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Baker calls for input on paying for gas pipeline through electricity bills

Governor Charlie Baker has called on state energy regulators to consider ways electric ratepayers could help pay for new natural gas pipeline projects.

The proposal, which had been floated by pipeline builder Spectra Energy Corp. and the state’s two biggest utilities, would be meant to make New England’s electric grid more reliable, Baker’s office said.

Normally, natural gas customers pay for pipelines, but New England’s growing reliance on natural gas-burning power plants to supply it with electricity has prompted policymakers to discuss alternatives. On cold days, the region’s natural gas pipelines operate near full capacity, occasionally leading to price spikes that power generators pass on to electricity customers.

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Baker said he wants energy regulators to consider how the model can be changed without changing state law. The state will accept comments from companies and members of the public. At the end of the process, Baker said, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities “may issue a written order providing direction to the electric utilities on how they should proceed.”

Natural gas is used to generate more than half of Massachusetts’s electricity, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.


Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.