January 8, 2018
Doomsday weather scenario ...
without the doom.
(Departure from average temperatures worldwide. Blue = below average, Red = above average. Source: University of Maine Climate Change Institute's Climate Re-Analyzer, screenshot 1/6/18.)

Baby, it's cold outside.
This current weather pattern over the eastern half of the US is the pipeline-doomsday scenario pro-pipeline professionals and lobbyists have been warning us about. And yet, everyone still has heat and the lights are still on.
Are wholesale "natural" gas prices high right now? Yes.
(Check ISO-NE's site for real-time data.) But that's because competing needs for heat and electric generation in a cold snap and the faulty market pricing strategy. This pinch will not be relieved by more pipeline capacity, but just serve to make us more reliant on the fuel source that is putting us in this position.

Conservation Law Foundation recently eloquently summed up the nature of these price spikes:
"... it is critical to acknowledge the historically short duration of winter price spikes. When they occur, they are limited to a handful of hours during the mornings and evenings of only our coldest days, when there is a coincidence of high gas use for heating and for generating electricity. As a result, these costly “needle peak” demands for electricity generally occur only 10 to 40 days out of the year, or in the range of 5 percent of the total hours the system operates in a year. The prospect of spending billions of dollars on pipelines that will sit idle 95 percent of the time and become obsolete in the next 10 to 15 years as our grid becomes increasingly clean defies all economic sense, environmental sense, and common sense. "
Are the chief supply lines coming in from the Marcellus region (Kinder Morgan's Tennessee Gas Pipeline, and Enbridge's Algonquin) near capacity? Yes.
But thanks to the drop in electric demand because of energy efficiency, the system is working, even in this recent, uncharacteristically severe cold snap. The way forward is to double down energy efficiency and sharply increase renewables, not hamstring the region with a decades-long commitment to new fossil fuel infrastructure and an even greater dependency on "natural" gas and it's price volatility.

ISO-NE's Power System Updates show that despite the long, severe cold snap, New England's bulk power system is continuing to operate reliably. Even with Pilgrim nuclear plant tripping offline and Winter Storm Grayson delaying fuel deliveries, the system has continued to function and provide power reliably without the need for increased pipeline capacity.

“New England’s bulk power system continues to operate reliably. Currently, there are sufficient generating resources available to meet consumer demand and maintain power system reliability this weekend, barring an unexpected outage of any large system resource. While the ISO is continually assessing the reliability of the system, we will be challenged to deal with major contingencies under these cold weather conditions. In addition, the ISO doesn’t expect generator emission limitations to impede weekend grid operations.”

Use of oil for electric generation has gone up during this time. (Check ISO-NE's site for real-time data on the mix of fuels providing electricity at any given time.) This is because the cost of natural gas is driven up by the market structure that allows long-term contracts for pipeline capacity for heating, leaving electric generation to purchase at market rate. For plants that can choose which fuel to use, or for electric generation operations that have both kinds of power plants available, oil becomes the cheaper choice.

Even as oil plants go the way of coal plants in Massachusetts and eventually retire from operation, this wholesale gas pricing dynamic that pits home heating against electric generation during cold weather remains in place. Adding more pipeline capacity to the region would only make us even more dependent on this one source of fuel that's prone to market price-swings.

Our efforts as a region need to move forward into diversifying our energy supply with sharp increases in appropriately sited solar, wind, grid-scale peak demand storage and further increases in energy efficiency.  The functioning of our existing energy systems in recent extreme weather has shown that the call for more pipeline capacity in the face of polar vortex scenarios is a paper tiger.
Columnist Marty Nathan: Build stature as clean-energy community
by Marty Nathan, Daily Hampshire Gazette
January 3, 2018

(Excerpt) — In November, we were all presented with a local challenge to that drive to fight climate change. Columbia Gas, respected for its aggressive job plugging methane leaks in its Northampton and Springfield pipes, has offered a plan to the Department of Public Utilities that it will trade for the lifting of its moratorium on new gas hookups.
Columbia Gas says that the gas capacity of the Northampton lateral pipeline that comes off the major west-east pipeline serving our state is insufficient to allow any increase in gas consumption in either the Easthampton or Northampton communities which it serves. That was the stated reason for imposing the moratorium in 2014. The price to be paid for lifting it was permitting the now-defunct Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Energy Direct project.

