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Backers of stalled pipeline keep pilot light lit

Don’t write off Access Northeast just yet. Enbridge and its partners, National Grid and Eversource, pulled the plug on the pipeline expansion project last year, amid difficulties financing the $3 billion-plus venture.

But the controversial Algonquin system upgrade could still resurface in some form as local business groups ramp up lobbying efforts to boost New England’s pipeline capacity. Several associations joined an effort called the Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy , launched last month, to encourage state leaders to make natural gas supply a front-burner issue. (The new group gets funding from Access Northeast’s partners.)

Then, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership weighed in, with a letter expressing similar concerns last week to Senate President Harriette Chandler, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Governor Charlie Baker. The partnership of high-powered CEOs carries plenty of clout under the Gold Dome.


MACP chief Dan O’Connell says the arrival of Russian gas by ship this winter underscored the limits of the existing pipeline system. Much of the cheap pipeline gas gets diverted for heating purposes on the coldest days, prompting a number of power plants to burn oil instead. O’Connell says the insufficient gas capacity added roughly $500 million to regional electricity costs during a recent 13-day cold spell.

Eversource CEO Jim Judge sits on the MACP board. But O’Connell says the driving force for the group’s advocacy is the concern many members share about the state’s high energy prices.

It would be surprising to see a major pro-natural gas bill move to Baker’s desk before formal sessions end for the year on July 31. But proponents know it takes time to build support for something like this, and the recent cold snap and its impact could help to back up their argument.