Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Plans Reliability Projects

Nov 07, 2017

WESTBOROUGH, MA – November 2, 2017 – Columbia Gas of Massachusetts today announced that it submitted its Forecast and Supply Plan filing with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (MA DPU) that outlines its gas supply needs for the next five year period. In addition, the company filed contracts to purchase gas transportation and supply from three sources – Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP), Portland Natural Gas Transmission Company, and Repsol – to help meet the resource needs.

These contracts are designed to ensure the Columbia Gas Greater Springfield Service Territory’s 106,000 customers in 16 municipalities continue to receive safe, reliable and uninterrupted supplies of natural gas with the least environmental impact for homes and businesses, while meeting the consistent customer demand for natural gas.

Steve Bryant, president of Columbia Gas said, “In our Springfield operating area we have existing winter season reliability issues and natural gas constraints that need to be addressed. We need to act now to begin the process to remedy that situation.” He added, “The supply plan and contracts we filed represent the best among the many alternatives we considered.  More importantly, the contracts efficiently use existing pipeline infrastructure to satisfy customer requirements while minimizing impact.”

The Forecast and Supply Plan also introduces a proposed multi-faceted solution of five integrated supporting infrastructure projects designed specifically to meet the needs of Columbia Gas customers. Together, these projects will address system safety and efficiency, as well as several interrelated reliability challenges.  The projects are designed to optimize TGP’s existing infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and facilitate Columbia Gas’ ongoing commitment to replace leak prone pipe in Greater Springfield—eliminating current leaks and the risk of future leaks.

In addition, through an agreement with Holyoke Gas & Electric, these five projects will also set the course to lifting the moratorium on new natural gas service in Northampton and Easthampton. (See attached Columbia Gas Reliability Project PDF for project specifics and map of locations.)

The MA DPU review of the Forecast and Supply Plan is expected to take up to one year. The MA DPU will also need to review and approve each of the infrastructure projects prior to construction.

Bryant said, “The five year plan reflects an integrated solution that benefits our customers and the environment while enhancing the safety and reliability of our distribution system.”

On a parallel path, a fundamental part of the infrastructure improvement actions is Columbia Gas’ ongoing work with its environmental partners to develop a plan to find and repair gas leaks in its system, especially the Grade 3 large volume leaks that significantly impact the environment. “Repairing leaks and replacing aging infrastructure are critical components of our overarching commitment to improve safety, reduce methane emissions, and modernize our local distribution system for the customers and the communities we serve,” said Bryant.

Bryant pointed to significant progress made last week on the topic of Grade 3 leak repairs. On October 24, Columbia Gas, Eversource and National Grid submitted joint comments and a “Shared Action Plan” in cooperation with the Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) and Zeyneb Magavi, the Large Volume Leak Study research lead, regarding natural gas leaks regulations (D.P.U. 16-31-B).  At a public hearing at the Department of Public Utilities on October 25, HEET, Ms. Magavi and Columbia Gas all discussed the coalition that worked on the Large Volume Leak Study, the Study's findings, and the “Shared Action Plan.” In addition, a representative of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sierra Club, Boston University Professor Nathan Phillips and multiple individuals from Mothers Out Front endorsed the groups’ “Shared Action Plan.”

Bryant noted that in the same spirit of their work with the Gas Leaks Coalition, which he helped spearhead, Columbia Gas will conduct customer outreach and listening sessions, and will engage with the community in an open and transparent manner throughout the entire project process. Bryant said, “We’re at the very beginning stages of this work – literally planning it out. There are lots of discussions to be held and options to be considered. We look forward to working with our customers, elected officials, communities and environmental partners to create an even safer and more reliable gas system in the Greater Springfield area.”

Reliability Handout draft - Nov 1 draft 6_Page_1Reliability Handout2