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New natural gas pipeline proposed between Easthampton and Holyoke

(Loren Kerns/ Flickr)

Two regional energy companies, Holyoke Gas & Electric and Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, are nearing an agreement to lift the moratorium on the development of a new pipeline that will improve service to Holyoke, Northampton and Easthampton residents.

Stephen H. Bryant, president of Columbia Gas, announced last week that the companies plan to build a new pipeline from Easthampton to Holyoke to bypass the Northampton lateral pipeline, according to MassLive. Such an agreement would allow Columbia Gas to feed more natural gas to Holyoke customers and free capacity on the Northampton lateral to meet increasing demands.

For many homes and businesses, natural gas offers a more cost-effective source of energy than traditional propane or coal. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts a 50 percent increase in global natural gas consumption between 2010 and 2035.

“We were concerned that not having the advantage of gas would put our city at a disadvantage for economic growth,” said Easthampton Mayor Karen L. Cadieux. “When they lift the moratorium, new businesses and residents will be allowed to choose gas as an option for their business or homes.”

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz also says the moratorium has affected the development of two housing projects on Pleasant Street in Northampton, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“It’s in the region’s best interest that this important agreement between Columbia and Holyoke Gas & Electric is signed,” Narkewicz told the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

The moratorium, which allows for no new natural gas hookups to homes or businesses in the region, was put in place at end of 2014 when the Northampton lateral reached maximum capacity.

A new pipeline would provide direct service to Holyoke and allow more of Columbia Gas’ natural gas to flow from Southwick to customers in Easthampton and Northampton.

Opponents to the pipeline say the project would prolong the necessary transition away from fossil fuels and increase the harmful drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, for natural gas across the country.

“As a company we have no position on the pipeline,” said Patrick Quinlan, CEO of the Easthampton solar energy startup SolaBlock. “Though, personally in terms of the future, I believe that all pipelines are indeed not an investment in the future, but an investment in the past.”

When public opposition forced Kinder Morgan, an energy infrastructure company operating in North America, to withdraw their plans for the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline last May according to MassLive, other electricity companies like Berkshire Gas Co. had to issue similar moratoriums in Amherst, Hadley Hatfield and parts of Franklin County.

Columbia Gas Communications and Community Relations Director Sheila Doiron told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that it could be several years until the pipeline is in service. Final approval to lift the moratorium must come from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, a process that could take up to a year.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @srobertson__.

Comments
One Response to “New natural gas pipeline proposed between Easthampton and Holyoke”
  1. Mary Serreze says:

    Good article. One thing, though – it was not public opposition that caused Kinder Morgan to withdraw plans for NED. According to a KM quarterly earnings report, the company was overleveraged with billions of $ in backlogged projects. So it abandoned those with low anticipated ROI. The other piece is that KM was having a hard time lining up anchor shippers (wholesale gas customers) and therefore its prospects for a FERC certificate were uncertain.

    Yes, activists played a significant role by introducing cost and delay. But as for opposition itself, Kinder Morgan doesn’t care.

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