Report from AG Healey Finds No Need for Natural Gas Pipeline Expansion

A small win for environmentalists in the escalating battle over pipelines.

maura healey

Photo by Webb Chappell for ‘The Unstoppable Maura Healey

Attorney General Maura Healey struck at energy giant Kinder Morgan in the escalating battle over the company’s plan to aggressively expand natural gas pipelines throughout the state and region.

A new report issued by Healey’s office finds that it’s highly unlikely Massachusetts will experience any “electric reliability issues” through 2030, and, if it does, there are cheaper and cleaner solutions that don’t involve ramming pipelines through dozens of towns. In a statement accompanying the report, Healey’s office noted that it would be turning the findings over to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of a federal review of the company’s ambitions.

This isn’t the first time Healey has expressed concerns with pipeline expansion plans. As The Republican previously reported, Healey sent a letter to federal regulators this September in which she blasted the state’s Department of Public Utilities for green-lighting three pipelines “without knowing all the facts” and without considering “the interrelationship of gas and electric markets in Massachusetts.” Among the planned pipelines she took aim at is 200-mile-long behemoth that would stretch from eastern New York toward Lowell and cut through more than 20 towns.

The new study was conducted by Analysis Group, a consulting firm whose credentials apparently include helping discredit the NFL’s case in Deflategate through statistical analyses of drops in air pressure. Healey’s office asked the firm to figure out “whether the region is facing electric reliability challenges through 2030” and, if so, what the best way to overcome those challenges is while accounting for cost and environmental impact. Researchers concluded that the state’s power system is sturdy enough to satisfy our needs throughout brutally cold winters for the foreseeable future.

Researchers also modeled how the state would handle a severely stressful winter that included disruptions to other fuels. Things would be rocky for a few hours across a stretch of nine days, but the report concluded that the best way to head off such scenarios in terms of customer cost and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to invest in energy efficient solutions and figure out ways to get households to shift their electricity usage during peak hours.

Numerous environmental groups from the area voiced their support for the Healey’s report in press statements. Bradley Campbell of the Conservation Law Foundation said the report “confirms, with sound analysis and hard data, that forcing businesses and families to bankroll a new, expensive natural gas pipeline is absolutely the wrong choice” for Massachusetts. Joel Wool of Clean Water Action said the report “confirms that it makes no sense to force New England residents to pay $8 billion to expand shale gas pipelines—in part so the industry can ship its gas to Canada.”

Kinder Morgan has called the report flawed.

Outside of the AG’s office, tensions are high between community members and energy firms over pipeline expansions. Spectra Energy’s West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, which runs through a crowded residential area, has been the site of numerous protests and acts of civil disobedience. More than 100 protesters turned out at the site earlier this month, and Dedham Selectman Mike Butler was arrested this summer for trying to halt construction at the site.