Holyoke Gas & Electric imposes moratorium on new natural gas service

HOLYOKE – Holyoke Gas & Electric announced last month that is imposing a moratorium on new natural gas service due to what the company says is “insufficient pipeline capacity.”

The company, which serves Southampton and Holyoke, said in a notice dated Jan. 28 that it won’t be able to serve new customers with natural gas as of January 2019.

“While inexpensive natural gas has never been more plentiful in the United States, there is insufficient pipeline capacity in our region to deliver [an] additional load,” the letter said. “Recent proposals that would increase natural gas capacity in the region have been met with opposition, and the current pipeline constraints are causing significant adverse environmental and economic impacts on the region’s ratepayers.”

That opposition is due in part to the fact that, while natural gas releases about half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal does, according to the Energy Information Administration, it is a fossil fuel and its largest component is methane, a greenhouse gas.

Parts of Southampton do not have a natural gas provider, while others get service from Holyoke Gas & Electric, according to Southampton Town Administrator Edward Gibson. The company serves approximately 1,200 customers in Southampton with natural gas, according to a company spokesperson.

Gibson noted that the Select Board hadn’t talked about Holyoke Gas & Electric’s announcement yet, but it worried him. “Am I concerned? Yes, because it can affect our growth both residentially and commercially, and we are especially interested in commercial growth options.”

Much of the town’s development is near Route 10, and new development there would be directly affected by the moratorium, he said.

Several similar bans are in effect in western Massachusetts already. In 2015, Columbia Gas announced there would be no new natural gas connections in Northampton and Easthampton.

Berkshire Gas imposed a similar moratorium in 2014 in several Franklin County towns and later extended it into Amherst, Hatfield and Hadley. The company said in the fall that the moratorium will “continue indefinitely,” the Greenfield Recorder reported.

In Southampton, the town wasn’t given forewarning of the moratorium, according to Gibson.

“I was surprised when I did hear about the moratorium. It kind of snuck up on us,” he said.

Gibson added that the stop to new natural gas service may prompt some people to turn to renewable energy.

“I think you might see some additional people and possibly businesses reaching out to see if they can put solar on their property and if they can tie into community solar,” he said.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com

Author: Going Green

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