3 Things No One is Telling You About Rising Energy Costs

Oct 3, 2014 by  | Bio |  5 Comment »

Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s first White House chief of staff, was once quoted as saying “You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste,” referring to the opportunities to pass sweeping bills in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. Over the past weeks, we’ve seen that sentiment put into practice by some of New England’s major energy industry players. They’ve been fanning the flames of fear over expected winter price spikes to support their continued push for building massive new gas pipelines, even though new pipelines have no chance of helping to address the risk of price spikes for this winter.

Here are 3 things you’re not being told about what’s really responsible for the increased rates and how to deal with rising energy costs now:

  1. New pipelines can’t and won’t address the rising rates for this winter (or the next three winters).
    • Even under the most optimistic scenarios, new natural gas pipelines of the scale that were being considered as part of the now-stalled New England Governors’ initiative could not be permitted and built earlier than November 2018. Even if they lived up to the Governors’ promises after that, they would do nothing for consumers this winter and the next three winters.
    • New England isn’t the only region of the country that experienced price spikes this past winter. New York, an area that had just expanded its pipeline capacity still experienced higher prices last winter, and the regional electric grid known as PJM (because it covers, in part, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland) also experienced price spikes even though it is located in the epicenter of abundant Marcellus shale gas supplies.
  2. The real problem isn’t a major deficit of pipeline capacity, but a failure to deal adequately with the increased use of natural gas for power generation.
    • We now use a lot of natural gas for power generation in New England, which helped modernize the system by moving us away from old, polluting, and inefficient sources like coal and oil. Because of this, and the way the regional grid’s electric market works, natural gas prices now generally set the price for electricity in New England.
    • Unlike natural gas utilities that supply homes and businesses with gas for heating, which buy gas on long-term “firm” contracts that guarantee access to gas, the companies that own natural gas power plants typically buy cheaper “interruptible” contracts because there isn’t currently a mechanism that allows them to pass-through the additional costs of buying firm supply.
    • In the winter time, people are often turning on the heat at the same time that they are turning on the lights, so the system experiences high demands on gas for both uses in the mornings and afternoons. These “coincident” demands led to price spikes between 10-42 days in each of the last winters, and retail electric prices are now catching up as the market is expecting a repeat of last winter’s high prices.
    • Now that natural gas makes up so much of the electricity we use, the volatility of gas prices has a bigger impact on electric prices and leads to higher rates. We have been far too slow in deploying demand-reducing energy efficiency measures in homes and businesses and in increasing the amounts of local renewable energy on the system, both of which would help reduce market prices for electricity and protect us from volatile gas prices.
    • The increased use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports should help to moderate the price spikes to some extent this year, but more can be done through market reforms without risking overbuilding gas capacity.
  3. Energy efficiency is the best way to reduce your bills and stay warm this winter.
    • Even though rates are going up, you can still lower your total bill by lowering your demand. Massachusetts has some of the best energy efficiency programs in the country which means that you can apply for rebates, incentives, and assistance to help you install efficient measures. Other New England states have programs as well.
    • If you don’t own your home or apartment, there are still some inexpensive steps you can take to cut your bills. There are many ways to conserve energy for a very small investment of time or money. Check back in for a look at how Senior Attorney Shanna Cleveland is getting her apartment ready for the winter.

Holyoke’s Coal-Fired Mt. Tom Power Plant Announces Formal Shutdown Date

Sep 24, 2014 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

Mt. Tom’s owners announced this summer that they would retire the 54-year-old coal plant, and yesterday, GDF Suez filed the official request with the electric system operator to retire this last Massachusetts coal-fired power plant by June 2018. This is great news for the residents who have breathed the pollution from Mt. Tom since it first began operation in 1960. This follows the recent announcement by Somerset’s Brayton Point, the largest coal-fired power plant in New England, that it will retire by June 2017, and the final shutdown of Salem Harbor Station earlier this year.

This request to retire, if approved, will obligate Mt. Tom’s owners to retire the facility permanently, and marks the formal finish for coal in Massachusetts. Conservation Law Foundation has been fighting for decades to reveal the dismal economics of coal and to support an effective transition to sustainable clean energy in New England. This announcement comes only a year after Mt. Tom’s owners were required to install new monitors to measure soot from the facility as the result of a 2011 call by CLF for enforcement of more than 2,500 Clean Air Act violations at the facility.

