which was proposed jointly by Spectra, National Grid and Eversource Energy (see Daily GPISept. 16, 2014).

The $3 billion NED project would upgrade the Kinder Morgan affiliate's infrastructure in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut to add 2.2 Bcf of Marcellus Shale capacity to New England states. It would add a total of 412 miles of pipeline, nine compressor stations, delivery laterals and make other modifications to existing infrastructure in all five states.

The company entered the pre-filing process in September 2014, while anchor shippers signed up in March for about 500,000 Dth/d of incremental capacity on the project's market path segment (see Daily GPIMarch 5). About 64 miles of the proposed pipeline would be in Massachusetts, Healey said.

Healey's comments come a month after the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) sought to overturn Massachusetts utility capacity contracts that support the NED project (see Daily GPISept. 22). CLF appealed the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities' (DPU) approval of NED capacity contracts with utilities Boston Gas Co., Bay State Gas Co. (known as Columbia Gas of Massachusetts since 2010 and a NiSource Inc. company), and Berkshire Gas Co. The appeals were filed with DPU and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

In a letter to FERC dated Sept. 21, Healey wrote that she also had concerns about the expedited state level process to approve contracts by the gas utilities for capacity on NED.

"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," Healey wrote. "Instead, the [DPU] expedited the procedural schedule in a manner that did not reflect the precedent agreement's lasting consequences for Massachusetts ratepayers. The department also limited the evidence presented in the case by denying full intervention status to two entities whose members include legislators, municipalities and landowners."

NED has garnered a great deal of pushback from landowners and others in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine (see Daily GPI,  June 16; June 4Jan. 23; Sept. 18, 2014). The NED docket at FERC has garnered numerous comments [PF14-22].

In July, lawmakers in New Hampshire said more scrutiny was needed of the FERC process for approving projects like NED to ensure that the public is fully heard (see Daily GPIJuly 21).

"Our constituents have expressed frustration about the lack of information from FERC and the limited extent that public input is considered in the Commission's review and approval process for energy infrastructure projects," Granite State senators and House members told U.S. Department of Energy Inspector General Gregory Friedman in a July 15 letter.

Last month, TGP executed agreements with producers, local distribution companies and a New York end-use market participant totaling 627,000 Dth/d for the NED supply path component (see Daily GPISept. 29; Sept. 18).

The NED supply path, from northeastern Pennsylvania to Wright, NY, is scalable up to 1.2 Bcf/d, and the project's market path is scalable up to 1.3 Bcf/d. From the Wright area, shippers can deliver into the market path component of the NED for transport to Dracut, MA, or into TGP's existing pipeline system or into the Iroquois Gas Transmission system. Both the supply and market path segments have a planned in-service date of November 2018, subject to regulatory approvals.

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