Appalachian Basin

Anti-Pipeline Senators Blame Trump for Russian LNG Shipment

Boston’s recent purchase of liquified natural gas (LNG) from a Russian facility has put the region’s energy situation under scrutiny of late. Most people – including the region’s grid operator, ISO New England (ISONE) – agree that pipeline constraints and regional policies have been the major underlying factors for New England’s natural gas shortages.

In fact, in a “State of the Grid” call earlier this week, ISONE president and CEO Gordan van Welie said,

“As more oil, coal and nuclear plants seek to retire in the coming years, keeping the lights on could become even more tenuous…we need to connect up replacement sources of energy and/or relieve the constraints on the pipelines before we lose the older resources that are no longer economic.”

Despite these facts, the Massachusetts congressional delegation – led by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D) and Edward Markey (D), who have both vocally opposed new pipeline projects – recently sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Energy Secretary Rick Perry blaming the Trump Administration for Massachusetts’ import of LNG from Russia. As the Boston Globe reported:

“The 11-member Massachusetts congressional delegation, all Democrats, fired off a letter Friday to two Trump Cabinet secretaries complaining that a Russian company subject to US sanctions was able to ship liquefied natural gas to Boston.

“… Beyond letting gas from a sanctioned company into the United States, the legislators said it is also wrong to accept LNG from Russia at a time when US intelligence agencies say that country has interfered in American electoral politics…”

In reality, Warren, Markey and other allies of the anti-fossil fuel “Keep It In the Ground” campaign have helped block important energy infrastructure projects, leaving New England’s residents in the cold – and its power supply vulnerable.

For example, the Massachusetts congressional delegation has repeatedly opposed and obstructed pipeline projects in New England, effectively stopping Marcellus Shale gas from coming into a region where natural gas demand is growing.  Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has blocked several northeast infrastructure projects, including the Constitution and Northeast Energy Direct pipelines, that would have transported gas from the Marcellus and Utica basins to New England.

Contrary to Warren and Markey’s letter, the Boston Globe in a recent editorial laid blame for the Russian LNG imports on policies driven by the “Keep It In the Ground” agenda:

“Massachusetts’ reliance on imported gas from one of the world’s most threatened places is also a severe indictment of the state’s inward-looking environmental and climate policies. Public officials, including Attorney General Maura Healey and leading state senators, have leaned heavily on righteous-sounding stands against local fossil fuel projects, with scant consideration of the global impacts of their actions and a tacit expectation that some other country will build the infrastructure that we’re too good for.”

“… the state is now in the indefensible position of blocking infrastructure here, while its public policies create demand for overseas fossil fuel infrastructure like the Yamal LNG plant — a project likely to inflict far greater near and long-term harm to the planet.”

The letter from the Massachusetts delegation came just days after the Globe’s scathing editorial.

Meanwhile, West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito has highlighted the need to transport domestic natural gas supplies to New England: “Gas from Russia’s Arctic is going to warm homes in Boston. And there is LNG coming from Russia. We have a natural resource in my home state and region that would love to be selling our natural gas in this country into the northeast.”

Despite U.S. natural gas production soaring to record levels, New Englanders are facing sky-high energy prices in the absence of adequate natural gas supplies. Southern Methodist University Professor Bernard Weinstein recently noted:

“New England and New York are using imported liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is much more expensive than domestic gas, to satisfy nearly 20 percent of their heating and electric power needs.”

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, New England’s failure to build energy infrastructure is resulting in increased electricity costs that are 56 percent higher than the national average. While New Englanders are paying higher electricity bills, Americans as a whole are paying a smaller percentage of their household incomes on electricity than any time before – less than four cents per every dollar they earn.

Image Source: Wall Street Journal

Further, without addressing the very real pipeline constraints, as more power plants continue to retire, ISONE predicts, “the grid is likely to be at risk of fuel shortages and rolling blackouts.’”

While the Massachusetts congressional delegation can continue to point fingers about who is to blame for the recent Russian LNG imports, the reality is that it’s going to take an infrastructure buildout and more energy brought online to fix New England’s energy problems – exactly the kinds of solutions that “Keep It In the Ground” activists have vocally opposed.

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