Access Northeast pipeline put on indefinite hold

Access Northeast pipeline put on indefinite hold

Eversource predicted in Nov. that construction would start in 2019

THE COMPANIES BEHIND the $3 billion Access Northeast natural gas pipeline said on Thursday that they are putting the project on hold indefinitely.

The project faced long odds in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but as recently as November officials from Eversource Energy confidently predicted pipeline construction would begin in 2019 and be completed in 2020. The project is a joint initiative of Enbridge Gas Transmission and New England’s two largest utilities, Eversource and National Grid.

Company officials said the project was being withdrawn from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s pre-filing review process and would not be revived until “gaps in legal authority” are addressed.

The project, backed by Gov. Charlie Baker, ran into trouble last summer when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that state law would not allow customers of electric utilities to help finance a natural gas pipeline even though the pipeline’s gas would go primarily to power plants generating electricity. New Hampshire regulators reached the same conclusion in September. Connecticut, wary of having to carry the load alone on the pipeline, backed off.

Access Northeast was designed to bring cheap natural gas from Pennsylvania into New England. Its backers said the region needed more access to gas, particularly in the winter months, when prices rise and backup coal and oil-fired plants are rushed into service to meet the region’s power needs.

Environmental advocates, who hailed yesterday’s announcement, said it made no sense to spend $3 billion on a pipeline that would be around for 30 years just to meet temporary supply shortages that occur only a few days or weeks a year. They said it made more sense to address those temporary shortages through other means.

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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.

Company officials insisted in a statement that the project was not dead. Bill Yardley, executive vice president of Enbridge, said his company would continue working with state and federal agencies to address the legal issues that had blocked the project. “Once such alignment is achieved, the project partners will proceed with plans to bring the Access Northeast Project to New England consumers,” he said.

Kinder Morgan dropped plans for its New England Direct gas pipeline into the region last year after it failed to line up enough customers for the gas.

  • QuincyQuarry.com

    OK, but what does this decision do to impact the Algonquin/Spectra Energy gas line project in primarily SE MA? Boost its viability, a death knell or perhaps bupkis?