Pipeline foes attack natural gas study

CLF accuses Patrick of stacking the deck

Groups opposing the construction of a new natural gas pipeline coming into Massachusetts on Tuesday attacked a draft study suggesting the pipeline is needed, with one critic saying the $250,000 report had a major arithmetic error.

The final version of the report was scheduled to be released on Tuesday, but the release was delayed. The preliminary results unveiled last week indicated the state would need to expand imports of natural gas to meet the state’s future power needs.

The preliminary report analyzed the demand for gas under eight different scenarios and concluded the state would face a shortfall of between 600 million to 1.1 billion cubic feet of gas on a winter day when demand for the fuel is at its peak. By 2030, the report estimates the deficit at between 1.2 billion and 2.2 billion cubic feet of gas per day. The low-range forecast assumes imports of Canadian hydro-electricity and the construction of Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound.

Mary-Leah Assad, a spokesperson for the Patrick administration, issued a statement on Monday saying the study indicates the state will need more natural gas, large hydro, wind, and energy efficiency to meet demand in the future. “The draft study shows that – in light of power plant retirements – the Commonwealth will need natural gas to meet demand in the coming years. The Commonwealth continues to be engaged in discussions with the other New England states about our regional energy infrastructure needs and this information will help to inform those conversations going forward,” the statement said.

But opponents of building a new pipeline said the study was flawed in several ways and contained a basic mathematical error that could throw off some of its calculations by a factor of 70.

Dennis Eklof, a retired energy economist and consultant from Groton, said he noticed the math error in October and submitted comments pointing out the error to Synapse, the company doing the study. When the preliminary report was released last week, he said the error had not been corrected. He said the error would lead to results that support the construction of a new natural gas pipeline.

“It would make the alternative (energy) technologies much more competitive,” said Eklof, who was running his own calculations to estimate the impact of the math error. Eklof said he is a member of two groups opposed to the proposed Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline.

Eklof provided copies of emails he sent to Liz Stanton of Synapse on Monday pointing out the math error. Stanton’s response, which she copied to members of her team, said “we’re working to correct the error now and the final version of the report will reflect those changes.”

Assad, the Patrick administration spokesperson, issued a statement late Tuesday noting the study results released last week were preliminary. “We have sought and received feedback from numerous stakeholders as part of this process and are currently reviewing those comments and incorporating feedback into the study as appropriate,” the statement said.

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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 Conservation Law Foundation released a statement accusing the Patrick administration of stacking the deck in favor of a new natural gas pipeline, even though it was the administration that backed away from a region-wide consensus on the issue to launch the study.

“The Department of Energy has stacked the deck with a study designed to justify the Patrick administration’s attempts to build public support and financing for natural gas pipeline development and large-scale Canadian hydropower imports,” said the statement issued by Greg Cunningham, the foundation’s interim program director of Clean energy and climate change.

Other groups opposed to expanding natural gas pipeline capacity also issued statements condemning the study as flawed.