Rep. Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) Leads Bipartisan Effort in Push for Gas Industry Reforms

Rep. Gordon and his colleagues providing testimony to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy in support of H2698, an act protecting residents from costs associated with Gas Pipeline Expansion – Courtesy image, 2017 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

Submitted on behalf of Rep. Ken Gordon (D-Bedford)

More than 60 percent of Legislature Signs Letter Calling for Ban on “Pipeline Tax,” Regulatory Shift at Department of Public Utilities

State Rep Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) led a group of 125 state legislators who have signed onto bipartisan testimony calling for the passage of legislation to permanently protect consumers and the environment from risks associated with gas pipeline expansion.

Though now suspended, Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline and Enbridge’s Access Northeast proposal each threatened to saddle ratepayers with multi-billion dollar risk while threatening Article 97 conservation land preserved through public investment, private property, and Massachusetts’ climate goals. In 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled the project’s primary financial mechanism, a “pipeline tax” on electric ratepayers, was illegal and placed consumers with a significant burden that would otherwise be borne by investors. Pipeline proponents are currently seeking to amend Massachusetts law to enable the pipeline tax.

A House letter circulated by Rep, Gordon, Rep. Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) and Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) garnered 100 signatures, while a concurrent Senate letter circulated by Senators Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) and Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) has 20 signers. The legislation in question was heard last month and is in the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy committee.

“It’s very simple, ratepayers should not be forced to assume the financial responsibility and environmental risk associated with paying for pipelines that a majority of our constituents do not want,” said Rep. Gordon.

“This bill addresses a number of issues that arose during the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project in western Massachusetts. Our experience in working to defeat that misguided project made it clear that the permitting and financing procedures for natural gas infrastructure do not align with our clean energy future in Massachusetts, and place unjustifiable environmental and financial risks on citizens and ratepayers,” said Rep. Kulick. “We must reform procedures at the Department Public Utilities so that the voices of ratepayers, communities, and legislators are fully heard and considered by utility regulators.”

“As the gas industry continues to push for pipeline expansion in Massachusetts, my colleagues and I are committed to providing the strongest possible protections for the state’s ratepayers as well as our cities and towns,” said Leader Jones.  “The legislation we have filed will not only guarantee consumers and municipalities have greater input during DPU’s review process but will also prevent utility companies from imposing any new taxes on ratepayers to pay for pipeline construction.”

“This legislation would address many of the regulatory failings we have witnessed and experienced at the Department of Public Utilities and would allow the public to have a meaningful role in agency decisions that will impact us for decades to come,” said Kathryn Eiseman, President of the Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast (PLAN), which formed in large part to harness community opposition to projects such as Kinder Morgan’s now cancelled Northeast Energy Direct pipeline across New England.  She added, “The DPU currently believes it can bar municipalities and ratepayers from banding together to participate in DPU proceedings in an orderly fashion with legal counsel and technical experts of their choice.”

“Massachusetts leaders have made a critical decision to support consumer and environmental protections over giveaways to the gas industry,” said Joel Wool of Clean Water Action. “We can safeguard our climate and our pocketbooks while giving residents a strong voice in the regulatory process.”

“This letter is further proof that the political will exists to move these bills. Our legislators realize that ratepayers shouldn’t be on the hook for new gas infrastructure, especially when we don’t need it,” said Andrew Gordon of 350 Massachusetts. “We won’t stop working until these bills arrive on the governor’s desk.”

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