Representative-Elect Blais Files for Intervenor Status with Federal Agency over Proposed Pipeline Expansion

On November 24, 2018, Representative-Elect Natalie Blais (1st Franklin) filed for intervenor status with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline upgrade application. The pipeline and compressor station upgrade projects included in the application are part of and necessary for the Columbia Gas “Reliability Project” that would pump more gas into Columbia’s Northampton and Greater Springfield Service Areas.

Rep-Elect Blais’ request as submitted to FERC can be found below.

Pursuant to Rules 212 and 214 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) 18 C.F.R. §§ 385.212 and 385.214, I, Natalie Blais, hereby move to intervene in the above-captioned proceeding and offer initial comments.

On October 19, 2018, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC (TGP) filed with FERC an Abbreviated Application for the 261 Upgrade Projects, pursuant to sections 7(b) and 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act, and Part 157 of the Commission’s regulations, for authorization to construct, install, modify, operate, and maintain certain pipeline and compression facilities located in Massachusetts and Connecticut that would increase natural gas capacity on its pipeline system by approximately 72,400 dekatherms per day.

Two and half weeks later, on November 6, 2018, I was elected to represent the 19 communities of the 1st Franklin District in the MA General Court. These communities span 511 square miles in the Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties of western Massachusetts.

As a former Congressional staffer for communities impacted by the previously proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Energy Direct (NED) project, I acted as a liaison between constituents, MA State Agencies, and FERC. I understand the interconnected nature of the pipeline system in western Massachusetts and the ripple effect that a project such as the one being proposed by TGP and Columbia Gas (TGP/Columbia plan) will have on pipeline capacity throughout the region.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently issued a grave warning and the need for immediate action to stem greenhouse gas emissions and prevent planet catastrophe. Specifically, the IPCC stated the need to cut “Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.” Our Commonwealth has made a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions as outlined in the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). I am deeply concerned that the TGP/Columbia plan will be detrimental to meeting the ambitious and necessary goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are laid out in both the IPCC report and the GWSA. In fact, it is my understanding that this proposal is designed to facilitate a significant increase in the use of gas over the coming decade. The construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure flies in the face of common sense when it comes to moving away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner and sustainable energy sources.

Additionally, the safety concerns raised by residents regarding the NED project have now sadly been proven true. The recent explosions and fires in the Merrimack valley left one person dead, 11 injured and thousands displaced. There are significant safety and reliability concerns that must be addressed in the existing fossil fuel system before additional pipelines should be considered by FERC. Methane is significantly more dangerous than CO2 in our atmosphere. There were 16,000 gas leaks at the end of 2015 in Massachusetts, costing ratepayers $50 - $128 million annually. These leaks must be stopped in the interest of public safety, our environment, and our health – not to mention cost savings. Companies must be held accountable and responsibly invest in the safety and efficiency of their existing infrastructure before being granted permission to construct new pipelines.

As the person elected to represent the 1st Franklin District, where 13 of 19 communities have passed resolutions opposing the expansion of natural gas infrastructure, my intervention as Representative-Elect is unique and in the public interest of my constituents. I respectfully request that the Commission grant this Motion to Intervene as a party with full rights to participate in all proceedings on this matter.