Motion to Dismiss Pipeline Tax Filed in Three States

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

The Conservation Law Foundation has filed a motion to dismiss the so-called “pipeline tax” in Rhode Island. The motion is being made after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that National Grid and Eversource Energy can't charge their electric customers for the cost of expanding natural-gas pipelines.

Both companies intended to use the money to pay for a series of pipeline extensions in the Access Northeast build-out along the Algonquin pipeline that runs from New Jersey to Boston.

On June 30, National Grid filed a pipeline tax proposal of its own with the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that would create a fee, or tariff, to buy natural gas from Spectra Energy’s Algonquin pipeline. The money would help pay for a build-out of the pipeline in Rhode Island, including a compressor station in Burrillville.

Jerry Elmer, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), said the Massachusetts decision to deny the pipeline tax isn't legally binding in Rhode Island but there is a legal argument to close the PUC’s docket because the laws are similar in each state.

“Of course, the underlying reason CLF is opposing National Grid on this is that we believe that major new investments in fossil fuels is dangerous and wrong in light of the climate change emergency; and we are very pleased that in this case, our environmental argument stands on firm legal footing,” Elmer wrote in an e-mail.

No hearing date has been announced by the PUC to address CLF’s motion to dismiss the case in Rhode Island.

CLF filed similar motions to dismiss pipeline tax proposals in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The tariff proposals in Massachusetts have been put on hold because of the court decision, but they are technically still before the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.