Massachusetts State Reps. Carlos González, Orlando Ramos and state Sen. Adam Gomez met with Eversource management on Friday to discuss the proposed pipeline planned for Springfield.
“We are against any gas expansion or potential projects that include gas expansion, especially in the city of Springfield,” said González. “However, we will continue discussions on a reliability project that they are proposing and a preferred route. Also, the impact that it will have to, not only city and residents of Springfield but also to the suburbs.”
The representative is also the co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. The committee is tasked with, in part, “all matters concerning laws relating to shipping or otherwise transporting energy sources.”
Eversource has stated that the project is not an expansion program and reiterated that costs for the proposals that are still being discussed range from roughly $32.5 million to $44.6 million. The exact costs for each option are still being discussed internally at the energy company.
González told MassLive that the energy company outlined the need for the second pipeline in the city. The existing pipes are roughly 70 years old and according to Eversource, if a natural disaster like a tornado damages one of the pipes, it could cut gas to 58,000 customers in Springfield.
The chair of the Longmeadow Select Board, Marc A. Strange, issued a statement that was read out during the Eversource Gas open house on Thursday that was critical of this theory and referred to it as “redundant.”
“Are we talking about a natural gas disaster, like the once in a lifetime 2010 tornado? Are we talking about an earthquake, an act of terrorism? Any of these hypothetical events seem highly unlikely to occur. So again, without a risk assessment, we’re left with speculation that some event may occur that results in a total loss of the Memorial bridge pipe and necessitate a new pipeline,” said Strange in the statement provided. “The truth is that nothing is broken here that needs to be fixed.”
However, González highlighted the need to consider the possible impact this could have in the event this does happen.
“We greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with chairman Gonzales and the other local elected officials today as we’re at the beginning of this process to propose the Western Massachusetts natural gas reliability project,” said William Hinkle, spokesperson for Eversource. “Close communication and feedback from local officials, local residents and stakeholders at all levels is critical to that process.”
Although not discussed in the meeting on Friday with lawmakers, Eversource is currently embroiled in almost a decade of litigation over outstanding property taxes.
Eversource is withholding millions of dollars in property taxes from 87 communities across Massachusetts, according to Eversource’s active litigation with the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board (ATB).
In Springfield, Eversource is amassing interest from the city of $9,480 daily, in addition to the $44 million debt it has incurred since 2012.
Under Massachusetts law, Eversource must pay only 50% of the total property tax amount if they dispute the charges.
Ramos said the law Eversource is using to only pay 50% of its property taxes was never intended for multibillion-dollar corporations. The loophole in the law has allowed Eversource to withhold millions of dollars in taxes.
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