Guest Editorial: New Hampshire rate payers should be wary of potential tariff

p>EDITOR’S NOTE: This guest editorial was written by John D’Angelo, formerly of the Amherst Board of Selectmen.

Interesting news from Massachusetts:

"A decision Wednes­day (8/17/16) by the state’s highest court halts one of the most outrageous business boondoggles in recent memory – the no­tion that people who buy electricity should pay for a private company’s natural gas pipeline.

"Believe it or not, that was the funding mechanism the state Department of Public Utilities accepted last October. The Conserva­tion Law Foundation and a competing energy company challenged the DPU’s approval. And in an unanimous ruling Wednesday, the state Supreme Judicial Court said such an arrange­ment is prohibited by a 1997 state law.

"The deal between electric utilities and pipeline builders rep­resented the worst sort of corporate welfare. Writing for the court, Jus­tice Robert Cordy said it was ‘unreasonable’ for electricity customers to shoulder the financial risk of constructing pipe­lines."

This decision relates to the proposed Spec­tra Energy pipeline in Massachusetts. However, there was also this:

"Critics of the now-dead Northeast Energy Direct pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Co. built a credible case that natu­ral gas brought to Mas­sachusetts through lines financed by electricity ratepayers might have moved right on through the state to export over­seas.

"Under the tariff plan the SJC struck down, that would have been like compelling taxpayers to build a highway for driv­ers in another country."

The Amherst Board of Selectmen objected to the possibility that the NED pipeline might be built with funds coerced from New Hampshire electric­ity consumers in its letter to the FERC in June of 2015: www.amherst nh.gov/sites/amherstnh/ files/uploads/km_ferc_ letter_08-june-2015.pdf.

The letter so upset the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) that the six-state nonprofit organiza­tion felt compelled to indignantly notify the Federal Energy Regula­tory Commission (FERC) that:

"In particular, NES­COE seeks to clarify a series of unfortunate mischaracterizations in a letter dated June 8, 2015, from the Town of Amherst, New Hamp­shire (‘June 8 Letter’) regarding this project. NESCOE is the Regional State Committee for the New England region and is governed by a board of managers appointed by the Governors of Con­necticut, Maine, Mas­sachusetts, New Hamp­shire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

"II. There Is no Active Tariff Proposal Under Consideration.

"The June 8 letter ref­erences a ‘NESCOE tariff’ and states that ‘FERC is seriously considering a proposal championed by NESCOE’ regarding the NED project. These points warrant clarifica­tion.

"First, regarding refer­ence to a ‘tariff,’ NESCOE understands that to mean a proposed generic cost recovery mechanism for energy infrastructure through the ISO New Eng­land (‘ISONE’) tariff that was proposed in 2014, but never executed.

"At the direction of the six New England states, NESCOE worked in early 2014 to develop such a proposal for consider­ation by and discussion with ISO-NE and stake­holders through the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL). Like any other proposed ISO-NE tariff, had the region wished to advance this particular proposal further, it would need to be filed with FERC for review in its open and public process.

"However, this tariff approach has not been substantively discussed with stakeholders in al­most a year, and NESCOE is unaware of any such tariff before FERC for its consideration and has not made any filing in that regard. Indeed, the New England states’ April 2015 articulation of current actions in furtherance of cleaner and more reliable and affordable energy does not include the tariff proposal in question." elibrary.FERC.gov/idmws/ file_list.asp?accession_ num=20150626-5211.

Really? Then the Mas­sachusetts DPU went rogue? Also, the Maine PUC approved exactly this tariff, but only "if (4) other New England states also approved such a tariff."

"The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday (7/19/16) unanimously approved a plan in which electricity customers would pay up to $75 million annually to expand natural gas pipeline capacity in New England.

"The action is seen as a way to lower Maine’s electricity costs by ensur­ing more reliable supply of natural gas, which generates half of New England’s electricity.

"The PUC’s approval, however, comes with the condition that Mas­sachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire adopt simi­lar plans for electricity ratepayers to underwrite the cost of expanding the region’s natural gas capacity." www.mainebiz. biz/article/20160720/ NEWS01/160729993/puc:- ratepayers-would-pay-up-to-$75m-for-expanded-gas-pipeline.

It’s a good thing that this "tariff that was pro­posed in 2014, but never executed" isn’t real, and that some or all of the New England states’ gov­ernments aren’t trying to make it happen.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court has said "No." However, under New Hampshire law, as interpreted by the New Hampshire PUC, the PUC currently has the ability to approve exactly this tariff.

Maybe we should all ask the myriad candi­dates running for the New Hampshire Legis­lature for their views on this matter. And …

Maybe we should elect candidates who will pledge to pass legislation stripping the PUC of the authority it thinks it has to approve such a tariff on New Hampshire electric­ity rate payers. Right now.