More Nails in the Coffin for Spectra’s Pipeline Expansion Project? - Conservation Law Foundation

More Nails in the Coffin for Spectra’s Pipeline Expansion Project?

Melissa Birchard

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently issued a pair of decisions that underscores the dimming prospects for Spectra’s once-dreamed-of pipeline expansion to bring more fracked gas north over a pipeline dubbed “Access Northeast.”

In one decision, the federal agency rejected a request by Spectra subsidiary Algonquin to waive market rules designed to cut down on corrupt practices (such as putting its own subsidiary ahead of other distributors when making releases of gas from a pipeline). Without the waiver, it’s unclear how Spectra and its pals can proceed with the expansion project.

In the other decision, the agency dismissed a complaint that asked FERC to intervene to stop the gas tax that Spectra and its pals want to foist onto electric customers so that Big Gas can make more money transporting its polluting fracked gas. What’s interesting is WHY the agency tossed out this complaint. The commission essentially concluded that Spectra’s Access Northeast pipeline project now faces so many obstacles that there simply may be no need for federal intervention to kill it.

These are just a few of the obstacles the agency cited:

  • the project’s glaring lack of federal and state regulatory permissions;
  • the commission’s own refusal to let Spectra waive market bidding rules;
  • and the all-but-impossible odds that Spectra can find a new financing mechanism in time to save the foundering project following the groundbreaking (and CLF-prompted!) decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to bar the state’s utilities commission from forcing electricity customers to pay for the pipeline construction.

FERC essentially concluded, why bother intervening to stop a project with such dim hopes of getting off the ground? It told the complaining parties they could come back another day if anything amounted from Spectra’s proposal, but, in the meantime, the agency wouldn’t waste time on the project given the current massive uncertainties.

So, another day, another nail or two in the coffin of Spectra’s pipeline expansion project. What’s more, the project, which would increase our reliance on fossil fuels by bringing large volumes of fracked natural gas into the region, may no longer be shaping up as the golden child of the New England governors. Earlier this month, New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan publicly challenged the region’s governors to re-examine their assumption that cheap fracked gas is a cure-all for regional energy needs. And in coming weeks, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are expected to announce the successful bidders in the Multi-State Clean Energy Request for Proposal, an energy bidding process where natural gas was not invited to the game.

What was once seen as a panacea is now revealing itself to be little more than a pipe dream. You can read CLF’s comments to FERC in the bidding docket here and in the complaint docket here.

Before you go… CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.

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