Our Opinion: Berkshire Gas parent company must be more open

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The investment in Kinder-Morgan's proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline project by the parent company of Berkshire Gas isn't surprising but it should have more clear about its plans, at least initially.

Northeast Energy Solutions of New Jersey (NEES), which provides economic and environmental analysis of proposed regional energy projects, wants to know why UIL Holdings Corporation invested in the pipeline while enforcing a moratorium on adding new customers for natural gas in parts of the region it covers (Eagle, August 9). UIL, which recently announced that it will invest $80 million for a 2.5 percent stake in the pipeline project scheduled to pass through Berkshire County on its way to Dracut, Ma., says the project will allow it to eventually lift the moratorium.

In a letter to the Massachusetts attorney general's office, Northeast Energy Solutions asserts that neither UIL Holdings or Tennessee Gas disclosed the investment plans until NEES began investigating the moratorium. NEES asserts that the lack of this disclosure, at least initially, was "at minimum, a breach of public trust and service as a regulated public utility."

NEES's reference to Berkshire Gas's "ham-handed" approach to ratepayers recalls the assertion by a Berkshire Gas spokesman last May in Deerfield that pipeline opponents were engaging in a "little eco-terrorism" and don't care about the local economy. While the spokesman apologized, there is no doubting that the company has a low opinion of Berkshire and Western Massachusetts residents who are challenging the merits of a project that Berkshire Gas has decided to invest money in.

The concerns about the Tennessee Gas pipeline project are legitimate (see column on opposite page.) Concerns about Berkshire Gas's actions as a utility subject to regulation are legitimate as well, and would be at least partially addressed by more openness by the utility and its parent company,


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