Written on: July 17, 2014 by Greg Dool
Texas-based Spectra Energy Partners revealed plans to expand existing natural gas pipelines serving the New England market to meet increased demand in the region.
The plan calls for the Algonquin Gas Transmission and Maritimes & Northeast pipeline systems to be extended—with the Algonquin line widened from 26” to 42” in diameter—by Winter 2016, increasing the capacities of both in the hopes of lowering natural gas prices and increasing reliability.
Bill Yardley, President of U.S. Transmission and Storage for Spectra Energy, said the proposed expansion will be conducted with “minimal effect on communities and the environment,” but residents in the Lower Hudson Valley have voiced concerns over the proposal, citing safety and the potential for a decline in property values.
The announcement comes on the heels of Spectra’s proposed $4 billion, 427-mile pipeline stretching from Pennsylvania through Virginia and North Carolina, which was met with strong opposition from groups affiliated with federally protected lands in Virginia and the Piedmont region.
“Spectra either showed profound lack of appreciation for history in rural areas, or they showed real incompetence in doing credible research,” said Kat Imhoff, President of the Montpelier Foundation. “They’re going through what they perceive as the cheapest route.”
According to recent a report from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), there were 25 serious incidents regarding gas pipelines in 2013—an all-time low—after the Administration assessed a record $9.7 million in penalties for 63 different violations.
Natural Gas vs. Oil Heat
It may be the dog days of summer, but home heating has become a hot topic in Oregon. Clean Energy Works Oregon, a group that identifies itself as a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting clean, renewable energy in the state of Oregon—but lists several major natural gas distributors in the “Allies” section of its website—began offering oil heat customers in the state a $500 rebate toward the cost of removing home heating oil tanks to convert to natural gas.
“As tanks age out, industry is trying to put them above ground,” said John Huber, President of the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA). “The industry has been moving in that direction for 15 or 20 years.”
That’s not enough, says Clean Energy Works spokeswoman Stephanie Swanson.
“Oil heat is terribly inefficient and very dirty,” she said. “If you are in an oil home, and you want to convert, we’re just making it a little bit easier for you.”
Rhetoric may be cheap, but home heating is not. The average oil heat customer spent $2,046 to keep warm last winter, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy.