Our Opinion: SJC blocks an end run on pipeline costs
The state Supreme Judicial Court's ruling Wednesday that ratepayers cannot be asked to help pay for construction of gas pipelines was not only a wise decision it was basically the only one possible under the law.
The SJC found that the strategy of the state Department of Public Utilities to encourage natural gas pipeline construction by allowing companies to pass along costs to consumers was in violation of the provisions of a 1997 state law deregulating the electricity market, which it transparently was. The Baker administration's attempt to do an end run around the law invited a court challenge and while the administration expressed disappointment in the decision it could not have been shocked.
Kinder Morgan abandoned its plan to run a natural gas pipeline through the Berkshires and much of the state because it determined that the natural gas market was inadequate. If the market had been there, the corporation would gone forward and made a profit, and if there was a profit to be made from the project there was no justification for asking ratepayers to help foot the bill.
There are ways, such as through tax breaks, for the state to encourage energy production. The state should consider doing that to encourage hydropower and wind energy production. But ratepayers cannot be directly billed for the such projects under current law, and they shouldn't be for natural gas projects of dubious value under any circumstances.