BOSTON - The Conservation Law Foundation has appealed the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities' approval of pipeline capacity contracts between three local utilities and the Texas-based Kinder Morgan, according to a recent article by MassLive.com.

The CLF, which opposes the project known as Northeast Energy Direct, maintains that the contracts approved by the DPU on Aug. 31 are building blocks for federal approval of a 421-mile natural gas pipeline that would cut through parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The utilities with pending contracts are Boston Gas Company (National Grid), Bay State Gas Company (Columbia Gas), and Berkshire Gas Company.

The DPU failed to assess potential greenhouse gas emissions as required by the state's Global Warming Solutions Act, according to a letter from the CLF. "It's time to get serious about addressing climate change, and that simply cannot happen if we trade our coal dependency for gas dependency," said CLF President Bradley Campbell in a statement.

The 20-year agreements were approved over the objections of Atty. General Maura Healey, who charged that the contracts were not in the public interest. The matter pitted Healey against the state's Department of Energy Resources, which supported the contracts in its filings with regulators. Healey had asked the DPU to delay its decision on the contracts until a study of Massachusetts' energy needs, due in October, could be completed, MassLive.com reported.

Katy Eiseman, president of Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast (PLAN-NE), told MassLive.com that the DPU conducted an expedited process when it approved the contracts. "We are definitely glad to see that CLF is appealing these decision on the merits," she said. "A flawed process led to flawed results. The DPU's accelerated schedule required CLF to file its expert testimony before their expert even had the opportunity to review the gas companies' answers to CLF's information requests, and the DPU refused to grant CLF a short extension of time to prepare testimony."

The GazetteNet.com article points that Healey's office has urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider the findings of its commissioned study on need for and alternatives to the pipeline, to be completed by Oct. 31. A main focus of that study by The Analysis Group is whether more natural gas capacity is needed to maintain electric reliability, according to the article.

The pending study is relevant to the supply contracts approved by the DPU in August, according to the Monday letter to the federal commission's Secretary Kimberly D. Bose, from the attorney general's energy and telecommunications chief, Rebecca Tepper. She urged the DPU "to consider the interrelationship of gas and electric markets in Massachusetts and to conduct a factual analysis of future demand and cost-effective energy and efficiency resources before making any decisions regarding additional gas capacity investments." It also called on the DPU to halt proceedings to allow time to consider evidence in those proceedings about gas capacity.

To read the MassLive.com article, click here.
To read the Gazettenet.com article, click here.