Pipeline Protest

Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline protest on Boston Common across from the Statehouse in July of 2014.

REHOBOTH — Activists fighting expansion of the Algonquin gas pipeline through Southeastern Massachusetts are urging area residents to tell federal, state and local officials they’re against a plan they say will bring pollution and noise and be paid for by electric customers.

About 100 area residents turned out for an informational forum at Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School Tuesday on the Access Northeast expansion project that would build natural gas pipelines, compressor stations and storage facilities to bring up to a billion gallons of gas a day to New England.

The gas would be used to generate electricity.

A key component in the plan is a 10,320-horsepower compressor that would be built off Cross Street in Rehoboth, near the Attleboro and Seekonk lines, one of several that would be installed to provide pressure to force gas through the pipeline.

Roger Cabral of Acushnet, treasurer of South Coast Neighbors United, said the forums are to educate residents and expressing citizen opposition to Access Northeast.

“You can have an impact,” he told the audience. “So, keep doing what you’re doing.”

According to the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC plans to expand its 125-mile pipeline as part of a $3 billion project by Spectra Energy, Eversource Energy and National Grid to supply New England generating plants.

Natural gas would be piped in a gaseous state through a pipeline that runs north through Rhode Island through Rehoboth near the Attleboro and Seekonk town lines. It ultimately would be liquified and stored in two huge tanks in Acushnet.

The utilities say the improvements are needed to bring additional supplies of natural gas to power generators that rely on gas as a fuel. They say the lack of sufficient pipeline capacity is causing electric rates to spike during the winter and that Access Northeast would save consumers an estimated $1 billion a year.

Opponents, such as South Coast Neighbors United, say the additional capacity is not needed and that electric customers would be forced to pay the cost of the project through a surcharge on their bills. The group also contends the compressor stations would have environmental consequences by potentially releasing dangerous chemicals.

Attorney General Maura Healey opposes the proposed surcharge or “tariff” on electric rates in an appeal before the state Supreme Judicial Court.

Local residents and officials sounded off against the project and said they would work to keep the compressor station out.

“It’s as clear as day,” Cross Street resident Ann Jarosz said. “We don’t need this, we don’t want this. We want to live and  raise our children in a clean environment.”

Rehoboth Selectman Skip Vadnais said local officials are leaving no stone unturned in their attempts to have  a voice in the pipeline project.

“We’ve been told there’s nothing much we can do,” he said. “We don’t believe it.”

State Sen. James Timilty said he and others in the Legislature also oppose the pipeline expansion. State Rep. Steve Howitt, R-Seekonk, and Patricia Haddad, D-Swansea, also attended Tuesday’s session.

A panel of opponents to the project say the pipeline would not solve New England’s energy problems and that hydro and wind power, combined with conservation, are better alternatives. Opponents also point to thousands of leaks in existing gas pipes they say waste fuel and cost consumers money.

Peter Shattuck, director of the Clean Energy Initiative for the Acadia Center, a Boston-based environmental group, said burning additional gas could prevent the state from meeting future clean air goals.

Proponents of the project say the additional gas supplies are needed to reduce energy costs to consumers and that gas supplies are clean and safe. They say all of the gas to be piped through the Attleboro area would be in gaseous form and the only liquid storage facility would be in Acushnet.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities will hold a hearing 7 p.m. May 23 at Walpole High School on the proposed tariff.

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