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Heated Debate Ignites Over Ratepayer Costs As Eversource Files on Pipeline Project

February 26, 2016 By Cheryl Kaften

Eversource – New Hampshire’s largest electric utility, serving more than 500,000 homes and businesses in 211 cities and townsfiled with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on February 18 (Docket  DE-16-241) for approval to buy and sell natural gas from a proposed pipeline expansion.

While the company says that new resource availability will increase system reliability and decrease customer costs – by between $140 million and $270 million annually in the Granite State, alone – ratepayers worry that an estimated $3 billion in construction costs inevitably will come out of their pockets.

Specifically, Eversource has proposed a 20-year contract with Algonquin Gas Transmission for natural gas capacity on the Access Northeast project.

The pipeline, which would wind through Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts, “will take place [mostly] on existing pipelines on existing rights-of-ways,” according to the companies. In the filing, Eversource noted that “the Access Northeast project is not a new pipeline; rather, it involves a series of investments to increase gas storage and throughput on the existing Algonquin system during peak demand days.”

“There is near-universal opinion throughout the region that the high and volatile electric prices in New England are driven by the constrained supply of natural gas,” stated Matthew Fossum, senior counsel for Eversource, adding, “ Through this submission, Eversource looks to provide a clear solution to the constraint issue that will provide substantial benefits to the region, and to New Hampshire’s electric customers. Eversource asks that the commission review and approve the proposed contract to help advance this important initiative.”

This filing will spur the first New Hampshire PUC consideration of the pipeline issue, which has been hotly debated throughout New England.

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