National Grid Files To Withdraw Access Northeast Project In Rhode Island

Jan 13, 2017

National Grid is withdrawing its application for the project informally known as the pipeline tax.

National Grid’s proposal to charge electricity customers for its Access Northeast pipeline failed in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

It’s a regional project, so the utility filed a request with the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission to withdraw its proposal in Rhode Island, while it revises the project with its partners.

“So we are looking at all other options, anything else that may be possible in order to find ways to get the project moving forward, including ways of funding it: How would that be done? And by whom would it be done?” said National Grid Spokesman David Graves.

Graves asserts the project “is absolutely essential to New England’s future.”

“We here in New England pay among the highest rates for electricity and natural gas in the country,” said Graves. “We need more natural gas pipeline capacity to help stabilize the price of electricity and stabilize the price of natural gas… that’s what this pipeline will do.”

Graves said the utility and its partners expect to introduce a revised proposal later this year.

Attorneys with the Conservation Law Foundation see this development as a victory, calling the project dead. The group has been fighting the proposal, citing federal law that forbids charging electricity customers for natural gas pipelines.

CLF Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer thinks a new proposal would likely fail for two reasons.

“One, it is illegal under federal law to bill electricity ratepayers for gas pipelines,” said Elmer.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court agreed and struck down a version of this proposal on grounds that it was too risky for electric customers.

“And two, it is very bad public policy to be building new fossil fuel infrastructure now in the face of climate change,” said Elmer. “Both of those things will remain true in the future for any new proposal for gas pipeline. And so I think the same reasons that killed this proposal will doom any future proposal as well.”