Holyoke is better prepared than most communities for this retirement because of the work of a local coalition, Action for a Healthy Holyoke, and the statewide Coal Free Massachusetts coalition. These groups, along with CLF, have been working to create a better future for Holyoke for years, and, as a result, the City has been evaluating potential impacts of retirement and potential re-use options for more than two years. Recent legislation will help them further that work with a formal re-use study supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

Renewable energy is on the horizon for Holyoke. Earlier this year, based on CLF’s coal pant retirement work in Salem and Somerset, CLF garnered an important commitment from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to direct the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to offer host communities, like Holyoke, up to $2 million to develop a clean energy strategy, including the construction of a renewable energy project within the community. Thanks to that commitment, Holyoke will have the opportunity to work with DOER to move toward cleaner energy either on the site of the retired plant or elsewhere within the community.

CLF will work to ensure that Mt. Tom’s request to retire permanently is approved in the coming months to create an opportunity for new resources to come on-line, and will continue to work to build a clean and sustainable energy future for New England.

Fresh Air Ahead: Transition to Clean Energy Supplies

Sep 8, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

It is welcome news that the New England Governors are stepping away from a high-risk gamble with clean air and electric customers’ money. Shrouded in secrecy, the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) undertook efforts that were poised to tax electric customers – including customers in Vermont – to pay for bringing massive new gas pipelines into the region.

These pipelines would lock in polluting fossil fuel supplies for decades. The NESCOE efforts are now on indefinite hold. That’s good. The shoddy analysis supporting the plans collapsed after being exposed to the welcome sunlight of public scrutiny.

But as the region closes older and dirtier generating facilities – such as coal plants in southern New England, and Vermont Yankee here in Vermont – and as we move transportation and home heating away from gasoline and oil, we need to make sure we transition to cleaner supplies.

We still have homes to heat, lights to keep on and businesses to run. As a region, we have committed to reducing our greenhouse gases. Our efforts are a model for the rest of the country. Climate change demands that we reduce emissions at least 75% below 1990 levels by 2050. To meet this challenge, Vermont has set a goal of meeting 90% of all its power needs with renewable sources by 2050. If and how natural gas fits into this equation is one of the biggest energy challenges of the next decade.

Once touted as a panacea and a “bridge fuel,” the exuberance for natural gas is tarnishing. Pollution from gas leaks during transmission and extraction threaten to eliminate any of the possible climate benefits from natural gas burning cleaner than oil. But reliance on natural gas, at least in the short term, is not likely to go away. Most of southern New England relies on gas for heating. During the very cold days last winter, high demand for gas drove up short-term prices to record levels. These price spikes have fed a frenzy of cries for new pipelines.

The real challenge lies in reducing our overall reliance on gas. It is not an option to use as much gas decades from now as we use today.

The actions we take now in terms of gas pipelines or new gas supplies need to foster the transition to the next generation of cleaner supplies. Our clean energy transformation will not occur if all our energy dollars continue to prop up old technology and fossil fuels.

The model Vermont created with energy efficiency holds promise for our next clean energy transformation – transitioning away from fossil fuels. For pennies a day our investments in energy efficiency have saved money, reduced pollution and allowed us to avoid building expensive new electric power plants.

As we look at gas supply we can see that making wise use of our existing pipelines is a good place to start. We can make sure the pipeline capacity we already have is being well utilized before leaping to build expensive new pipelines as NESCOE contemplated. This starts with fixing leaks and creating opportunities for storage or contracts to address the few hours of a few days of high demand in the winter.

If new pipeline capacity is added, its lifespan should be limited. To move away from fossil fuels by 2050, any permit for a new or expanded pipeline should expire in 2050. We must recognize the useful life of a new pipeline and not allow it to saddle customers with costs and pollution for decades to come.

Any pipeline capacity increase should include a “system transformation charge.” Similar to the energy efficiency charge, this would recapture a portion of the expected economic savings and use those funds to enable more energy efficiency and renewable power supplies. These funds would allow customers to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels each year, making the possibility of using natural gas as a “bridge fuel” a reality.

A clean energy transformation is in reach. Vermont and New England can lead the way leaving cleaner air and a healthier planet for ourselves and for generations to come.

