Over 3/5 of Legislature Sign Letter Calling for Ban on “Pipeline Tax,”
Regulatory Shift at Department of Public Utilities
BOSTON – Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) led 125 state legislators in calling for the passage of legislation to permanently protect consumers and the environment from risks associated with gas pipeline expansion. Senator Jehlen is the lead sponsor of S.1855, which would codify the Supreme Judicial Court decision to prohibit electric customer financing of gas pipelines, often referred to as the “pipeline tax.”
“It is unacceptable for utility companies to ask ratepayers to assume the risks of unprofitable business decisions,” said Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “Over the past year, our constituents have made themselves clear – they do not want to subsidize the corporate bottom line. With this legislation, we can ensure they won’t have to cover the costs of new pipeline construction.”
The joint testimony was signed by 103 representatives and 22 senators, and submitted to the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy after the legislation was publicly heard on October 26th.
Though now suspended, Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline and Enbridge’s Access Northeast proposal each threatened to saddle ratepayers with multi-billion dollar risk while also threatening conservation land preserved through public investment, private property, and Massachusetts’ climate goals.
In 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled the project’s primary financial mechanism, a “pipeline tax” on electric ratepayers, was illegal and placed consumers with a significant burden that would otherwise be borne by investors. Pipeline proponents are currently seeking to amend Massachusetts law to enable the pipeline tax.
“This legislation would address many of the regulatory failings we have witnessed and experienced at the Department of Public Utilities, and would allow the public to have a meaningful role in agency decisions that will impact us for decades to come,” said Kathryn Eiseman, President of the Massachusetts Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast. She added, “The DPU currently believes it can bar municipalities and ratepayers from banding together to participate in DPU proceedings in an orderly fashion with legal counsel and technical experts of their choice.”
“Massachusetts leaders have made a critical decision to support consumer and environmental protections over giveaways to the gas industry,” said Joel Wool of Clean Water Action. “We can safeguard our climate and our pocketbooks while giving residents a strong voice in the regulatory process.”
“This letter is further proof that the political will exists to move these bills. Our legislators realize that ratepayers shouldn’t be on the hook for new gas infrastructure, especially when we don’t need it,” said Andrew Gordon of 350 Massachusetts. “We won’t stop working until these bills arrive on the governor’s desk.”
The bills, supported by a majority of the legislature, now wait to be reported out by the committee.