DPU reviewing report’s pipeline claims

Regulators seek information from gas distribution firms

THE MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC UTILITIES launched “a thorough review” of allegations in a recent report that Eversource Energy and Avangrid Inc. artificially constrained natural gas pipeline capacity in New England and drove up electricity prices by $3.6 billion over three years.

Angela O’Connor, the chair of the Department of Public Utilities, issued a statement saying “the review will seek information from gas distribution companies on how their procurement practices balance gas supply needs with delivering reliable service at the lowest costs possible for consumers.”

Information is being sought from Bay State Gas, Berkshire Gas, Fitchburg Gas and Electric, Boston Gas, Colonial Gas, Liberty Utilities, and NStar Gas Co.

Attorney General Maura Healey has also said her office is reviewing the report, which was written by four researchers from the Environmental Defense Fund, the University of California San Diego, the University of Wyoming, and Vanderbilt.

The report claimed that gas distribution companies owned by Eversource and Avangrid regularly reserved capacity on the Algonquin natural gas pipeline for their customers and then released it at the last moment when it couldn’t be rerouted to gas-fired power generators looking for supply. The Environmental Defense Fund said it had no explanation for the actions of the two companies, but the report implied the firms were attempting to drive up the wholesale price of electricity.

Eversource called the report a “complete fabrication.”

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

In a recent commentary on the report, D. Maurice Kreis, the consumer advocate on utility issues in New Hampshire, wrote that Eversource’s “argument is not without some merit” but suggested more research is needed to uncover what happened and how regulators could address it.

Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman for ISO-New England, the region’s power grid operator, said the agency is not investigating the charges contained in the report. This is a matter for state and federal regulatory bodies to review,” she said in an email.

  • NortheasternEE

    State and regional mandates for 100% renewable energy from variable and intermittent wind and solar power is forcing the wholesale market for electricity to replace coal and nuclear with the flexible power of natural gas. Only natural gas, piped in just in time all the way from Pennsylvania, has the flexibility to balance the volatile power output from wind and solar.

    The New England grid is headed for total domination of monopolistic supplies of natural gas. Unless a way is found to at least keep nuclear on the grid. this type of manipulation will become common, rates will skyrocket, and as long as natural gas is in the mix, Global Warming will not be avoided.

    It’s time for state and regional authorities to call a halt to the forced march to a clean energy future until there is certainty that we can achieve a reversal to Climate Change at a reasonable cost to society.