The recently announced formation of the Coalition to Lower Energy Costs (CLEC) represents the latest tactic employed by Kinder Morgan and its Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) subsidiary in their effort to build a gas pipeline on the backs of electric customers. The acronym’s distinct resemblance to the Koch brothers’ ALEC front group is just a coincidence, but this move is straight out of the same playbook. The group’s press release suggests that it represents the interests of “citizens” and “consumers” to lower energy costs, but this thin veil cloaks a group of lawyers and gas executives set on doing quite the opposite.
The fact is, CLEC is led by a former natural gas company executive and an attorney with the law firm that represents TGP. The entirety of CLEC’s officers and directors are employees of that same TGP law firm and its political strategy subsidiary. Needless to say, the focus of this group will have a lot less to do with the interests of our electric consumers and more to do with the 2 bcf/day pipeline that TGP is struggling to fund and build in western Massachusetts.
A quick read of CLEC’s website exposes its self-serving intentions as it unabashedly proposes that the solution to anticipated high energy costs is the development of a new 2 bcf/day pipeline to be paid for by consumers – a pipeline that would just happen to follow the same route from New York to Dracut, MA, that TGP has proposed. CLEC cites two “studies” that support this approach, but neglects to mention that they were written by experts hired by TGP and that their “flood the market with gas” approach was widely discredited by a variety of experts as being bad for consumers and likely to undermine the energy markets in a recent proceeding before the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
The CLEC/TGP proposal is not a solution. First, it was already rejected by the first regulatory body to consider it, the Maine PUC staff, which has recommended to its Commissioners that the cost to consumers of investing their money in a gas pipeline outweighs any benefits. Second, CLEC fails to advise us that this “money saving pipeline” that we should pay for is highly controversial and unlikely to obtain the necessary permits, and that even if it does obtain permits, it would not be in-service for at least another 4–5 years. Finally, by that time, already planned incremental pipelines will be in-service and, in combination with ramped up energy efficiency, expanded management of gas and electric demand, and increased renewable energy resources, will have already helped provide relief to consumers without burdening them with the $3–6 billion cost of a new pipeline – and the climate implications that come with it.
What’s more, at least one of the companies proposing those incremental pipeline projects would undertake them with or without the public subsidy that TGP is asking for. So, thanks anyway TGP, we can’t afford your brand of consumer assistance.