Coming This Weekend
A Series of Informative Events!
Many more events including weekly vigils
and protests on our Events Page
Class action lawsuit acuses utilities Eversource, Avangrid of bilking customers out of $3.6 billion
By Dana Drugmand, Berkshire Edge
November 24, 2017
Boston — A new lawsuit brought on behalf of all electric ratepayers in New England targets two of the largest investor owned utilities (IOUs) in the region for allegedly manipulating wholesale energy markets, resulting in inflated natural gas and electricity costs and higher bills for consumers.
Eversource Energy and Avangrid Inc. are named defendants in a complaint filed November 16, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston. The complaint stems from a study released in October finding that the two energy conglomerates artificially constrained natural gas pipeline capacity routinely over a several-year period, which caused a spike in spot market gas prices and led to overall higher electricity costs. The total economic effect on electricity consumers, according to the study, was $3.6 billion in overcharges.
A class action lawsuit filed by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro – a nationally recognized class-action law firm specializing in consumer rights protection against large corporations – is now attempting to recover these overcharges from the utilities.
“Eversource and Avangrid are two of the largest energy companies in New England, and we believe they chose to use their substantial market power to unlawfully jack-up consumers’ electric bills,” attorney Tom Sobol, partner at Hagens Berman, said in a press release. “It appears these companies willfully engaged in this scheme for years, and we intend to help those affected reclaim their losses, and stop this behavior.”
Eversource and Avangrid both own natural gas utilities and electric utilities. The “scheme” arises from their natural gas operation – specifically reserving more capacity on the Algonquin pipeline than they needed and cancelling the reservation at the last moment, preventing competing companies from using the gas. Eversource and Avangrid have unique “legacy contracts” allowing them to adjust their pipeline reservations throughout the day, the suit states. This allows them to cancel capacity right before they would incur a penalty for overbooking.
Since competitors could not subsequently request capacity on the pipeline, gas supply was artificially constrained, causing spot market gas prices to spike and electricity costs to be higher than they otherwise would have been.
Motivation for constraining gas supply may lie in the fact that Eversource and Avangrid both own non-gas-fired power plants in addition to electric and gas service subsidiaries. Higher spot market gas prices make this non-gas electric generation more competitive in the market. As the lawsuit points out, “Defendants are able to profit directly from artificially higher natural gas spot market prices in the form of increased use of and higher prices paid to their non-gas-fired electric power plants.”
The complaint further points to the fact that the utility giants used the higher electricity costs in the region as justification for the need for new natural gas pipelines. Investing in additional pipeline infrastructure would directly benefit these companies, and they even went so far as to try to convince lawmakers and regulators that consumers should pay for this infrastructure through a “pipeline tax.”
Columbia Gas wants Longmeadow connection to interstate pipeline
By Jim Kinney, Springfield Republican / MassLive
November 4, 2017
LONGMEADOW -- Columbia Gas of Massachusetts wants a new connection built on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Longmeadow that would bring more gas to customers in Longmeadow, Springfield and Chicopee and make Springfield less reliant on a single supply line over the Connecticut River.
The project, which could be built in a single construction season once all the approvals are in place, is one of a package of gas-delivery network projects Stephen H. Bryant, president of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, discussed Friday with reporters and editors at The Republican.
The proposal was also part of a set of documents Columbia Gas filed Thursday for approval at the state Department of Public Utilities.
No site in Longmeadow has been selected yet, Bryant said. But the utility has already had preliminary meetings with the town, where development and building projects are notoriously difficult to get approved.
"We would stay away from a residential area," Bryant said. The pipeline passes through the southern part of town. The connection itself, a sort of off-ramp from the east-west Tennessee Gas Pipeline, would be on about an acre of land and would be a collection of pipes in a small building. It would not be staffed.
Sandisfield highway chief: 'Road is shot from pipeline work'
By Heather Bellow, The Berkshire Eagle
November 13, 2017
SANDISFIELD — Winter is bearing down, blacktop companies are soon to close for the season — and for the last six months, pipeline trucks have given the main road here a wicked beating. The town's highway chief is hoping to get help from Kinder Morgan before it's too late this year.
"The road is shot," said Bobby O'Brien, Sandisfield's highway superintendent. "And I can't leave it like that over the winter because I can't maintain it in the condition that it's in now. Where trucks have gone around the corner, some of the road is blowing right apart."
O'Brien said trucks with heavy loads like steel pipes and other equipment have been tearing the road up since early May, when Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. began building about four miles of a natural gas line here.
The condition of the roads is one layer of controversy over the Kinder Morgan subsidiary's 13-mile, Connecticut Expansion Project, for which civil disobedience by anti-pipeline activists isn't letting up. Cold Spring Road, which connects Route 23 with Route 8 in Otis, is now a bumpy ride. It served as the main pipeline access road and is now the subject of much commiserating among residents.
Before the company got regulatory approval for the pipeline, town officials asked Kinder Morgan attorneys for roughly $1 million to buffer the town from budget-busting road and infrastructure damage due to transportation of pipeline equipment.
Negotiations went on for some time, but an agreement was never reached. In an email to The Eagle, Kinder Morgan spokesman David Conover said there wasn't a contract.
"There is no agreement with the town for additional, supplemental economic benefits," he wrote.
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Missouri company buys Brayton Point, eyes offshore wind industry
By Eli Sherman, Providence Business News
November 21, 2017
SOMERSET – A Missouri company with experience redeveloping retired power plants has agreed to buy the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset.
Commercial Development Company Inc., based in St. Louis, Mo., is a commercial real estate and brownfield redevelopment company. The company has agreed to purchase the 1,488-megawatt, coal-fired power plant, along with the 307-acre site. The power plant, currently owned by Dynergy Inc., was shutdown earlier this year after decades of generating electricity.
In a release, CDC said it already has plans to redevelop the facilities – which would include environmental remediation and restoration – and is eyeing the offshore wind industry as a possibility. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center recently identified Brayton Point as a possible site to development an industrial wind port. The state is looking to bolster its clean-energy generation, and offshore wind has been identified as one possible resource.
“Multiple factors attracted us to this site, of greatest interest was the potential for renewable energy development,” said Randall Jostes, CEO of CDC, in a statement.
The sale is expected to be completed before 2018, according to Dynegy. CDC plans to host a town hall-style meeting to introduce themselves to the Somerset community in January.
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