Mass. business groups push natural gas
Form new coalition to press for more pipeline capacity
ON A DAY WHEN the Baker administration touted 2,000 megawatts of installed solar capacity in Massachusetts, the leaders of eight Bay State business groups appealed to Beacon Hill leaders to expand the supply of natural gas.
“By boosting our supply of natural gas, we can stabilize energy prices, reduce costs to ratepayers, and attract jobs and businesses to our state, while also speeding our transition to renewable energy and advancing our position as a climate change leader,” the eight business leaders said in a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Harriette Chandler.
Calling themselves the Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy, the business leaders did not have a ready answer for how to finance new gas pipeline capacity, which has been a key stumbling block. But by addressing their letter to Beacon Hill’s political leaders, the business officials seemed to be suggesting that legislation was needed to pave the way for a pipeline financing mechanism.
The letter reignites a long-simmering debate in New England about the best way to deal with pipeline constraints during peak demand periods, particularly during winter months. Lines are clearly drawn, with some decrying the push for a decades-long commitment to a pipeline carrying fossil fuel, while others say expanded use of natural gas can keep electricity prices in check and act as a bridge to a future featuring more renewable energy.
The letter said adding natural gas pipeline capacity would reduce the need to burn dirtier fossil fuels when pipeline constraints come into play during peak demand periods. The letter also said greater use of natural gas would allow for the electrification of the region’s automobile fleet, which accounts for 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts.The signers of the letter included Rick Lord, the president and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts ; James Rooney, the president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce; J.D. Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable; Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts; Chris Carlozzi, Massachusetts director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses; Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber; Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts; and Jack Lank, president of the United Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Notably absent from the coalition was the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, which represents the largest and most powerful companies in the state.