4 Things You Should Know About CLF’s work on Natural Gas

Jul 29, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

As I write this, CLF President John Kassel and I have just left the White House. We were there as part of a small group of environmental leaders, industry and union heads, regulators, and policy makers invited to participate in a special White House roundtable on reducing methane emissions – a potent greenhouse gas with 34 times the heat-trapping power of carbon pollution. CLF received this special invitation in recognition of our nearly five decades of work to transform New England’s power system. Over the past few years, CLF has been fighting to clean the air and clear the way for more efficient technologies by taking on the owners of obsolete, polluting power plants – and winning. What you may not realize is that, with natural gas now dominating the discussion about our energy future, we’ve also been leading the region to ensure that we “get gas right.”

Here are 4 things you should know about CLF’s advocacy around natural gas:

1. Leading the Way on Leaks: CLF was one of the first organizations to call for more attention to the “fugitive emissions” from natural gas. We partnered with academics from Boston University to map leaks throughout the city of Boston and issued a first-of-its-kind report on the scope of the problem of leaking pipelines as well as policy tools to tackle the problem. Although natural gas burns cleaner than coal at the smokestack, natural gas is over 90% methane, and when it leaks from pipelines or other equipment, methane’s heat-trapping power is potent. Unless leaks are substantially reduced, they can virtually erase any potential climate benefits of switching to natural gas.

2. Taking the Long View: There is a role for gas, but it must be limited. We cannot simply replace every retiring coal and oil plant with natural gas and expect to leave our children with a livable climate. CLF understands that the increased use of existing natural gas electric generation capacity has helped to pave the way for the retirement of dirtier coal plants, but building new, long-lived natural gas infrastructure without any constraints isn’t compatible with meeting our climate goals.

3. Crafting Real-World Solutions: CLF struck the first agreement in the nation to place binding greenhouse gas emissions limits and a date certain for shutdown on a new natural gas fired power plant. When Massachusetts regulators failed to establish meaningful GHG limits for a proposed new gas plant, CLF stepped in and negotiated a settlement that requires the project to limit its useful life to 2050 and reduce its GHG emissions over time consistent with the requirements of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act.

4. Building Better Markets: CLF understands the intricacies of the electric and gas markets and has been working to develop market refinements that create more transparency and liquidity in the gas markets in order to reduce price spikes through better use of existing supply rather than overbuilding new capacity. CLF’s proposals for a winter reliability solution, had ISO-NE adopted them last winter, would have lowered prices and lowered pollution. CLF continues to fight for better market design that sends the right price signals to maximize efficient use of our resources. New England is ahead of the curve on clean energy and climate change – and that’s why CLF was the only regional environmental organization invited to be part of this discussion, which will ultimately shape national policy around methane emissions as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

Three Ugly Numbers Behind the Governors’ Push for Canadian Hydropower

Jul 10, 2014 by  | Bio |  3 Comment »

 

canadian-hydropower

As the New England Governors and the Eastern Canadian Premiers gather in Bretton Woods for their annual conference next week, it’s likely there will be much discussion of building new transmission lines to enable additional imports of Canadian hydropower into New England. Indeed, financing such transmission lines is the centerpiece of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s pending energy bill and the supposedly “clean” half of the New England Governors’ massive gas pipeline and hydropower plan.

Earlier this year, after the Governors’ energy plan emerged, I broke down three big questions about increasing hydropower imports through new transmission projects: namely, cost, environmental impact, and reliability. We’re not alone in asking these questions. Just yesterday, the Boston Business Journal’s managing editor argued that the region deserves a fuller, better accounting of the total costs of the Governors’ initiative to customers.

As we outlined in our preliminary briefing on the documents obtained from the states on the origins of the Governors’ plan, it appears that the economic and environmental analysis commissioned by the Governors is flawed and incomplete. In the search for hard data points, we offer three of our own.

$800 million
per year 
above current market prices

That’s the cost, according to CLF’s analysis of Hydro-Québec and Northeast Utilities regulatory filings, to generate the power from Hydro-Québec’s new hydropower facilities on the Romaine River (now under construction) and deliver it to the New England electric market through a transmission project like Northeast Utilities’ proposed Northern Pass project in New Hampshire. On a per kilowatt-hour basis, we estimate the cost at 15.2 cents, which is more than three times the cost of energy efficiency and nearly twice that of recent land-based wind power contracts. You can access the full fact sheet with all assumptions and references here or by clicking on the image above. It appears that New England States Committee on Electricity’s (NESCOE) economic analysis, on which the Governors’ plan rests, inexplicably assumed that the cost would be four times less than the public Romaine/Northern Pass figures used in CLF’s analysis.