Both the pipeline and the moratorium were resisted mightily here in Northampton, with a City Council resolution demanding transparency about the  true limitations of natural gas capacity. It was feared that lack of new hookups would hinder building such new projects as the Village Hill Northampton and Pleasant Street developments. Yet all three are happening, using not gas but electric air source heat pumps for heating. A small part of the large Village Hill scheme employs propane.

Dealing with the moratorium thus has become a learning experience. We were able to grow without those new gas hookups, and employ cleaner energy in the process, adapting to the new global demands to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The electricity for those heat pumps can be and increasingly will be sourced with wind and solar generation through the state Mass Energy Consumers Alliance program, the regional Rays the Valley community-shared solar or from rooftop solar arrays.


» FERC reaffirms its approval of Atlantic Bridge pipeline, with compressor station planned in Weymouth
By Mary C. Serreze, Springfield Republican / MassLive
December 18, 2017

» Tennessee Gas admits it discharged tainted pipeline wastewater near Agawam compressor station
by Mary C. Serreze, Springfieild Republican / MassLive
December 26, 2017

» Narragansett Tribe plans to sue FERC over gas pipeline approval in Berkshire County
by Mary C. Serreze, Springfield Republican / MassLive
December 5, 2017

» Pipeline gas release terrifies Richmond residents – and raises questions
By Heather Bellow, The Berkshire Eagle
December 27, 2017
(Older pipeline segment just upstream from CT Expansion segment in Mass.)

For news on various pipelines, FERC and the industry, check out the
Latest News Tab on our site.

Conference on Natural Gas Infrastructure and Public Health especially informative for Board of Health members and health care professionals
NGI and Public Health Conference - Boston University 1-30-2018

Please talk to your local Board of Health members and any health care professionals you know about attending this important conference on the impacts of natural gas infrastructure on health and safety.

Please talk to your local Board of Health members
about signing on to a letter to Governor Baker about the hazards of fossil fuel infrastructure, and contact Michelle Brooks about any efforts and progress made (or for any questions!)
» Check the list of 50 towns that have already signed on
to make sure your Board of Health isn’t already on board
Upcoming Events from our Events Page

Energy 101 Webinar. Have you ever wondered how (and where) your electricity is made and how it gets to you? What role do the utilities like Eversource and National Grid play? How do municipal light plants differ from the big utilities like Eversource and National Grid? David Ismay from the Conservation Law Foundation is our speaker, and he teaches a course at on energy markets at the Law School at Northeastern University.
If you are in a municipal light plant (MLP) or muni town, this webinar will particularly useful to get you up to speed to come to the January 27th meeting.
If you are in a municipal light plant town and are not invited to the January meeting, please email Oriana at orianareilly@massclimatection.net and she will send you an invite. Please RSVP for the webinar (below) and we will send you the log in info a few days ahead of time. You should get a confirmation email for your RSVP - if you don't, you might have accidentally unsubscribed from our email list, so let us know.

7pm - 8pm Online webinar
» Register online For more information, contact Oriana Reilly · orianareilly@massclimateaction.net

THURSDAY — JANUARY 11, 2018 — REHOBOTH, MA ThursJan11Rehoboth

Stop Liberty Utilities Granite Bridge Pipeline-Lighted Art Vigil. Help us say No Liberty Utilities Fracked Gas Expansion! Fracked gas expansion, methane leaks, extreme weather, drought, floods, ocean acidification and loss of species are devastating. Sometimes you have to make a bit of a spectacle of yourself to get noticed! Join us as we shed some light on the need for 100% renewable energy now!

Dress for cold winter weather. This after-dark event is not recommended for children. If you bring children with you, please dress them extra warmly and have them stay by your side, far from busy street traffic. You are responsible for the whereabouts, behavior and safety of your children. All of our events are nonviolent, drug-free, smoke-free and weapon-free. If you cannot abide by this, please do not join us. Thank you.

Weather permitting: Please click "interested" on the Facebook Event page
6 PM - 8 PM
Outside the SNHU Arena
555 Elm St.
Manchester, NH

See More Upcoming Events on our Events Page
Continuing our work, thanks to you!

Thanks to your support, we're continuing our work to keep fossil fuel expansion at bay, helping you stay informed to take action for a cleaner, healthier environment and more just energy system.

Every contribution, large or small, helps.
No Fracked Gas in Mass is a program of Berkshire Environmental Action Team. Donations made through our direct online Donation button or mailed in check are tax deductible.