Three coalitions of municipal officials have petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider the plethora of proposed projects to carry natural gas into New England, urging FERC to consolidate the review process for five projects to determine whether all are needed.
On Nov. 20, the Municipal Coalition Against the Pipeline, the NH Municipal Pipeline Coalition and the Northeast Municipal Gas Pipeline Coalition, sent a letter to FERC Chairman Norman Bay asking that the Commission consider consolidating the agency's review process for the:
● Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC's (TGP) proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) Project (see Daily GPI, Nov. 20);
● TGP's proposed Connecticut Expansion Project (see Shale Daily, Oct. 26);
● Spectra Energy Corp.'s Atlantic Bridge Project (see Daily GPI, Oct. 23);
● Spectra's Access Northeast Project (see Daily GPI, Nov. 4); and
● Portland Natural Gas Transmission System's Continent to Coast (C2C) Expansion Project (see Daily GPI, Jan. 13).
At issue is the possible use of eminent domain for the pipelines, which FERC could authorize if the projects are deemed in the public interest and awarded certificates of public convenience and necessity. The coalitions said consolidating the projects into one review "would foster an open and transparent process" over the possible use of eminent domain.
"FERC may think that [it] does not plan or encourage various infrastructure projects, but that is not our perception," the groups said. "From an affected community's viewpoint, it appears the FERC deck is stacked very much in favor of the pipeline companies.
"Taken together, these five projects would nearly double the gas pipeline capacity in New England at the very time federal and state policies such as the U.S. Clean Power Plan...are calling for drastic reductions in fossil fuel," (see Daily GPI, Aug. 14).
But the coalitions, which claim to represent 38 municipalities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, conceded that a consolidated review is not "business as usual" for FERC.
"'Business as usual' is unlikely to help solve the very real energy issues facing our nation," the coalitions said. "We know we face some tough energy choices. We also know FERC is facing a crisis in public trust. A decision by FERC to undertake the consolidated review...would go a long way to addressing both [of] those issues."
Just two of those projects, NED ($5 billion) and Access Northeast ($3 billion) would add up to $8 billion for ratepayers.
Kinder Morgan Inc. (KMI) spokesman Richard Wheatley told NGI that the NED filing totaled more than 20,000 pages and included more than 240 separate files. He added that it took KMI and TGP employees more than six hours just to upload the filing to FERC.
“The filing is huge, it’s comprehensive, and it will take an extraordinary amount of time to review,” Wheatley said Wednesday. “We are confident in the current federal approach to pipeline review and permitting, and look forward to its completion.”
Wheatley said KMI estimates FERC will render a decision about NED toward the end of 2016. If the company receives a favorable review, construction of the pipeline could begin in early 2017, and the project could be in service by Nov. 1, 2018.
“We are confident that FERC and any cooperating agencies, state or federal, will carry out a very rigorous review of the project,” Wheatley said. “It certainly merits rigorous review. We believe the breadth and scope of the filing itself will certainly be record setting, compared to other recent pipeline projects.”
Prior to the unbundling of the pipelines in 1992’s Order 636, FERC occasionally considered several directly competing pipelines together, an exercise that usually ended up with pipeline companies combining efforts. However, since Order 636, the mantra has been to let the market decide.
This year, protesters opposed to pipeline construction have blocked FERC's headquarters in Washington, DC, and disrupted a Natural Gas Roundtable meeting with House lawmakers in June (see Daily GPI, June 18; May 5; April 16; March 19).