The U.S. Department of Energy recently approved a natural gas exportation plan that casts a new light on the proposed natural gas pipelines that have been proposed for the New England region, according to a recent story by WBUR radio.
The DOE permit enables natural gas sellers to move fracked gas through a New England pipeline and across the Maine border into Canada, where it would be shipped abroad as liquefied natural gas (LNG). Pipeline developers have suggested that new pipelines, which are being subsidized by utility customers, will serve customers in Massachusetts and neighboring states, but observers are now suggesting that the true motivation is to serve gas producers and their export projects.
“Opponents of the construction of two new natural gas pipelines in Massachusetts claim the DOE’s decision demonstrates that the state already has enough natural gas and doesn’t need new pipelines,” WBUR reported.
The natural gas in question is being extracted in Pennsylvania. “There’s plenty of gas in shale formations there, and in just eight years the use of new hydraulic fracturing technology has transformed the U.S. from a natural gas importer to the largest producer in the world,” WBUR reports.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has questioned whether more pipelines are needed. “Who’s going to benefit from this new energy source? Massachusetts is at a really important crossroads, and when it comes to making decisions about our energy future, we need to take the time to get it right,” she said.
Healey commissioned a study in 2015 that concluded that more pipelines are a permanent $8 billion solution to a temporary problem. Healey says natural gas shortfalls occur for just a few hours on a handful of the coldest days of the year. “My concern is making sure electric ratepayers aren’t going to be stuck with a big bill for building out new gas pipeline infrastructure,” she said.
“This particular pipeline is only being built to satisfy profiteers who want to export to Europe,” attorney Vincent DeVito told WBUR. He represents Northeast Energy Solutions, a coalition opposed to the pipeline that the Texas-based company Kinder Morgan wants to build through southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. He says that Kinder Morgan has found buyers for only half the gas its proposed pipeline can carry. Most of the fuel will wind up being exported to Canada and beyond by reversing the flow of an existing pipeline, he added.
“This month the Department of Energy granted two companies permission to use the pipeline to export gas from Dracut to Canada, where the gas would be turned into a liquid and then re-exported on special tankers to nations around the world — in effect, floating international pipelines,” the article states.
“It proves what a lot of people suspected all along,” DeVito told WBUR. “Even though Kinder Morgan never fessed up to it, it really is an export project.”
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey calls the gas export decision “a disaster.” “The companies proposing these pipeline projects need to be more honest about the ultimate fate of the gas that would be transported through Massachusetts,” the Democratic senator said. “This LNG export strategy will harm our consumers and not help.”
Exporting gas will increase prices domestically and everyone will pay higher utility bills here, according to WBUR. “We will need more natural gas, but that should be determined by our needs and not the needs of the Canadians, not the needs of countries around the world,” Markey said.
“In the past if a company wanted to build a pipeline in Massachusetts it would finance the upfront cost, but recently the state Department of Public Utilities approved a special tariff that would shift the expense of constructing gas pipelines to electricity ratepayers,” WBUR reported.
“Electric customers have never been asked to pay for gas pipelines before and if it turns out in five or 10 years that that was a bad bet, well, too bad, we’ve already paid for it,” said Peter Shattuck, director of the Clean Energy Initiative, told WBUR. “The real risk is that forcing the public to underwrite gas pipelines carries enormous risks for the climate and consumers if exports link us to higher-priced global markets.”
To read the WBUR article, click here.
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