Reading the politics of fuel in New Hampshire

Granite Staters love the land, the quiet pace and clean waters. They also value a thriving economy, services that make life palatable, and having their say at every level of government. Now as policymakers seek to lower energy costs and energy developers look for expansion opportunities, residents who live along proposed new pipeline routes find themselves in one of the most challenging situations of their lives. And many are asking themselves, “How did we get here?”

The universal demand for energy has us between a rock and a hard place, as the energy needs of the entire Northeast are weighed against the safety, comfort and property rights of those in the pipeline’s path. With steadily increasing fuel prices throughout the Northeast in recent years, New England governors identified the expansion of natural gas pipelines as early as December 2013, as way to reduce energy costs in the short-term.

In late 2013, New England governors were calling for a tariff on electricity ratepayers as a means of paying for expansion of gas pipeline infrastructure in the region. The tariff proposal never got off the ground, but into this fray several energy developers have stepped forward, including Kinder Morgan, seeking to expand its gas pipeline infrastructure in New England.

Gov. Maggie Hassan told the Ledger-Transcript she and other New England governors were looking at the Northeast as a whole when they came to the decision that natural gas would be a good thing to promote.

“We have a longtime energy crisis in this area of the country,” she said, in an interview in July, calling natural gas a “bridge fuel” as the state develops more renewable energy sources. We need to move a way from oil and coal, she added.

Kinder Morgan has contracts to provide up to half the gas transported via the Tennessee Gas Pipeline to New England, Hassan noted in an interview on Sept. 23, and New Hampshire is part of a New England regional power grid.

“Increased gas capacity in our state will help,” Hassan said, noting that the high costs of energy impacts the state’s economic competitiveness. “There are always concerns when we are trying to adjust infrastructure for communitywide, statewide and regionwide demand.”

The state’s Public Utilities Commission studied three pipeline options currently on the table, and issued a report finding that Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct is a cost-effective plan for lowering electricity rates.

“Upon completion of the NED project, TGP will have the ability to physically deliver into every pipeline system serving New England as well as to incrementally serve markets along its own pipeline system. In addition, because of the location the NED pipeline relative to the Central Massachusetts Hub (Mass Hub) area, TGP could play a critical role in serving future new generations expected to be located in that area,” the report reads.

Without the increased capacity of NED, the report says the January price of gas between 2019 and 2028 is projected to double, according to ICF International, a management consulting services company ·Kinder Morgan hired to study the project.

Hassan said the PUC is currently considering whether NED’s impact is worth the benefits of reduced energy costs. “Win-win solutions” are key, Hassan said.

The PUC also looked at two other proposals, one was Access Northeast and the other Portland Natural Gas Transmission System, both of which call for expansion of existing natural gas pipelines. The PUC found Access Northeast to be cost-effective, too, but said it didn’t have enough information to speculate about Portland Natural Gas. The latter’s pipeline infrastructure runs from the Canadian border to Westbrook, Maine, and then on to Methuen and Dracut and Haverhill, all in Massachusetts.

Spectra Energy’s Access Northeast would expand the existing Algonquin pipeline system that runs through New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts by 125 miles, mostly along existing routes. “The project also includes expansion of existing market area storage Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities in Acushnet, Massachusetts. The project will deliver up to 1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, all or most of which will be used for electric generation,” according to the company’s website.


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