Interstate pipeline project in CT approved by FERC

The first of five interstate pipeline projects in Connecticut was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on March 3, 2015. Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project, a $1 billion venture, crosses the entire state, entering at Danbury and exiting at Putnam. AIM is the first of the interstate pipeline projects, designed to ship massive quantities of “natural” gas from the Marcellus Shale to New England, and on to Canada and proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) export facilities.

Individuals, grassroots groups, and towns from the four states adversely impacted by the AIM gas pipeline expansion project have formed a coalition to file a Request for Rehearing in response to FERC’s approval. On April 2, the lawyer engaged by the coalition filed a motion asking FERC to vacate the approval. New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as Connecticut, are on the AIM route.

Here in Connecticut, the construction of 900 miles of intrastate gas pipeline to connect hundreds of thousands of new customers to gas is underway. The interstate pipeline expansions will bring vastly more gas into the state, more gas than we use now, so the state is creating the need for gas, by converting non-gas customers to gas, for home heating and cooking. Discounts are offered to homeowners and businesses to convert to gas, via the Green Bank, which is funded by a surcharge on utility ratepayers. The state has a goal of creating 280,000 new customers for the gas companies.

“Gas companies are talking out of both sides of their mouths; they say we need more gas in Connecticut, but they also say they have to convert 280,000 new homes to gas heat. So which is it: do they have the customers here or do they have to create new gas customers to justify the pipeline construction?” asks Ben Martin of 350CT.org.

According to Martha Klein of the Connecticut Chapter Sierra Club, “Natural gas is a euphemism for fracked methane gas. Although burning coal or oil produce more carbon dioxide than burning methane, methane is much worse than carbon dioxide as a global greenhouse gas. In terms of climate change, using methane gas is no better than burning oil or coal. Methane leaks into the atmosphere, and pipelines are a significant source of leaks. Gas pipelines are a disaster from beginning to end: they start in the fracking fields and end at export terminals.”

Many Connecticut property owners have joined this growing opposition to the pipeline construction and the expansion of natural gas infrastructure. Deb Bologna lives on the same land where her grandfather farmed, but that land is at risk due to the plan of a gas company to expand their right of way on Deb’s property, or even to take the land by eminent domain. “I’m so angry. I spend more time fighting to preserve my land than I do being able to enjoy it,” says Deb.

The primary support for these expansion plans comes from the state government. Governor Malloy wrote in a letter encouraging FERC to expedite the approval of AIM, “…a robust natural gas transmission and distribution system will improve energy independence for Connecticut and support our policy objectives to develop low-carbon natural gas use. The demand for natural gas by firm customers has and will only continue to increase.”

Environmentalists, citizens, and trade groups are lining up to oppose the plan to increase Connecticut’s reliance on fracked natural gas. Jen Siskind, a local coordinator with the advocacy group Food and Water Watch, made the following point: “Connecticut communities could become a gateway for dangerous fracked gas pipelines and poisonous fracking waste from out of state. We need Governor Malloy to understand that the more Connecticut residents learn about the hazards of fracking infrastructure, the more he’ll be hearing their opposition to it.”

In 2014, the Connecticut Chapter Sierra Club launched a Beyond Gas campaign in collaboration with dozens of partner environmental groups to oppose the construction of new or expanded interstate gas pipelines and 900 miles of intrastate pipeline.

On Monday, April 27 at 6:30 p.m., at the Harry Bennett Branch of the Ferguson Library, 115 Vine Road, Stamford a free educational forum about gas pipeline expansion and fracking will be presented by Food and Water Watch, 350CT.org, and the Connecticut Chapter Sierra Club.

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