The Bulletin Board

Utilities commission: Liberty cannot recoup Granite Bridge costs from ratepayers

By: - November 16, 2021 6:01 pm
A ring of natural gas flame

Liberty spent $9.1 million on the pipeline project that was projected to cost around $340 million in total. (Photo illustration by Christopher Furlong | Getty Images)

The Public Utilities Commission has rejected Liberty Utilities’ bid to recoup $7.5 million related to Granite Bridge, a pipeline project that never ended up happening.

Liberty has 30 days from when the Oct. 29 decision was issued to appeal.

The utility’s attempt to recover its costs drew pushback from the consumer advocate, who said the move would defy well established New Hampshire law.

The two commissioners – then-Chairwoman Dianne Martin, who has since resigned, and Daniel Goldner, who is replacing Martin as chair – who signed off on the October order denying Liberty’s request agreed. According to state law, utilities can’t charge ratepayers for projects that are under construction.

Liberty spent $9.1 million on the pipeline project that was projected to cost around $340 million in total. Ultimately, the utility ended up finding a cheaper alternative: a 20-year capacity contract with Tennessee Gas Pipeline to meet the growing demand for natural gas in the state. That $40 million contract was approved in a Nov. 12 order.

The contract approves $2 million in spending on natural gas capacity per year – 40,000 dekatherms, around a 20 to 25 percent increase in the company’s current capacity – between Dracut, Mass., and Londonderry. Liberty has linked this contract to the need for $45 million in upgrades to infrastructure, drawing opposition from the Conservation Law Foundation on the grounds that investment in fossil fuel infrastructure now will lead to stranded costs in the future. CLF also took issue with the 20-year time frame, pointing to the need for an immediate reduction in burning fossil fuels in the face of climate change.

The consumer advocate has supported the deal with Tennessee Gas Pipeline because of the “bargain basement” rates that Liberty managed to secure: 14 cents per Dth.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.

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