Talking Points

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Stepping up the pressure

It sure has been a rough few weeks for the natural gas industry here.

First, the backers of Access Northeast shelved their project, the biggest pipeline proposal in New England. And now Governor Charlie Baker is outlining new steps to scrutinize a controversial gas compressor station that Enbridge wants to build in Weymouth.

Yes, the Enbridge compressor is much smaller than Access Northeast. Here’s why Baker’s move is still significant.

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The Republican governor has been seen as an important ally for the industry. Natural gas is a key piece of what Baker calls his “combo platter” approach to energy, and his administration approved rules to allow electric ratepayers to be charged for new gas pipelines. (Those rules have since been struck down.)

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Baker has deferred to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the Weymouth issue. The state, Baker once said, has just a minor role. Meanwhile, the outcry continued. One potential Democratic challenger, Setti Warren, visited the Weymouth site in protest. Another, Jay Gonzalez, was scheduled to go today.

Baker apparently couldn’t sit on the sidelines. Baker just sent Weymouth Mayor Bob Hedlund, a former Republican state senator who is fighting the project, a letter pledging that state officials “will not remain silent during this process.”

Among the promises: a public health impacts assessment and a review of the exposure to future flooding. Hedlund hopes the studies could provide fodder for the state to slow the project, or stop it entirely.

Plus, these are tough words from Baker – at a time when the industry needs his help more than ever to make more inroads in New England.