SJC Strikes Down “Pipeline Tax”
Environmental activists are calling it a victory after the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court struck down a decision on Wednesday from the Mass. Department of Public Utilities which allowed energy companies to charge customers for expenses relating to pipeline construction.
The Conservation Law Foundation was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and the group's Press Secretary, Josh Block, told WBSM News the decision is good for the environment and ratepayers.
"The court saying that our state can not make huge investments in the fossil fuel infrastructure and certainly can't do so on the backs of Massachusetts businesses and families is a big win for our environment in addition to our pocketbooks," said Block .
"There's still more work to be done, there's still more advocacy to be done to make sure these pipelines never come to fruition," said Block "but if they want to build it they need to find a new way to finance it."
The ruling was welcome news for opponents of a proposed pipeline project in Acushnet.
Wendy Graca, an organizer with Southcoast Neighbors United, told WBSM News that while she believes the ruling will be a big hit for the companies that want to complete the project, that doesn't mean her group is giving up their campaign.
"That was only one element of what we've been working against, and it's certainly a big element, but all the other elements have not gone away, and, so, we aren't either," said Graca "we're staying strong, we're continuing with our campaign efforts to educate the community and make them aware."
Graca also says they will continue to work with groups that are opposing pipeline projects in other parts of the country.
Arthur Diestel, Director of Stakeholder Outreach for Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC/Spectra Energy released the following statement in regards to the ruling.
"Algonquin, as the sponsor of the Access Northeast Project, is extremely disappointed with the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. This leaves Massachusetts and New England in a precarious position without sufficient gas capacity for electric generation during cold winters. The lack of gas infrastructure cost electric consumers $2.5 billion dollars during the Polar Vortex winter of 2013 and 2014."
Eversource Spokesman Mike Durand released a statement that expressed similar sentiments.
"Although we respect the Court's decision, it leaves the region in a precarious position without sufficient gas capacity for electric generation during cold winters - which drives electricity prices up for our customers. We've been working with Spectra and National Grid to address this issue. Access Northeast is a solution that could save New Englanders approximately $1 Billion a year - savings that help consumers and businesses stay competitive. The project would also displace oil and coal-fired generation with cleaner-burning natural gas -- reducing regional emissions and improving the environment."
Both companies called the ruling a setback and say they will "re-evaluate" their path forward.
WBSM News reached out to the Department of Public Utilities, which was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but did not receive a reply back at the time this story was published.