70%
the carbon pollution of natural gas power over the next decade

That’s the greenhouse gas emissions that can be expected, according to Hydro-Quebec’s own scientific research, during the first ten years following the construction of a new large-scale hydropower facility, such as the Romaine projects discussed above. This research, which CLF has extensively discussed in past posts, utterly debunks the false assumption, contained in all of the studies of hydropower imports on which the Governors’ plan, Massachusetts’s climate plan, and Northern Pass marketing rely, that imported hydropower has no emissions. If new imports are to come from new dams in Canada and will principally displace natural gas power, the promised emissions reductions through the end of the next decade are overstated by more than threefold.

canadian-hydropower

24
times Hydro-Québec chose to curtail exports 
in one cold month of winter 2014

That’s at least how many times, during cold weather in January 2014, Hydro-Quebec chose to limit its power exports to New England over existing transmission lines, according to an internal NESCOE document that CLF made available in the archive released to the public last month. In other words, at the times of greatest electric system stress and despite very high wholesale market prices, Hydro-Québec chose not to send power to New England, presumably to meet its own domestic needs. This number casts considerable doubt on the reliability benefits of building more transmission lines, which could go unused or underutilized during the cold weather periods when, the Governors say, we need more power to ensure reliability.

canadian-hydropower

These numbers are illustrations of why CLF is pushing so hard, in appeals filed this week, to get documents from NESCOE and the states. It is time for robust public debate and transparent scrutiny of all the data and assumptions leading state officials and grid operator ISO-NE to call for a multi-billion dollar tax on electric customers to finance new gas pipeline and hydropower transmission lines. If they have badly miscalculated, as these ugly numbers suggest, the plan can be shelved in favor of more cost-effective, market-oriented, and environmentally sound energy solutions that the Governors are now ignoring.

Documents Reveal Governors’ Gas and Hydropower Plan Shaped by Industry and Incomplete Analysis

Jun 24, 2014 by  | Bio |  24 Comment »

In January, the New England Governors announced a plan to finance new gas pipelines and electric transmission lines across the region with billions of dollars in funding from residents and businesses. In an effort to bring transparency to the process that led to and continues to inform the Governors’ plan, in March, Conservation Law Foundation filed public records requests, seeking documents from the states and the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE), the agency that is working to implement this massive infrastructure initiative.

Today, we are making available to the public a detailed briefing (PDF) on the documents we have received to date, along with an archive of the 48 documents (zip file, 25MB) cited in the briefing.

In short, the documents we have obtained reveal not only outright hostility to conducting the planning process in the open, but also a troubling willingness on the part of state officials to take enormous risks with our money, our region’s energy progress, and our climate.

  • “Behind Closed Doors.” The states and NESCOE are deliberately working out the details of this plan in secret, consistent with the view of one of NESCOE’s staffers that the plan should be “formulated behind closed doors” because the “court of public opinion can be fickle and recalcitrant.” Despite public statements that NESCOE is open to feedback, the agency and state representatives have repeatedly shielded analysis of the plan from public scrutiny.
  • Conflicts of Private and Public Interest. The Governors’ initiative is premised on extensive influence, behind closed doors, from the very pipeline and utility companies that stand to earn billions if this plan is implemented.
    • The documents show, for example, that Maine Public Utilities Commission Chair Tom Welch, a chief architect of the governors’ plan, argued in its favor using a memorandum from Tony Buxton, an industry lawyer who represents both a gas pipeline company and industrial companies that use gas for non-electric purposes. Now, Welch is overseeing a case that will decide whether the State of Maine will invest in financing a pipeline project proposed by Buxton’s client.
    • Through a series of private meetings and calls with NESCOE and state representatives, the electric and gas utilities who stand to benefit most from the governors’ plan are now helping to define their roles as middlemen. In fact, Northeast Utilities itself drafted the document the states and NESCOE are using to manage conflicts of interest when utilities buy power from their own transmission projects, like NU’s Northern Pass project.
  • Ignoring Smaller, More Affordable Solutions. Despite public statements to the contrary, NESCOE and the states agree in private that they “are not looking for market adjustments as alternatives to our current investment infrastructure path” that could be far less costly – to the public’s wallets and to our climate.
    • During a private meeting in Washington, D.C., regional grid operator ISO-New England’s CEO admitted that the point of the governors’ plan is to “overbuild” gas pipeline. However, as Vermont Governor Shumlin suggested recently, overinvestment risks “huge stranded costs” for customers in decades to come. This effort is not about reliability, as NESCOE would have us believe. It’s about directing public money to large energy companies outside of public oversight.
    • As for the governors’ interest in buying more Canadian hydropower by forcing customers to pay for new international power lines, the documents include recent analysis showing that hydropower doesn’t need long-term contracts or other help and that it wasn’t even available to New England when we wanted it during the coldest days of last winter. However, the states and NESCOE appear to be disregarding these findings entirely.

