New England consumers could use an additional two billion -- 2,000,000,000! -- cubic feet of natural gas every day, according to reliable estimates. But we can’t get that fuel because the aged pipelines supplying the region are operating at their limits.Two companies, Kinder Morgan and Algonquin, propose to rectify that problem by building new pipelines. Kinder Morgan’s would go from New York State to Dracut, Massachusetts, on a path roughly paralleling Route 2. Algonquin’s would come into southeastern Massachusetts from Connecticut.
Thanks to the fracking of the Marcellus Shale, a gas-saturated rock formation beneath four eastern states, there’s more than enough gas, nearby, to fill those pipelines. The prices charged for it are surprisingly cheap.[DISCLOSURE: Preti Minahan Strategies is affiliated with the law firm of Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios, which represents the Industrial Energy Consumers Group (IECG) in Maine. The IECG favors increasing deliveries of natural gas to New England.]
Today, we pay a huge premium for gas because pipeline constraints make it very difficult to get the fuel we need when we need it. Industry folks call that premium the basis differential. Last year, New Englanders paid basis differential costs totaling $3.6 billion. As the largest sub-group, Massachusetts residents paid the highest basis differential: $1.6 billion.If the existing pipeline limits were eliminated via the construction of the Kinder Morgan and Algonquin pipelines, Marcellus Shale gas would flow freely into New England and we’d no longer be paying the basis differential.
The people of Massachusetts would have more than a billion and a half dollars to spend on other things. Such spending would jolt the economy forward. Young people would find it easier to find a job; older persons would have less trouble holding onto a job and getting a raise.
Sounds simple, no? But simple it is not.
The people who would have to live with the Kinder Morgan pipeline don’t want it. And they’re mobilizing. Big time. In virtually every city and town it would cross, the pipeline faces a buzz saw of opposition.One gentleman who attended an anti-pipeline rally on Boston Common in July complained that it would cut a terrible swath through his property in Ashfield. Many trees would be cut down, he lamented, including one under which he scattered his mother’s ashes.
Another man, who operates a family farm in Deerfield, estimated he’d lose at least 600 fruit trees to the pipeline. “Our very way of life is being trampled,” he said. “Our orchards will be ripped apart and our iconic hillside will be destroyed.”Elected officials have naturally sided with their constituents who would, under federal law, have to yield parts of their land to the pipeline right of way.
In an open letter, Congressman Jim McGovern wrote, “Let me be clear: I believe that this pipeline is irresponsible.”Five state legislators from Western Massachusetts, led by Pittsfield senator Ben Downing, issued a joint statement, declaring, “We oppose the (pipeline) project for environmental, economic, public safety and public health reasons.”
U.S. Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren both oppose the Kinder Morgan proposal. In a recent guest column in the Berkshire Eagle, Warren wrote, “I have heard from many Massachusetts homeowners and businesses that are deeply concerned about the impact of this proposal on their farms and properties.”Instead of allowing the pipeline to be built, Warren later suggested to the Boston Herald, we should repair and upgrade the state’s existing pipelines and gas service pipes – “the old methane-leaking pipes,” as she described them.
Warren dared not say those repairs and upgrades could prevent two billion cubic feet of gas per day from leaking into the atmosphere, an utter implausibility.If my property was in the path of the pipeline, I have to admit I’d react to this project as most folks in its direct path are. It’s asking too much of someone who believes his orchard is threatened to stand back from the situation, to consider please the overall benefits of a pipeline, or to sacrifice his interests for the greater good.
A part of me would regret I was taking an approach, which, if successful, would shut the door of opportunity in somebody’s face. I’d keep that regret to myself.Part of me would know that someone like me, who’s experienced the American dream as a reality, has more say than someone still dreaming. Still, I’d have my say.
Fear is a most powerful emotion.
STATEWIDE, MORE PEOPLE LIKE PIPELINE THAN DO NOT. According to the results of a statewide poll published today in the Boston Globe, 52% of respondents support the construction of the new pipeline to Dracut; 28% oppose it; and 20% don’t have a position on it.