(Bob Croce is Chair of the pipeline opposition group Peabody Citizens United, and a candidate for State Representative in the 13th Essex District. Click here to read more about Bob on Facebook. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobCroce4Rep.)
For more than a year, we’ve been educating residents about the potentially devastating quality of life and environmental impacts posed by the multiple natural gas pipelines proposed for the Commonwealth.
We’ve all heard how these pipelines would put the safety of residents in jeopardy, violate basic homeowner rights and threaten public drinking water for 350,000 North Shore residents within the Ipswich River Watershed.
But there is one aspect on which we haven’t focused enough:
The Department of Public Utilities, an appointed group of state bureaucrats – most of whom are former utilities industry executives – last year passed Docket 15-37, a scheme that will allow electric companies to pass the cost of this new gas infrastructure on to consumers in the form of a surcharge or “tariff” on our electric bills.
Putting it simply, companies such as Kinder Morgan and Spectra will build these new pipelines, and we will pay for the cost of construction. The argument for the tariff is that these pipeline companies are doing us a favor by helping us meet demand and lower the cost of natural gas and our electric bills. The estimated cost alone of Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline, passed onto consumers, could be $8 billion.
Meanwhile, we’ve seen, through a comprehensive study published by Attorney General Maura Healey, how this massive expansion of natural gas pipeline infrastructure was unnecessary from a demand and economic perspective, and could slow our progress toward a clean, renewable energy future.
The Conservation Law Foundation and others are now challenging in court whether the DPU has the authority to enforce such a tariff. But the DPU might also have a powerful ally, who could help the agency achieve a bullet proof defense of this surcharge.
Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset) – who is Speaker Pro Tempore in the MA House — filed legislation (H.2881) this session, which contained language that would essentially make this tariff law.
With Kinder Morgan’s proposed NED pipeline, which directly threatens the 13th Essex District communities of Danvers, Middleton and Peabody, we’ve seen convincing evidence that most – if not all – of the gas transported is destined for export to Canada and then lucrative European Markets. By the way, some experts feel that this export scenario would actually raise the cost of gas in our region, since the price would be set by demand on foreign markets.
While the courts decide whether the DPU has abused its power, and hopefully strike down Docket 15-37, here’s hoping that legislators across the Commonwealth do not incorporate the tariff language in their omnibus energy bill!
Forcing the residents of the Commonwealth to pay for pipelines we don’t need, while companies such as Kinder Morgan make profits on this gas through an export scheme, is obscene and un-American.