Ultimately, CLF obtained a mere fraction of the documents we requested. Despite acting on behalf of state governments and receiving $2 million annually in public funding through our electricity bills, NESCOE claims that it is not subject to public records laws and is refusing to provide any documents to CLF. Most of the New England states have not yet provided or are actively withholding their documents about the plan.

CLF is considering legal action to force compliance and bring these documents to light. But it’s clear that NESCOE and the governors’ representatives are not interested in a meaningful, transparent planning process that considers the best interest of electric customers and also complies with the states’ legally mandated climate policies. As the customers whose dollars are at risk, we all should have a chance to fully understand what we will be buying with this proposed plan – through an open process based on sound research and analysis, not backroom dealings with industry insiders.

Read CLF’s detailed briefing on the documents here.

Download the archive of documents referenced in CLF’s detailed briefing here.

Maine is Ground Zero for Determining the Role of Natural Gas in New England’s Energy Future

Jun 10, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

One of the greatest energy and climate challenges facing Maine and the nation is making sure we get right the role of natural gas in our energy – and climate – future.

Right now, Maine is ground zero for this challenge. The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has opened a proceeding that could result in Maine electric customers paying up to $1.5 billion and three to four times their fair share of an interstate natural gas pipeline. Advocates for the plan say that those costs to Maine customers would ultimately be recovered through future savings on energy bills. Such a financing scheme for new infrastructure would mark an unprecedented and risky entry into the private energy markets by Maine and the other New England states. At the same time, even though natural gas is considered cleaner than coal and oil, it still releases significant greenhouse gas emissions, making the PUC’s proposal one that will have long-term impacts on our efforts to address climate change and to reform the energy markets.

CLF has taken the lead in this case to ensure a transparent, fair, and thorough assessment of this speculative gambit to manipulate private gas markets, as it represents a significant financial risk to electric customers. What’s more, we believe that a new interstate natural gas pipeline will overbuild our capacity and will result in an over-commitment to and over-reliance on natural gas, a fossil fuel with a history of price volatility that presents a reliability risk to our electrical system.

Most significantly, state and regional goals of reducing our emissions of greenhouse gasses by 80% by 2050 will be thrown out the window if this strategy is approved by the PUC, along with any hope of mitigating the harmful effects of climate change. CLF will argue that before any new pipeline capacity is added, we must maximize efficient use of our existing pipeline system, make market changes that allow for more efficient and flexible use of existing gas supplies, fully utilize existing LNG and gas storage capabilities, and expand pipelines incrementally and only if and when market-driven need calls for it.

While Maine is ground zero on this issue today, similar proposals to expand natural gas infrastructure are cropping up across New England. CLF will be vigilant in ensuring that New England does not rely on natural gas as the sole answer to our energy supply issues, but rather as a bridge to a cleaner-energy future for the entire region.

Ocean Planning: The Path Forward for Deepwater Wind

Apr 3, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Thomas Edison, in his quest to produce a reliable, long-lasting source of light said, “Hell, there are no rules here, we’re trying to accomplish something.” As environmental advocates we are constantly battling against this idea that rules and process delay progress and chill innovation. As advocates for ocean planning, we have argued that just the opposite is true – using good data, understanding how people and species use the ocean will eliminate conflict and facilitate the appropriate siting and development of offshore wind projects.

