Columbia Gas of Massachusetts today announced changes to its planned Greater Springfield Service Territory Reliability Project. What was proposed in November 2017 as a series of five projects has been reduced to four separate projects with the elimination of the Alternate Backfeed component – a 6 mile 12” pipe that had been proposed to allow lifting the moratorium in the Northampton Market.

Mark Kempic, President and Chief Operating Officer of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts stated, “Our determination is that we can accomplish the goals of removing leak prone pipe in Agawam and West Springfield, as well as enhance operational flexibility, with the four remaining projects. However, as a result, the moratorium on new gas service in Northampton and Easthampton will remain in place indefinitely.”

Columbia Gas plans to continue to remove leak-prone pipe and offer energy efficiency measures and load management solutions to maintain the safety, reliability and efficiency of its natural gas distribution system in Northampton as well as the rest of its service territory.

Kempic cited several reasons for the cancellation of the Northampton project. “The costs associated with the Alternate Backfeed Project are not in line with expected project and customer benefits,” said Kempic. “In addition, there is likely to be limited new growth in Northampton. More importantly, Mayor Narkewicz and the City Council of Northampton have stated they are not interested in additional gas service to their community,” Kempic noted, referring to an October 4, 2018 vote by the Northampton City Council which unanimously approved a resolution to oppose the growth of fossil fuel infrastructure in the city.

Columbia Gas says critical reliability issues remain in the Greater Springfield area – encompassing both supply and delivery of supply. The four remaining separate projects are designed to meet the challenges for uninterrupted and reliable service to customers.

The projects include: 1) the Longmeadow Supply Strategy Project which is a new Point of Delivery to be installed by Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) in the Town of Longmeadow that will enhance system reliability for customers on both sides of the Connecticut River, and offer economic growth opportunities through enhanced gas supply availability; 2) the Agawam Compressor Station Enhancement project, in which TGP will upgrade equipment at its existing compressor station to improve operating efficiency and deliver enhanced services to Columbia Gas that will increase reliability to its customers;  3) the TGP Agawam 2 Mile Pipeline Loop will provide additional capacity and operational pressure that ensures reliable service on the western end of the Springfield operating area; and 4) the Columbia Gas ConEd Transmission Line Replacement which replaces an 8,500 foot existing line with new pipe in Springfield to increase reliability and improve system flexibility.

“Columbia Gas currently has an existing and growing winter season deficiency due to transmission pipeline constraints,” said Kempic. “The four remaining projects allow the current supply volume on the system to be distributed more efficiently, safely and reliably as well as enable greater system operating flexibility.”

News of the project update has been shared with local, state and federal leaders including Congressman Neal, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the mayors in affected communities. Columbia Gas said it will issue additional updates as the company develops specific plans for each of the remaining Reliability Projects.

The Columbia Gas decision to cancel the Alternate Backfeed project is based on review and analysis over the past few months of the cost impact and benefits to customers.  This decision is separate from and unrelated to the work moratorium imposed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities on the Columbia Gas system.

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