Setting aside the corporate-speak of its press release, Kinder Morgan is abandoning its pipeline project across Berkshire County and the state because there wasn't enough profit in it. And that is because the pipeline wasn't necessary.
In a written statement Wednesday, the corporation said it was suspending all work and spending on the 412-mile Northeast Energy Director natural gas pipeline project that in its most recent incarnation would have crossed seven Berkshire towns. "Suspending" the $3.3 million project certainly implies that it could be restarted, but Kinder Morgan made a strong case for walking away entirely.
The statement from Dave Conover, Kinder Morgan's vice president for corporate communications and public affairs, acknowledged that the Tennessee Gas project failed to receive contractual commitments from additional companies and electrical power generators beyond the local natural gas distributors who signed on originally. This reflects the reality that there was never the demand for the pipeline Kinder Morgan insisted existed.
Kinder Morgan complained that New England states lack the regulatory procedures needed to "facilitate binding commitments," but that is to the credit of the states. Taxpayers should not be locked into commitments, such as the committing of ratepayers to footing the bill for questionable pipeline projects. The company's statement that "innovations in production" resulting in falling prices benefiting consumers appears to acknowledge that conservation and clean energy sources have changed the energy marketplace in a way that cheers everyone except fossil fuel companies.
The project drew vociferous opposition in Berkshire County, and while Kinder Morgan did not acknowledge this in its statement we will provide credit where it is due. Local and state officials, environmental groups and concerned citizens throughout the Berkshires and other impacted communities did their homework and buttressed their opposition with solid research.
State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Attorney General Maura Healey were staunch foes of the project, with Ms. Healey enduring criticism from Kinder Morgan after asserting that the natural gas pipeline was unnecessary and unfair to consumers based on a report by her office. Kinder Morgan's decision and its explanation for it thoroughly vindicates the attorney general's position.
Natural gas will continue to have a role in the energy marketplace in the Berkshires and Massachusetts, it just won't be the tail wagging the dog. Solar, energy and hydro will play expanded roles and they will do so without further polluting the environment. Kinder Morgan made a smart bottom line decision, a decision that represents good news for the Berkshire environment.