LePage urges feds to approve new natural gas pipelines

Posted Feb. 29, 2016, at 3:29 p.m.
Last modified April 21, 2016, at 11:57 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has asked regulators to move quickly in considering a $5 billion natural gas pipeline proposal from Kinder Morgan, and others, in order to get more of the fuel into New England.

LePage wrote last week to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, asking them to “expeditiously move forward” in considering Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct project, which would connect Dracut, Massachusetts, to the gas-rich Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania.

“We cannot afford inaction or delay on New England pipeline proposals, and it is critical that these projects move forward as quickly as possible,” LePage wrote.

The $5 billion proposal would build a new pipeline through Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

LePage has made similar requests of FERC for other natural gas pipeline proposals, including three expansion projects from Spectra Energy.

“Now that the [Northeast Energy Direct] project is before you, I similarly request that you move forward expeditiously in your review of that project to relieve New England’s natural gas capacity challenges,” LePage wrote.

The region, which depends highly on natural gas for generating electricity, does not have enough pipeline capacity to serve demand during times of peak load and has faced a steady beat of other types of power generation retiring.

As a greenfield project, the Kinder Morgan proposal has elicited opposition from environmental groups denouncing new infrastructure to move gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and from others near the path of the proposed project.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan in December 2015 wrote to FERC urging regulators to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of the project.

“I again encourage FERC to carefully consider whether the potential negative impacts of the project would disproportionately outweigh the benefits, particularly for the New Hampshire residents and communities that would bear the burden of hosting the project,” Hassan wrote.

LePage urged regulators in the Feb. 3 letter, filed with FERC on Wednesday, to consider the public good of a new pipeline project against opposition driven by “not-in-my-backyard” sentiment, otherwise called NIMBYism.

“I urge you to review the applications before you in a timely manner, paying sufficient attention to local concerns while fully understanding of the nature of public goods like infrastructure projects that provide enormous but dispersed benefits to society at large but often struggle to aggregate support in the face of “not-in-my-backyard” sentiment,” LePage wrote.

As part of the application process, Kinder Morgan has already lined up local distribution companies who would buy capacity from the new line, which would deliver about 1.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day into New England and Canada, according to the company’s website.

A decision on the company’s request is still pending review before FERC.

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