For months, the Conservation Law Foundation has been criticizing a regional process that would bring more shale gas into New England.
Now, it’s time for big industrial power users to strike back.
The law firm of Preti Flaherty, representing the Industrial Energy Consumer Group and others, filed documents last week with the Maine Public Utilities Commission that portray CLF’s current stance as hypocritical given its strong public support for gas-fired plants 13 years ago. CLF, the petition states, now seeks to starve the gas-fired power plants that it demanded to be built.
The showdown in Maine represents the latest battle over the future of New England’s energy. Despite our proximity to the Marcellus Shale, electricity prices have skyrocketed following the past two winters because there’s not enough pipeline capacity to get the shale gas here to feed our natural gas power plants on the coldest days.
New England’s governors have been pursuing a tariff on the region’s electric market to pay for new pipeline capacity, along with a separate tariff for new power lines to bring hydroelectric power from Canada. But that regional effort has hit a standstill, largely because of politics in Massachusetts. A bill to help bring Canadian hydropower here failed at the State House in July, and Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration has put its support for the pipeline tariff on hold. It’s fair to say CLF — a nonprofit packed with lawyers, several of them skilled in the arcane art of energy policy — has played a key role in gumming up the works.
Now the fighting shifts to Maine, where regulators are weighing how to proceed with their piece of the puzzle. The state legislature there has given regulators the authority to impose an electric tariff that could cost Maine ratepayers as much as $1.5 billion over 20 years, to help secure additional natural gas capacity for the paper mills and other industrial users there that are desperate for cheaper power.