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Company officials said the project was being withdrawn from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s pre-filing review process and would not be revived until “gaps in legal authority” are addressed.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