Mass. business groups push natural gas

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 business leaders said the region is “decades away” from complete independence from fossil fuel and already paying the highest electricity prices in the continental United States – costing New England $1 billion in increased energy costs during a normal winter.

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.

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.

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.

  • NortheasternEE

    State and regional mandates for renewable energy are forcing the early retirement of coal and nuclear power plants for a net zero avoidance of carbon emissions. The loss of coal and nuclear is why the region needs more natural gas in the winter.

    Baker should ask ISO-NE if they want more wind and solar, or more nuclear.

  • Mike Hachey

    If the ISO believes we have a reliability problem due to inadequate gas pipeline capacity during winter peak conditions, why does it have rules that pay full capacity credit to gas-only generating plants that lack firm supply? If there is a reasonable probability of coincident supply inadequacy, the capacity at risk shouldn’t get paid the same as capacity that’s not at risk. That may begin to put the cost of new pipe where it belongs. Otherwise, expect more years of continued hand-wringing over this issue.