Group challenges New England energy coordination

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 20, 2014 at 1:19 pm •  Published: March 20, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Boston environmental group is challenging how energy policy is coordinated by New England's six governors, saying the state leaders are conducting private negotiations with the energy industry.

The Conservation Law Foundation has submitted public records requests in the region's six states. It said a plan by the governors that focuses on natural gas and hydropower from Canada "appears to be the product of backroom deal-making rather than sound public policy informed by open dialogue."

The group's vice president of policy and climate advocacy, Seth Kaplan, said, "Without vital public transparency, the resulting projects are sure to cost more than they should, in dollars as well as environmental impact."

The governors late last year announced a plan to expand natural gas use. They asked the region's grid operator, ISO-New England, for technical help to seek proposals to build transmission equipment and public works to deliver electricity to as many as 3.6 million homes. They also asked ISO to figure out how to finance the project.

Christopher Recchia, commissioner of Vermont's Public Service Department, said state officials have been transparent since announcing the initiative and actions in the future will be "entirely public."

"There is no basis for this to be considered not out in the open," he said.

Dennis Schain, the spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Policy, and Krista Selmi, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said the governors have had a policy of openness. They issued a public statement about the initiative in December, published their request to ISO-New England for technical assistance in January and initiated a comment process this month.

"You don't need to look any further than the price spikes for electricity in the Northeast this winter to appreciate the pressing need for action to correct decades of inactivity when it came to expanding both regional electric transmission capability and natural gas pipeline capacity to supply power plants," Schain said.