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Daily Hampshire Gazette Editorial: Sen. Markey zeroes in on proposed fracked gas pipeline motives

If the calls are growing for greater transparency — let’s make that honesty — regarding the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline proposal and who will benefit from an enlarged natural gas supply, it’s because more and more people are connecting the dots as the companies involved race to get permits and permissions.

This time it was U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, Massachusetts’ junior senator, who is the latest to call into question what’s driving for the pipeline proposal.

“The ultimate goal of some natural gas pipeline proposals being made in New England is not to help our residents with expanded infrastructure but to use New England as a throughway to export U.S. natural gas to Canada and ultimately to overseas markets,” Markey said Friday in a release reacting to a Department of Energy decision that opens a flow of natural gas for export. “The companies who are proposing these pipeline projects need to be fully forthcoming about the ultimate fate of the gas that would be transported through these pipelines in order for these proposals to be examined in their entirety.”

Opponents have questioned the motives for building this pipeline, which would bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania to Dracut along a route that cuts across a number of communities in Berkshire and Franklin counties. They have dismissed the public stance taken by Tennessee Gas Co., the pipeline builder and its parent company, Kinder Morgan, that the project serves New England and its energy needs.

Instead, they say the natural gas is intended for markets outside the United States — a possibility that Kinder Morgan has mostly been silent on.

With his long record on protecting the environment, Markey has taken the stance — and rightly — that federal agencies and departments need to look at a bigger picture when it comes to such projects, instead of piecemeal approvals that run counter to the public interest. It’s why last year he reintroduced legislation that would require the U.S. Department of Energy to consider several factors before approving natural gas exports.

“Instead of rushing to send our American natural gas to the highest bidder, we should first carefully determine whether it is in our best economic and national security interests to do so,” Markey said last year.

A year later, he’s sounding the alarm about the Department of Energy’s recent OK allowing two Canadian export terminals, Bear Head LNG and Pieridae LNG, to export U.S. natural gas for liquefaction and to re-export it overseas by using the existing Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline, which flows from Canada down into New England.

“If we allow natural gas to be exported out of New England to foreign markets, it will only add to the hardship our consumers are facing from high prices and link us to higher-priced international markets. That would be a disaster for our consumers and our region,” Markey said. “DOE hasn’t met a natural gas export application it can say ‘no’ to if it’s willing to approve natural gas exports out of New England, a region where we have seen price spikes and capacity constraints in recent years.” By not evaluating proposals like Northeast Energy Direct from different angles — beyond the interests of private companies — the government is failing to provide balance in the process and may miss the true public interest.

Markey and others in Congress need to continue to pressure the DOE and others to see the big picture and how the dots connect.