Residents Concerned Over Natural Gas Pipeline Proposal

By Beth Treffeisen

National Grid is planning to install a natural gas distribution pipeline that will run from the Back Bay into the Fenway neighborhood.

The announcement of the proposed pipeline was brought to the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) Green Committee hearing on Wednesday, May 31.

Kathryn Bell, the Neighborhood Liaison in Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim’s office, reported that according to the Mayor’s Office, National Grid’s plans to create a pipeline route in the Back Bay are moving forward.

According to Bell the proposed distribution natural gas pipelines route is subject to change a little bit.

As of now, Bell said it roughly begins from the intersection of Berkeley St. and St. James Ave. and then runs southwest behind the Prudential Center and turns onto Huntington Ave. From there it makes it way to Belvidere St. and ends at Massachusetts Ave.

Bell said it would run mostly behind the south side of Boylston St.

National Grid is set to begin work this summer. Bell said that the majority of the construction is scheduled to be completed in 2017 and late 2018, with a final 800 feet to be completed the following year. The vast majority of the construction is anticipated to take about 18 months to complete.

Bell said there are additional meetings between the City and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and National Grid in the upcoming weeks.

According to National Grid, their engineers are working on the specific plans, which are being put together in response to developers’ request to be tied in to the existing natural gas system.

“It would be similar situation if some new homes were built and wanted natural gas, but there wasn’t a pipe that connected to our system into their homes,” wrote Danielle Williamson the lead communication specialist for National Grid in Massachusetts.

In addition, National Grid has yet to thoroughly brief the community or the city’s elected officials on the plans in progress.

According to Joe Fersen from the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, National Grid has not filed anything with the Department of Public Utilities yet.

Fersen said that is probably because it is still in the conceptual and planning stage and that is why they haven’t filed an environmental impact report.

NABB’s Green Committee is in favor of renewable energy, meeting the City’s Climate Action goals to reduce greenhouse gasses, creating local green jobs, and moving towards net zero energy.

“We are opposed to building more unneeded infrastructure for distribution of soon-to-be outmoded fracked [natural] gas,” the Green Committee wrote in a statement. “We along with many other allies continue to fight the Baker administration’s and the utilities’ push to build unnecessary fracked gas pipeline financed by electricity ratepayers.”

The Attorney General released a study in November 2015 that concluded that increased gas capacity was not needed to meet the State’s electric reliability needs and that “cheaper, cleaner alternatives to new gas pipelines can meet worst case power scenarios.”

In the press release Attorney General Maura Healey stated, “As we make long-term decisions about our energy future, it’s imperative we have the facts.”

Jacqueline Royce the head of the Green Committee for NABB agrees and believes that new developments should focus on implementing alternative energy in their projects.

“We are concerned that if we are building more infrastructure it is a step in the wrong direction,” said Royce. “We don’t want to be committed to gas of any kind because it will force us to be committed to an obsolete system.”

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