Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Kinder Morgan shelves $3 billion pipeline project

 Kinder Morgan issued $1.6 billion in preferred shares this week. Photo: Kinder Morgan

Energy giant Kinder Morgan Inc. has suspended additional work and spending on its Northeast Energy Direct project, a controversial natural gas pipeline proposed through Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Kinder Morgan said on Wednesday that the company didn’t receive the extra commitments from big customers that it needed to proceed with the $3.3 billion project. As a result, Kinder Morgan said in a statement, “there are currently neither sufficient volumes, nor a reasonable expectation of securing them, to proceed with the project as it is currently configured.”

Kinder Morgan’s initial approval of the project, through its Tennessee Gas Pipeline subsidiary, was based on existing contracts with gas utilities as well as the expectation that others would sign on to buy gas from the line. Executives at the Texas company were also counting on an unprecedented shift in New England’s market that would allow electric customers to be assessed for pipeline construction costs.

Kinder Morgan cited several reasons for this shortfall, including the fact that it remains far from assured whether New England states will be successful in setting up rules to allow electric customers to be charged for gas pipelines.

Kinder Morgan’s statement didn’t mention the concerns raised by the project’s numerous opponents, including residents of towns that would be affected by the pipeline’s construction and environmentalists who worried that the size of the project could make New England too dependent on natural gas.

“Kinder Morgan is stopping the pipeline because it is both expensive to ratepayers and simply not needed,” George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said in an email. “Massachusetts has the capacity to develop its own energy in solar, wind and hydro. In the process, we can create new industries and jobs here, rather than exporting our dollars and jobs to fossil fuel states.”

State Senate president Stanley C. Rosenberg, one of a number of Western Massachusetts politicians who opposed the project, said in a statement: “Kinder Morgan’s decision to suspend the Northeast Energy Direct (NED) project is a game changer. This allows us to have a broader discussion about how to meet Massachusetts’ energy needs.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.

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