This morning, at a hearing to decide the fate of Deepwater Wind’s proposed 30-megawatt wind project off the coast of Block Island, Coastal Resources Management Council member, David Abedon, used this Edison quote to suggest that Thomas was wrong about rules stifling innovation, at least in Rhode Island. The ocean planning process, he said, used by Rhode Island to minimize environmental impacts and user conflicts and to select the right location for the Deepwater Wind project did result in a new set of rules and criteria to be satisfied, but without that foundation he wouldn’t have been able to vote in favor of the project. So this morning, the fact that Rhode Island had those rules in place, and the developer Deepwater Wind knew exactly what it needed to do to satisfy the reviewers, meant a unanimous vote to recommend approval of the 30-megawatt project to the full council.

I felt a real sense of pride that the work CLF has been doing to advance ocean planning at a regional level was contributing to the successful development of offshore wind in Rhode Island.

For this project in this State, the rules aren’t obstructing the pathway forward; they have been the very light shining on the path forward. There is still another hearing left before this project can move forward, but there is no mystery in it. The developer knows what it needs to do and the agency responsible for protecting our ocean and coastal resources knows the criteria against which the project should be measured. That is an accomplishment.

Rhode Island is moving toward energy independence and emissions reductions in a thoughtful, deliberate and planned way. That is progress.

The meeting ended with Chairwoman Anne Livingston saying that “Block Island is an important part of Rhode Island and they will be very proud to be a leader in clean energy. And, this project might actually be a tourist attraction.”

When this project is built, I will be one of the first people on the ferry with my children in tow to see the wind turbines near Block Island. These five turbines will be beautiful examples that not only did the grown-ups care enough about the world to put up a fight in the face of climate change, but also that they had the vision and thoughtfulness to do it right.

CLF Files Freedom of Information Requests Seeking to Bring Transparency to the Regional Energy Strategy of the New England Governors

Mar 19, 2014 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

See the first set of documents we have received in response to our public records requests and our briefing of our findings, available here.

Today (March 19, 2014) CLF filed Public Records requests with State Agencies across New England and with the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) that is acting on behalf of the states.

The requests (PDFs) can be found here: Maine (Utility Commission, Governor’s Energy Office, Public Advocate), New HampshireVermont (attachment), Massachusetts (Utility Commission, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs), Rhode Island, Connecticut (Utility Commission, Department of Energy & Environmental Protection) and NESCOE, and are described fully in the press release below. Responses to these requests will be posted here as we receive them.

In an effort to bring transparency to the process through which the Governors of the six New England states are proposing billions of dollars in new publicly funded energy infrastructure, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) today filed public records requests in each of the states under their respective freedom of information laws, seeking records from state agencies as well as the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) – a regional entity through which the states are advancing their plan.

Since the Governors of the New England states first proposed regional coordination of energy planning in December 2013, Conservation Law Foundation has supported the need to replace old, inefficient power plants—as long as the process is fully open and transparent to ensure that billions of dollars in electric utility customers’ money are committed wisely. To date, CLF’s and others’ requests for full disclosure from the Governors and NESCOE about their plans have gone unanswered.

“The Governors’ regional energy plan appears to be the product of backroom deal-making rather than sound public policy informed by open dialogue. Without vital public transparency, the resulting projects are sure to cost more than they should, in dollars as well as environmental impact,” said Seth Kaplan, Vice President of Policy and Climate Advocacy at CLF. “Conservation Law Foundation filed these records requests to shed light on the Governors’ actions and ensure that the public knows more about the projects they would be funding when they pay their gas and electric bills – in terms of types of energy resources, costs, siting, and other elements.”  

Governors and legislatures can and must play a role in establishing energy policy through publicly debated and adopted mechanisms, like the laws that have resulted in the launch of job-creating renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the New England states. When Governors seek to commit public money to new energy resources, their actions must be consistent with the climate, environmental and customer protection laws and policies of the states—and the secretive planning process underway has not publicly demonstrated that it meets this test. Through NESCOE, the Governors have asked ISO New England to impose billions in costs on the public to pay for new gas pipelines and massive imports of Canadian hydropower, leading many to point out that the Governors’ focus on gas and Canadian hydro seems to be a “package deal” resulting from private negotiations between the Governors and energy industry representatives.

Freedom of information laws provide a critical check on the authority of Governors and their agencies by ensuring that backroom dealing can be exposed for public scrutiny. NESCOE, as an entity through which the Governors are acting to commit public resources – the money the public pays through utility bills – is likewise accountable to the public.

CLF intends to make the results of these records requests available on its website at www.clf.org/FOIA

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. Using the law, science and the market, CLF creates solutions that conserve our natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy region-wide. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization with offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

 

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