Massachusetts Deal Removes Hurdle To Gas Pipeline Into Connecticut
Massachusetts officials and representatives of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. this week announced a tentative agreement to settle a dispute over a plan to run a new gas pipeline through Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, Mass.
The project, known as the "Connecticut Expansion," involves about 14 miles of new or expanded pipelines in portions of New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, including an 8.2 mile section through Suffield and East Granby.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Connecticut Expansion project last March. According to the FERC ruling, the estimated cost of the project is $85.7 million, and company officials have said they have agreements to sell the additional gas to the Eversource subsidiary, Yankee Gas, Avangrid's Connecticut Natural Gas, and Southern Connecticut Gas. Co.
Pipeline officials have agreed to pay $580,000 to compensate the state for the expansion of the pipeline through Otis State Forest, plus additional payments for pipeline easements and improvements to the state forest. Opposition from environmentalists and some Massachusetts lawmakers triggered a nine-month battle over the pipeline plan.
The proposed settlement still needs Massachusetts state court approval, and a hearing is scheduled for Feb. 6 in Berkshire Superior Court.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline is a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, a major energy infrastructure corporation that last year dropped its plans for a separate, $3 billion gas line project through Massachusetts, New Hampshire and into Connecticut.
That huge project had drawn massive opposition from environmentalists, local activists and some officials in all three states, and Kinder Morgan officials said they halted the project because of uncertainty over plans to charge Massachusetts electricity ratepayers for the costs of the pipeline.
Court and administrative rulings in Massachusetts and New Hampshire effectively killed proposals to charge ratepayers in those states for the pipeline's costs. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration, which has been pushing natural gas as a cleaner, less expensive alternative to oil, withdrew consideration of major gas pipelines as a result of those decisions in other states.
The Connecticut Expansion project has received a favorable environmental review by Malloy's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
"This project [through Suffield and East Granby] involves placement of a second pipe in the corridor for an existing pipe," DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said Friday. "The company already has the land rights it needs and does not appear that work on the project will involve any sensitive areas or that there are significant environmental issues involved here," Schain added.
"If completed, this project will bring additional supplies of natural gas to our state," Schain said in an email. "This will ensure adequate fuel for expanding home heating needs as well as helping to increase the availability of natural gas for gas-fired power plants."