New England Governors See Pipeline Capacity As Solution To High Power Prices

Apr 23, 2015

Five of New England's governors met in Connecticut on Thursday to talk about energy issues facing the region. At the top of the agenda was the high price of electricity.

In many ways, politicians say it's a capacity issue. Since 2000, New England has seen its natural gas use climb by nearly 30 percent. And as coal-fired power plants shut down, more utilities find themselves turning to natural gas to drive their turbines and generate electricity.

All that's pushed gas pipelines to their limit — driving up prices and leaving New England with the highest utility prices in the country.

Connecticut’s Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy says the marketplace hasn't sorted out this issue.

“That's the situation we find ourselves in. And what I think we're trying to do is collectively figure out, how do we rectify that situation,” he said. “Where the market may not be driving a solution because it's walking away with an extra $7.5 billion."

Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, agreed.

“We are outliers. It's that simple. If you look at the 12 highest energy states in the country, all New England states are part of the 12,” he said. “So we are working in those areas where we have common ground, and can find solutions, we're going to work together.”

Gas pipelines have been pushed to their limit, driving up prices and leaving New England with the highest utility prices in the country.

One solution, the governors say, is more investment in new gas pipelines. Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he wants that expansion to happen along existing rights of way — not in "virgin" territory. But, he said the process is still a long one.

“Each state has its own way of defining cost benefit, okay? And that factors in some respects into how you actually figure out, what is cost beneficial to everybody [and] deals with the carbon footprint issue that Gov. LePage raised, and can be done collaboratively. There are some legitimate issues around that that are complicated,” he said.

Meanwhile, New England will continue to pay a lot for its power. Malloy says the region spent about $2.5 billion more than surrounding areas this past winter.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter at WNPR in Connecticut.