Kinder Morgan chief promises lower prices

Says there is not enough gas to meet demand

LAST WEEK, TENNESSEE GAS PIPELINE CO. began another series of open houses to provide important information about its proposed Northeast Energy Direct project aimed at bringing much-needed natural gas to Massachusetts and the region.

These open houses will add to a strong record of public outreach.  We’ve held more than 70 meetings with town, county, and community groups, attended by more than 4,400 people. We have conducted direct outreach to 3,500 affected landowners, and will continue to work closely with them as we seek regulatory approval for the project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

My team has listened and responded to questions and concerns as part of a continuing process to explain both the details of the NED project and why increasing the natural gas supply to New England is critical to lowering sky-high energy costs, enabling development of renewable energy, meeting climate goals, and maintaining and growing the economy.

We’ve done this in an open and transparent way, while also addressing arguments that have been put forward against the pipeline. To expand our outreach, we launched a website in August that focuses on issues related to NED. It also presents pertinent facts about the project and the region’s energy needs.

The input we have received from our outreach has already led to numerous adjustments to the project’s route, with the result that approximately 91 percent of the pipeline path in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire will run along already established energy corridors to minimize possible impacts on nearby towns.

Along the way, we have found there are many residents in the communities near the proposed pipeline route and across the state who support NED. They include residents who are tired of paying some of the highest costs in the nation for gas and electricity, a direct result of the lack of adequate natural gas supplies in Massachusetts and New England; low-income households struggling to make ends meet; and small and large businesses whose energy costs are a substantial burden that threaten their ability to grow.

We have been criticized in some quarters for our engagement efforts and for publicizing the benefits that would result from the project. But we think it’s important for people to know as much as possible about NED and how it can work to solve the pressing energy problems facing Massachusetts and the region.

Natural gas is used not only to heat homes, but has become a main energy source for generating electricity, as Massachusetts and other states have moved to retire old fuel oil and coal electric generators and replace them with cleaner, natural gas-fired plants.  These new, highly efficient gas generators have been instrumental in helping lower carbon emissions and advancing climate goals.

But the fact is that there isn’t enough natural gas to meet demand, particularly during the winter, when much of the gas supply is directed for heating. Although the use of natural gas as a source of electric generation and heating is steadily increasing, the infrastructure to supply the gas has lagged far behind. That is why already high electricity costs spike in the winter – and why, on the coldest days of the year, the region must revert to oil and coal to meet its electricity needs, which causes large increases in carbon emissions.

NED is designed to make abundant, domestically produced and low-cost natural gas more readily available to help Massachusetts and the region confront these issues. We have already signed long-term contracts representing about half of NED’s capacity with local distribution companies to provide gas for home use. Last week, we began a program to open NED capacity to electric distribution companies, and we are working with state regulatory bodies as they consider and fashion solutions to meet electric-generation needs.

In addition to the question of need, we have also sought to address concerns about safety and the environment. It’s important to know that TGP, a Kinder Morgan company, is not new to Massachusetts or the Northeast. We have been safely delivering gas to the state and region for 60 years. NED would be an extension of the existing TGP pipeline that today touches some 90 Massachusetts cities and towns.

Our safety record during these years of service is well-established, and we utilize the latest technology, including state-of-the-art systems that allow us to monitor our pipeline operations around the clock, to ensure we can deliver gas to the region day in and day out without incident.

TGP also adheres to strict environmental standards, which include compliance with rules affecting everything from water quality to wildlife habitat.  In past pipeline projects, the right-of-ways along which we have built have been ecologically renewed. And in many cases, once barren landscapes are now capped by green, natural growth.

Meet the Author

Kimberly S Watson

President, Kinder Morgan East Region Pipelines
We know and expect that the NED project will continue to draw close scrutiny. But we are committed to conducting an open and ongoing dialogue about NED, and to answering questions and providing information at open meetings, on our website, and in the frequent interactions we have not only with landowners and community residents but with a wide range of stakeholders.

Kimberly S. Watson is president of Kinder Morgan’s East Region Gas Pipelines.