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Gas giant Spectra delays $3 billion N.E. pipeline project

December 28, 2016

Energy giant Spectra is tapping the brakes on its proposed $3 billion natural gas pipeline expansion and considering a second run at Beacon Hill to change the state’s energy laws and “solidify” the project’s “commercial foundation,” in the wake of a bruising defeat before the state’s highest court in August.

In an update filed last week, Spectra said it was “prudent to take additional time to solidify the commercial foundation for critically needed infrastructure and to complete its analysis of the Access Northeast facilities,” while the company’s pipeline boss William Yardley calculated the delay would push the project back to 2019.

Spectra’s initial pipeline expansion plan called for fees on New England customers’ electric bills, but the scheme. which was backed by electric companies including Eversource Energy and National Grid, was blocked by the Supreme Judicial Court as well as utility regulators in New Hampshire.

“There’s probably a couple other avenues,” Yardley told investors last month. “But the other logical one is to do something legislatively. And the Massachusetts Legislature does reconvene early next year, and we may contemplate trying to throw something in there.”

A Spectra spokesman declined to comment on whether the company has decided to take its pipeline battle back to Beacon Hill, where a measure was left to expire in 2014 when a sea of lawmakers declined to back the bill to let electric companies back the gas pipeline.

Conservation Law Foundation attorney David Ismay, who argued against the pipeline funding plan at the SJC, told the Herald that Spectra would have a hard time on Beacon Hill trying to revive what’s been called a “pipeline tax.”

“There are a lot of senators and representatives hearing from their constituents constantly about these pipelines, and it’s the same thing. They don’t want them,” he said.