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Environmental Group Supports More Pipes

Environmental Group Supports More Pipes

A major environmental group in New England foresees a "fairly immediate" need for expansion of two new pipelines in the region and for "significant" additional pipe capacity to satisfy the natural gas demands of power plants that are planned for that area.

While environmentalists are known to generally oppose pipeline projects, the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) of Boston, MA, is welcoming additional gas pipeline capacity into the New England region to help reduce its dependence on dirty fossil fuels as a source of its electricity.

"CLF is concerned that there be sufficient gas supply brought into New England to ensure that market-driven development of new, clean natural gas power plants is not constrained," Richard B. Kennelly Jr., staff attorney for the group, told FERC in a recent letter.

A report by The NorthBridge Group, which was commissioned by CLF, suggested that compression expansion of two new pipeline systems, Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline and Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS), could meet much of the gas needs of the new power plant facilities that are planned for New England. It believes capacity on PNGTS-which went into operation earlier this year-could be more than tripled through additional compression, and that capacity on Maritimes-which still is being constructed-could be expanded 50% or more.

These expansions would be "quicker and cheaper" than building greenfield pipelines to supply new gas-fired power generation facilities, according to the NorthBridge report. But CLF doesn't think that expanding PNGTS-Maritimes' capacity alone will be enough, Kennelly said. It also believes there will be a need "within four years" for about 480-800 MMcf/d of new pipe capacity in New England.

That's because its estimate for new power plant construction in the region is more bullish than others. While "conventional wisdom" predicts that about 9,000 MWs of new gas plants will be constructed, CLF puts the number closer to 12,000-14,000 MWs in the current "wave" of plant development, Kennelly noted.

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