Is Spectra Energy New England’s last chance for lower energy prices?

Plans to bring more natural gas to New England to lower the region’s high energy prices face trouble. Two separate pipeline plans would have brought more natural gas, a relatively clean and low-cost fuel, to the region while investing more than $4 billion in the projects, but one developer dropped its plan last week.

Kinder Morgan pulled the plug on its planned regional pipeline that would have invested $3.3 billion in the region. Company officials said in announcing the change in plans that the company could not find the support and consumers necessary to make the investment.

The remaining pipeline plan, proposed by Spectra Energy, although smaller, has more emphasis on Connecticut than the cancelled Kinder Morgan plan. Spectra plans to spend $1 billion to widen its Algonquin pipeline, which stretches across the state.

New England has the highest energy prices in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Yet the Spectra plan faces a number of regulatory hurdles before it can begin work on the project.

The company will be pre-filing a docket with the Federal Energy Regulation Committee on Friday. It is the first step toward approval of the pipeline expansion and allows people to weigh in on the project.

The Spectra plan faces opposition from environmentalist and progressive groups who declared victory over Kinder Morgan. Although natural gas gives off lower carbon dioxide emissions than oil, wood or coal, environmentalists worry about fracking – the primary way of extracting the natural gas – and long-term climate change.

Brydon Ross, Vice President of State Affairs for the Consumer Energy Alliance says that high energy prices will remain onerous unless Connecticut can expand the source of its energy supply. “You can’t shut down nuclear units, shut down coal and say ‘no’ to Canadian hydro and still keep the lights on,” he said. “You can’t say ‘no’ to every available form of energy. Our prices are a direct result of man-made bottlenecks.”

The winter of 2014-2015 saw high energy demand with cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. This strained the limits of energy production in the Northeast. Natural gas is the most used energy source in the Northeast, according to the independent grid operator, ISO New England.

“The existing pipelines carrying natural gas into New England are reaching maximum capacity more often, especially during very cold winters,” ISO wrote in a report. Currently, natural gas meets 33.6 percent of New England’s energy needs.

Environmental groups believe the cheap and ready supply of natural gas will divert government and private investment away from wind and solar, thereby delaying a transition to those alternative fuel sources.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and his administration have already set in place expensive standards that require 27 percent of all of the state’s energy to come from “renewable” resources by 2020, a move that is projected to increase the cost of energy in the state. Such an increase could damage the state’s already-struggling economy.

According to a 2015 study, the new standards will cause electricity prices to increase and “put downward pressure on households’ disposable income.”

“By 2020, the Connecticut economy will shed 2,660 jobs,” the study authors said.

Currently the state generates only 3.5 percent of its energy from renewable resources, most of which is generated in Maine.

The Malloy administration has typically been in favor of natural gas usage, which is seen as a more environmentally friendly form of energy than oil, coal or wood but has not yet weighed in on the proposed pipeline.

To contribute your view to the pre-filing docket follow this link

Hard Copy Letters can be sent to:

Access Northeast Project,
FERC Docket No. PF16-1-000
Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426

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