Lunenburg– April 6, 2016 – Last night, State Representative Jennifer Benson read the following statement at a hearing of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities on the topic of Tennessee Gas’s petitions 16-01, 16-02, and 16-03.
April 5, 2016
Department of Public Utilities
1 South Station Boston, MA 02110
ATTN: Stephen August, Hearing Officer
RE: Testimony by State Representative Jennifer Benson at Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Public Comment Hearing for: Northeast Energy Direct Survey Petitions
Dear Mr. August:
I have lived in Lunenburg for 20 years, and have had the privilege of representing Precincts A, C, and D of the town for 8 years as the State Representative for the 37th Middlesex District. I submit this letter of testimony objecting to the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline out of concern for the property rights and financial well-being of ratepayers, the environment, and the Commonwealth’s energy future.
The proposed Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline would disrupt sensitive conservation land, farmland, wildlife reserves, bodies of water, drinking water sources, and hundreds of parcels of private property. 432 citizens across the state have refused to allow Tennessee Gas surveyors to access their properties, and that is their right. 23 of these citizens are in Lunenburg. This town knows firsthand how disruptive natural gas pipelines can be, given our experience in 2009 with Tennessee Gas as they replaced a 6-inch pipeline with a 12-inch pipeline, and left swath of damage in their wake.
As if it were not enough that Tennessee Gas wants to tear up thousands of acres of Massachusetts land, they are now asking for electricity ratepayers to fund the destruction. Tennessee Gas’s proposal that ratepayers foot the bill for the pipeline through a series of new tariffs on their energy bills is astonishing and unprecedented. Tennessee Gas is the entity that stands to benefit from this pipeline, and they should be the ones to pay for it. Their proposed funding scheme is exploitative and unfair to Massachusetts ratepayers, and I join State Attorney General Maura Healey in imploring DPU to reconsider Order Number 15-37, which supports this misguided approach.
Tomorrow, a letter signed by myself and dozens of my colleagues will be sent to the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, urging him to reject the tariff-based funding scheme as his office works to craft omnibus energy legislation.
We are at a turning point in the Commonwealth’s energy future. We can either double down on our reliance on high-cost, imported, nonrenewable fossil fuels, or we can use this opportunity to expand our development and use of renewable technologies such as solar, wind, and hydropower. In 2014, 59% of our electricity was generated by burning natural gas. This rate is much higher than the national average of 33%, and higher than the Northeast’s average, which is 40%. Massachusetts is falling behind as an environmental and renewable energy leader because of our dependence on natural gas, and the construction of the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline would only see us fall further. Several independent studies have concluded that, despite Tennessee Gas’s alarmist claims, Massachusetts does not need this pipeline. According to a study by the State Attorney General, “[P]ower system reliability can and will be maintained over time, with or without additional new interstate natural gas pipeline capacity”, and “The pipeline solution fails to offer outcomes consistent with the climate change programs and goals of the New England states.”
It is for these reasons that I ask DPU to deny petitions 16-01, 16-02, and 16-03 of Tennessee Gas. Lunenburg residents have made their opposition to this pipeline clear, and I stand with them in asking that DPU deny the petitions of Tennessee Gas requesting orders allowing them to access private properties for the purpose of conducting geotechnical and other surveys without the permission of the landowners.
37th Middlesex District